Looking Back and Looking Forward

By Graham McCarthy – Public Sector Account Manager.

To quote W.B. Yeats, ‘All changed, changed utterly’. Covid-19 has changed where and how we work, and has precipitated the adoption of technologies that were, heretofore, not core to many organisations day-to-day operations. This is particularly the case in many Public Organisations, where necessity, and not choice, forced Public Sector Organisations to react quickly to the rapidly changing and ever-evolving circumstances brought on by the Covid-19 crisis.

There are still many full on-premise infrastructures within public sector organisations but this is changing, IT managers and stakeholders are shifting some responsibility to Cloud Providers, we have seen full on-premise solutions becoming more Hybrid and eventually, Hybrids will be the new norm.

In some instances, some business units are running their applications or accessing data leveraging full cloud solutions, I believe over time we will start to see cloud-only infrastructures in more public sector situations. The Public sector are starting to shift responsibility.

I had an engagement recently with a small government department where I reviewed their IT estate. Their environment was completely on-premises, In my report, I recommended a full cloud model, to migrate everything to the Cloud.

I provided a total cost of ownership for both models over five years and was able to:

  • Save the organisation 30% in IT spend,
  • Meet their disaster recovery, business continuity and GDPR requirements and
  • Enable access for remote workers.

This is a drastic change but a huge benefit to the way they will work in the future.

With a Laptop and an Internet connection, why should an employee spend 12–15 hours per week on travel to and from the office when they can save that time and work from home if they have the facility to do so. Why should an IT manager go to the office each day to manage the physical servers when he can log into the cloud service and manage it from a computer, anywhere in the world.

How has COVID-19 impacted Governments

Governments are embracing and adopting digital approaches at an unprecedented speed and scale. Around the world, government leaders are facing the common challenges of how to enable remote workforces; how to work across organisational boundaries; and how to deliver secure services that meet the needs of their citizens.

Technology adoption by the more ‘senior’ professionals has also picked up, in the absence of any scope to conduct face-to-face meetings or interviews applications such as Teams and Zoom have come to the forefront. The Coronavirus has pushed us to close offices, work-from-home, and therefore, make use of technology.

Recent disruptive global events have shown that digital technology and data are indispensable tools for governments as they adapt to sudden and unexpected changes across their agencies.

Many government leaders are taking stock and imagining a future with the most attentive, helpful citizen services. They are recognising that a strong digital ecosystem is the foundation for that future. In this time of crisis, governments are accelerating their digital transformation to support employees working from home and to serve citizens seamlessly.

In Canada, the national tech industry association in August strongly urged the government to include a national Innovation Adoption Program as a key pillar of the recovery plan.

Responsibility Model

The following list of cloud service types contrasts the management responsibilities of the user and the cloud service provider as compared to on-premises systems.

There may be some instances where cloud solutions do not meet some requirements from Governments such as very high security applications, Government Policies for Compliance and Ownership of Hardware which they cannot manage. These rarely come up in conversation anymore, these concerns are becoming less of a barrier.

On-Premise vs Cloud Responsibility Model

On-premise

Cloud services at the physical level are not so very different from an on-premise implementation.  The cloud service runs on a physical server within a secure datacentre, it is the same you just cannot see the physical servers where the service and your data resides. It is virtualized and accessed remotely.  The differences are mainly in the fact that it is managed for you, has inbuilt BC, DR, and security services, and is paid for typically on a consumption basis.

There is a big responsibility to maintain on-premise environments such as Server costs, Storage costsBackup, and archive costs, Organisation continuity and disaster recovery costs, Datacentre infrastructure costs, Network costs, & Technical personnel.

Organisations can still use the On-Premise Capex expenditure strategy if they wish, but it is no longer a requirement that they do so. Governments can leverage dedicated public cloud solutions, which means they can allocate compute resources to dedicated servers in their own environments, this model will continue to grow. At the end of2019 The Pentagon, the Department of Defence in the USA entered a $10 Billion cloud computing contract with Microsoft.

Cloud

There are many benefits to move to cloud solutions such as:

High availability, Scalability, Elasticity, Agility, Fault tolerance, Disaster recovery, Geographical reach, latency improvements, Predictive costs, and Technical skill requirements. For instance, getting a workload up and running with cloud services demands fewer technical resources than having IT teams build and maintain a physical infrastructure for handling the same workload, Increased productivity & Security.

Storage costs, for example, have decreased significantly over the last decade due in part to cloud providers’ ability to purchase larger amounts of storage at significant discounts. They are then able to use that storage more efficiently and pass on those benefits to their customers in the form of lower prices. This example is called economies of scale. Even at government levels such economy of scale is hard to achieve any other way.

Cloud service providers operate on a consumption-based model, which means that organisations will only pay for the resources they use. This is an attractive model for Public Sector organisations as taxpayer’s money will be utilized more efficiently and the near instant availability of additional resources on demand allows the flexibility to respond to spikes in demand as required.

The agility of cloud services allows governments to scale and adapt services based on growth, connecting any device from anywhere and without adding additional hardware.

Security

The number of cyberattacks on government agencies is increasing. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, the public sector has the highest number of incidents compared to other sectors. Government agencies have, arguably, the most to lose from an attack. A data breach can erode confidence in government institutions and public trust, and hamper first responders in delivering critical, life-saving services.

As we have seen new changes in data protection and GDPR, higher levels of responsibility must be met to stay compliant.

When I have been dealing with IT managers and various business units within public sector organisations in each case GDPR compliant technology is now always a requirement. Data Protection officers are now involved in the buying decision and strict procurement rules around data protection have been put in place.

Cloud Providers offer a broad set of policies, technologies, controls, and expert technical skills that can provide better security than most organisations can otherwise achieve. The result is strengthened security, which helps to protect data, apps, and infrastructure from potential threats.

Citizens are looking to their government agencies to provide the same level of service and innovation that they see in their day-to-day business and private lives. Enabling modern security also requires new ways of thinking and operating to protect data and identities. Privacy just as with security, needs to be built into technology from the ground up. The place to do that is in the cloud.

Some of the large cloud providers spend north of one billion per year on security, right from the perimeter of the datacentre down to encrypting the data on the servers. This is another key driving factor for why governments are leveraging cloud providers and will continue to do so into the future.

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