Hybrid Cloud: The Answer to Public Sector Cloud Security Issues

Posted on January 15, 2013 by Nikhil P Naik

Cloud computing has undeniably made a substantial impact on today’s IT culture. Enterprises have embraced cloud computing as a way to streamline operations and increase productivity while lowering costs and maximizing returns on investment.

Public sector entities like government, education, and healthcare concerns are following suit, fast realizing like the multitude of others that cloud computing, by virtue of consolidation, automation, and virtualization of resources, provides opportunities for innovation, agility and cost savings. Delivering services in a more effective manner while trying to balance shortened and shrinking budgets has been the hallmark of many public sector agencies as of late and the leaders within have been quick to explore options that can provide for this.

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So why hasn’t every public sector entity in the country seized upon the idea of cloud computing wholesale and made the transition lock, stock, and barrel? Why has it taken this long?

Hasn’t the Public Sector Received the Memo?

To put it mildly, progress favoring shared service has been far slower and less prevalent than many within the public sector had hoped for. Thus, the benefits realized by private sector enterprises have not been enjoyed to the extent it could by the public sector in whole.

The reasoning behind this reality is varied, ranging from the inability to overcome barriers common to organizational and systemic change to deficient funding, disbursement, and governance provisions to a simple lack of incentive. Add in the almost devout protection of ever-threatened budgets and oft-dwindling resources coupled with pervasive political and legal ramifications and the proposition becomes all the more dubious.

Additionally, it has been debated, either rightly or wrongly, that agency-wide sharing of services and all this entails is simply too complex and for “real world” applications and operations and that the benefits are unrealizable.

Public Sector Concerns: Well Founded or Much Ado about Nothing?

It has also been determined that the same challenges that private businesses have encounter may be similar to those in the public sector though how they are assessed, gauged, valued and weighted may be different. Some of them are wholly unique to the public sector milieu.

Concerns over sovereignty, security and privacy, compliance, risk—all are paramount for the public sector and transcend the theoretical, as the implications for each are very real.

Let the Learning and Infrastructure Building Begin

However, in light of this, efforts have been made to address the legitimate and perceived impediments that have hampered pervasive use of shared services within the public sector.

Distinguishing between the different options for the cloud—public, private and hybrid—is a step in the right direction. Many of the concerns, shortcomings, and trepidations highlighted are impossible to address with any honesty until this differentiation is complete and the needs of each agency and the requisite mission, need, framework etc. are thoroughly outlined. This bit of education will allow for choosing and developing a cloud model and infrastructure that is the best match for the organization and will assist in partnering with vendors who have proven expertise in transitioning customers to the cloud and effectively deploying the technology with as little downtime, distraction and tumult as possible.

Outlining a set of expectations for what public sector leaders and managers hope to derive from the cloud is another necessity, as is coming to grips with the fact that the cloud model, like so many other technologies, is but the most recent innovation that has been developed and improved from previous incarnations. It has and continues to culture and mature with time.

Not “reinventing the wheel” and studying the results of those organizations that have already implemented the cloud and developed a set of best practices is also necessary. The information gathered will allow for a more effective understanding of the ramifications of a move to the cloud and will allow for a thorough evaluation relative to the organization considering the move.

As cloud technology continues to grow and mature and regulations and standards are put into place many of the concerns regarding cloud computing, especially those surrounding security and privacy, should dissipate with time.


The Hybrid Cloud: A Step in the Right Direction

Until which time public sector leaders should begin to understand that there are options currently available—private and hybrid clouds—that will meet their needs safely and effectively.

The choice of distancing the agency from the public cloud as a singular notion and combining it with a private cloud is becoming more favorable to the public sector today. This type of cloud infrastructure allows for:

  • A greater degree of flexibility and integration
  • The establishment of cloud communities within the organization as a whole, with porting between clouds via applications and VMs in response to ever-changing business conditions and needs.
  • Localized management, monitoring and governance within a single dashboard the advantageous utilization of numerous opportunities like becoming a shared service provider.
  • Centralized control of security and services located strictly within the private cloud

In conclusion, cloud computing and all it entails signals the next phase in information and communication technology. It indicates what could be considered a monumental,
transformational step into the future for public sector agencies worldwide. In spite of the initial apprehension encountered more and more public sector leaders, managers, CIOs etc. are cultivating a trust in cloud computing and technologies and are advocating for integration and virtualization.

Indeed, as regulatory and standardization issues and questions are identified and addressed, due diligence, proper planning and consideration, and well-informed choices are allowing for the deployment of effective, practical and economical solutions with management, reliability and security at the forefront.

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About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has a Master's Degree in Information Systems, and is currently working as a Software Engineer at Microsoft. He also loves playing cricket, listening to music, and traveling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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