Businesses and organizations in the private sector have been adopting and adjusting cloud technologies for quite some time now. Cloud technology has evolved and delivered its promises of being flexible, affordable, and secure. Following these trends, companies have customized their investments with multi-cloud and hybrid approaches to suit their needs.
Over in the public sector, however, cloud adoption has been far more reserved and cautious, driven by the sensitivity of constituent data held by government agencies and yet Cloud technologies have matured while evolving. Safeguards meant to protect the integrity of sensitive data have been implemented and continue to grow — both in the form of regulatory policies and in advanced technologies that enable seamless, controlled access to remotely stored data.
Municipal cloud adoption can also pave the way for smart cities of the future. The core purpose of such a smart city would be to create an entire information infrastructure, construct a platform for information sharing, and provide citizens automatic services through municipal software applications that use single or multiple data sources, and virtualization technologies.
WHAT IS A MUNICIPAL CLOUD AND WHAT ARE ITS ADVANTAGES
Over the past decade, government agencies in the U.S. have implemented policies that encourage the adoption of cloud technology for providing services. These policies state strict regulatory guidelines are revolving around security and privacy.
The positive changes in cloud technology have led to a growing adoption rate among government agencies. Security remains a top priority for government workloads, and the value-added by cloud solutions is crucial to ensure that classified data is safeguarded by the government. According to research from Gartner, Inc., governments still have concerns with public cloud security and vendor lock-in. However, when properly implemented, high security can be provided through technologies like remote workstations that enable the secure movement of workloads to any public, private, or hybrid environment.
One of the most compelling arguments for governments to adopt technologies like a municipal cloud is the ability and freedom to tailor and implement the required solutions for a wide variety of use cases regardless of scale and magnitude. Local governments are successfully finding use cases for cloud technology to help them better serve residents. For example, Kansas City in Missouri has been able to reduce the number of emergency road repairs – and subsequently lower costs – by using the cloud to analyze data, traffic patterns, weather conditions, and other factors. This data provides the local governing body with insight that the city needs to predict where potholes might form and when action needs to be taken. This enables the maintenance crews to be proactive rather than reactive.
For municipal agencies that are cash strapped or technically challenged, the cloud may be the best technology to come along. The Cloud provides easy access to technologies while achieving several benefits that constituents can appreciate:
- Cost management – Cloud technology offers governments a better way to manage their technical expenditure. It enables governments to pay for services only when needed, rather than investing in a spare capacity that may never be required. It also eliminates the problem of obsolete hardware.
- Security – Security is of utmost importance to government agencies. Cloud provides high data security and maintains the sovereignty of classified data.
- Expert Support - Municipalities that struggle with infrastructural support benefit from the expertise and service offered by the cloud provider.
- Advanced technology – The Cloud provides municipalities with a cost-effective solution to access the latest technologies. The hesitation in trying out new technologies due to cost or lack of expertise is eliminated.
- Insight into data – The Cloud makes data sharing very easy. This shared data can be used to gather greater insight into existing problems. This data can be used to draw out better solutions and provide better service to the constituents.
- Flexibility – Being responsive to changes has always been a challenge for governments. Cloud solutions, with their low commitment, pay-as-you-go subscription model, enables government agencies to respond to technological changes. It makes it easier to adopt new software development methods, making the implementation of more modern applications easier and provide new services.
- Scalability – The ability of cloud solutions to scale up and down, plus vertically and horizontally enables municipal agencies to provide better service on demand and any scale necessary.
APPLICATIONS OF MUNICIPAL CLOUD
Based on the benefits and services offered by cloud computing, many areas can be explored by governing agencies for cloud-based applications:
- Banking and Finance - Cloud computing can provide several advantages to banks and financial institutions, including usage-based billing, business continuity, green IT, business agility, cost savings, etc.
- Telecommunication - Cloud computing plays a vital role in telecommunication. Multitenant cloud architecture, which can provide multi-services to multi-users, has a telecommunication network as a central part. It can provide these services with optimal resource allocation and high quality of service. Both operational and technical aspects of telecommunication can be considered in cloud computing.
- Document, Drawing and Records Management – Cloud computing has proved to be a beneficial platform for electronic document management enabling more efficient access, retrieval, indexing, sharing of information and e-storage/archiving, ultimately supporting government and municipal agencies with their document lifecycle management.
- RFP Management - Government RFPs are issued whenever an agency needs a particular product or service. They are done so in a public manner to make the process fair and to reduce costs. Cloud solutions can be used to streamline proposal management in the RFP response process.
- Smart Cities – Cloud technology is the backbone required to build the sustainable smart cities of the future. Through sensors, connectivity, and analytics, the cloud can help municipal agencies begin the transformation. There are various services that cloud technologies provide which smart cities can use to their benefit: they deliver the best in diverse business and technological domains, and they offer internet-based service delivery encouraging the creation of services which are based on domain-independent service delivery platforms.
- Education - Better collaboration, discussions, and sharing of research ideas can be achieved using cloud applications. An institution can share their resources with a large number of users like students, faculty, research scholars, and offsite locations in a more efficient manner. Even remote areas can reap the benefits of cloud-based educational applications that make knowledge sharing efficient and scalable.
Today’s cloud models are easy to adopt and can be up and running in a span of a few hours. The ability of cloud computing to be scalable is good news for government agencies that have constrained budgets.
With policies and regulations in place to ensure security and sovereignty, there has never been a better time for the public sector to turn to the cloud for solutions to long-neglected problems.