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A Holistic Approach to Cloud for Local Government

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The experience of local governments in the U.S. over the past 18 months has resembled a roller coaster ride.

The experience of local governments in the U.S. over the past 18 months has resembled a roller coaster ride. As recently as September of last year, the Brookings Institution estimated that their collective revenues would decline by $155 billion in 2020 and $167 billion in 2021 as a result of COVID-19. Today, the combination of $122.5 billion in local government aid in the American Rescue Plan and quicker-than-projected growth in tax receipts has brought many cities and counties back to pre-pandemic cash flow.

To make things even more complicated, these budgetary gyrations occurred in the midst of massive changes in the way people work. Like their private-sector counterparts, local governments scrambled to facilitate remote work for a big chunk of their workforce and provide safe workspaces for those who had to continue coming into the office. Many government entities had significant unbudgeted IT and cybersecurity expenses even in a time of declining revenue.

The good news is that the IT investments that were necessary to facilitate and protect remote employees may be a good beginning for a more comprehensive digital transformation for local governments. This is because many of these new tools are likely based in the cloud.

Building upon that investment by migrating core applications to the cloud can result in noticeable improvements in citizens’ quality of life, improvements in an entity’s ability to provide effective services and gains in a government’s security and compliance postures. More governments are latching onto this vision and using cloud-based services for high-performance computing, big data analytics, 24×7 operations, security threat prevention and disaster recovery. Here are some of the benefits that can come from migration to the cloud:

Cloud Enables “Smart Cities”

A recent McKinsey study explores the huge potential that digital solutions can bring for city governments — improved public safety and crime fighting, faster commute times, a healthier population, a cleaner environment and improved social connectedness.

Constituents these days expect the ability to instantly interact with city employees and programs, but the sheer volume of data that even a smaller city generates makes providing these seamless interactions a challenge. Diverse devices such as sensors, smartphones, wearable technology and cameras provide a constant stream of digital data. Using that data to think proactively about citizens’ needs requires powerful analytics.

Not too long ago, high-performance computing was out of reach for most local governments because of the massive capital expenditure that was required. But the cloud has made such computing capacity available to anyone. Through cloud-based analytical tools, cities can gain faster insights that help them visualize and plan for everything from public transportation to water infrastructure. Agencies are increasingly digital and interconnected, and moving core applications to the cloud can unleash the computing power to bring everything together for citizens.

Cloud Enables Performance and Business Agility

The same computing power that powers advanced decision-making and better services for constituents also helps improve internal operations, make them more efficient and ensure continuity of operations in a variety of disaster scenarios — a very important posture for government entities.

Legacy applications managed by local government for utilities, transportation, public safety and various administration services have been around for decades in many cases, and some even still reside on mainframe systems. These applications often have customizations that make migrations difficult. But it is possible to use an approach called “lift and shift” to move these existing products to the cloud.

Doing a cloud migration immediately makes these applications more agile. In an integrated environment, these applications can utilize more of the network’s data in managing operations. There is no disruption when new capacity needs to be spun up, and capital expenditures are not required. And in most cases, performance improves noticeably for users.

Another advantage of moving core applications to the cloud is the ability to leverage cloud-based disaster recovery, which is much more robust than on-premises disaster recovery solutions, while costing much less.

Cloud Provides Secure, Compliant Solutions

Moving to the cloud also benefits a local government’s security posture and helps them be more compliant with regulations and standards. Bringing applications to their current version number helps to remediate known vulnerabilities, and consolidating services in a cloud-based architecture can simplify compliance reporting.

Modernizing core applications and the infrastructure they operate on also enables a more holistic identity management strategy, including multifactor authentication (MFA) and federated secure sign-on (SSO). Alliances among cloud providers, such as the recent announcement that Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure would establish an interconnect, also promise to simplify multi-cloud environments and simplify security protection and compliance reporting.

Local Governments Can Leverage Cutting-Edge Technology

With current advances in technology, local governments can truly leverage cloud-based services to improve their services to citizens and make their lives better. They can quickly and effectively identify problem areas and provide services to residents to solve problems. They can disseminate timely, meaningful information to promote general awareness and help residents prepare and cope with crisis situations. They can identify efficiencies that can make their public services more effective. And they can bolster their security and postures in a cost-effective way.

There is no need to wait any longer. The cloud can enable better services, stronger citizen engagement and higher constituent satisfaction for communities of any size. It is time to modernize local government technology platforms.