How the Government is using Cloud Computing

US_Capitol_during_government_shutdown;_west_side;_Washington,_DC;_2013-10-06When you think of cloud computing and all the benefits that can come from it, you probably think of the advantages it gives businesses. Many companies have adopted cloud computing as a way to get an edge over the competition, but perhaps one of the biggest sectors utilizing cloud computing is one that is easily overlooked. The federal government spends around $2 billion each year on cloud computing, outranking any other business or organization out there in terms of cost. The government has plenty of reasons to make use of cloud computing in much the same way private companies do. The government is also at the forefront of adopting innovative ways to use the technology, ones that may eventually be used in the private sector in the years to come.

(Tweet This: The federal government spends $2 billion a year on #cloud computing. #bigdata)

The federal government is a sprawling organization connecting numerous agencies and departments, which can easily explain why its the main user of cloud computing technology. Like businesses who use it, the government sees cloud computing as a way to cut costs. In fact, fully adopting cloud computing for application development alone may save the government more than $20 billion a year according to one study, and may end up cutting expensive IT costs by more than 30%. There’s even more potential to save if cloud computing were applied across the entirety of the U.S. government, because as it stands, less than a third of government agencies have actually implemented cloud strategies. Cloud computing can also make the government more agile, able to meet new challenges and keep up with growing demand and changes in services. This improved flexibility can go a long way toward combating the view of government as inefficient and too bureaucratic.

(Tweet This: Only about 30% of government agencies have implemented #cloud strategies. #cloudcomputing)

Some sections of government have already spearheaded the effort to make cloud-based solutions part of their operations. Agencies like the U.S. Army, Department of Justice, USDA, and Department of Education have already implemented some form of cloud computing. Some of these cloud solutions are fairly basic for the moment. The General Services Administration, for example, has taken IT services like email and customer relationship management to commercial cloud providers, in part to take advantage of better processing powers and cloud storage capabilities. Much of this adoption has taken place under the government’s “Cloud First” initiative. With more adoption expected for more agencies, the idea is to improve citizen services while creating a more reliable platform to avoid disruptions.

As government agencies have adopted cloud computing more and more, a number of innovations have been created that may prove beneficial to private companies. One example is the government’s use of private clouds that provide the agency with more control over the cloud environment while being more efficient and secure. Another example would be the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). For obvious reasons, the government has information and data that need the topmost security to protect it, and FedRAMP helps to achieve that end. FedRAMP ensures that cloud environments meet security standards through a more streamlined process that would otherwise take a much longer time. The federal government is also a pioneer of the use of big data within the cloud, using its scalability to store vast amounts of data that needs to be accessed with ease. Part of the driving force behind this innovation is the CIA, which has an especially great need for data when analyzing security threats.

While there are certainly benefits to using cloud computing, there are also a number of barriers which has delayed the cloud adoption process for many federal agencies. Even though initiatives like FedRAMP address the issue, security is a major concern, one that is holding agencies back from fully embracing the cloud. There are also concerns about performance, mainly whether cloud computing can handle the intense workload for many governmental agencies. Integration with traditional systems is another worry since the process can be complicated and lead to other issues. Once these barriers are properly addressed, more agencies are expected to fully take up cloud computing.

Perhaps an efficient national government might be a little hard to picture, but cloud computing is definitely a step in the right direction. With improved flexibility, greater accessibility, and more innovative solutions, the progress made with cloud within the walls of the government can eventually extend to the private sector. A government able to keep up with demand is certainly desirable, and cloud computing makes that possible.

-Rick Delgado

Enterprise Technology Expert and Freelance Writer

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