April 21, 2010 By Matt Williams
Local government officials' trepidation about cloud computing could be easing, as evidenced by a survey of IT decision-makers released Tuesday, April 20, that found 45 percent of local governments are using some form of cloud computing for applications or services.
The survey, conducted during the first two weeks of April by the nonprofit Public Technology Institute (PTI), aggregated the opinions of 93 local government IT executives. The findings revealed that an additional 19 percent of local governments plan to implement some form of cloud computing within the next 12 months, while 35 percent don't intend to do so at all.
Alan Shark, the institute's executive director, said that the numbers confirm what he's known anecdotally for months: More local governments are turning to cloud computing because of the sour economy.
"If there's any surprise," Shark told Government Technology, "it's how quickly this group of people, who two years ago would say no way [to cloud computing] have basically embraced it, more so than I ever would've expected. I think contributing to this mindset is that the budget pressures are so severe that people who said 'No way' are now saying, 'Show me the way.'"
But that doesn't necessarily mean local governments are turning without reservation to cloud computing for websites, e-mail, archiving, application hosting and basic storage. "The word I would use is 'thoughtful qualification,'" Shark said of the respondents' attitudes. Most public-sector CIOs are still reluctant to put critical data in public clouds because of security concerns, he said, and some jurisdictions are limited by statutes that restrict where and how data is stored.
Shark said because cloud computing has become a catch-all term for hosted services and applications delivered from the Internet -- and has in some ways superseded what in the past was called software as a service -- some local governments are utilizing cloud computing and they don't realize it. "There are far more people doing it, but never thought it was cloud computing," he said.
And increasingly, local governments are discovering that there are several options for cloud computing, whether it's a public cloud, private cloud, regional cloud, government-operated cloud or a cloud operated by a vendor on behalf of a government.
"What we're seeing because of all the budget pressures is people are being very creative, and things we never would have thought of happening before are happening as a result," Shark said.
According to the PTI's survey, among local governments currently using or planning to use the cloud, the top three reasons cited are:
Resource savings (staff time, maintenance and support): 87%
Availability and uptime: 45%
For local governments that are currently using or plan to use the cloud, the top three applications that IT executives feel most comfortable moving to the cloud are:
Web hosting/content delivery: 75%
Collaboration applications: 72%
For local governments that aren't currently using the cloud or have no plans to use the cloud, the top three reasons that IT executives cited are:
Cost/lack of business case: 64%
Waiting for other governments to take the lead, identify any issues and share their experience: 48%
PTI will present a free webinar on April 28 that will review the survey results. Click to register.
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