Dec 14 2017

Localities Cut Costs and Up Security with Customized Cloud Use Cases

States are migrating certain elements of their businesses to the cloud to improve usability and cybersecurity while trimming the budget.

When it comes to the cloud, many localities are dipping their toes in the tech with small and focused adoptions.

Because the cloud offers states better resiliency, cost savings and security, many states are pursuing ambitious cloud-first initiatives that seek to stretch across all departments and agencies.

Arizona, for instance, recently launched a cloud-first initiative that requires state agencies to shift their IT resources and operations to the cloud. The state tapped IBM Cloud to manage its daily mainframe operations. Texas is also betting big on cloud, with the state’s Department of Information Resources (DIR) launching a first-of-its-kind cloud services marketplace last year.

But not all state and local agencies are rushing to adopt the cloud in every aspect of their operations. Many are calling on the technology for more narrow use cases to start, which can help lay the groundwork for larger deployments in the future.

“Start with low-hanging fruit,” Vijay Vidal, director of application services for the Douglas Omaha Technology Commission told StateTech in an earlier interview. The organization recently adopted Google Cloud in several aspects of its business, including streamlining many of its IT operations, but the organization began by getting its feet wet with smaller projects, like backups and email. “Google opened the door for us to the cloud and after that we invested in larger cloud projects.”

Time Savings Spark Kansas’ Move to the Cloud

But even small and targeted adoptions can have a sizeable impact on operations. In Kansas, the state moved its cattle brand registration program to the cloud earlier this year, Government Technology reports, allowing the state to streamline and move online a process that was previously all done via mail.

“We heard it all the time: ‘If I can write a check, if I can buy a new car online, why can I not renew a $45 brand online?’” Dr. Justin Smith, the state’s deputy animal health commissioner, told Government Technology.

The Kansas Livestock Association estimates that the state has 6.4 million cattle, as of Jan. 1, 2017, just over twice the state’s human population. And while there is no mandate to brand cattle, the Kansas Department of Agriculture estimates that more than three-quarters of cattle are branded, with the brands renewed every five years.

This makes for a lot of paperwork for both the state and the ranchers. Previously, while those seeking to register brands could find forms online, they were still required to mail in registrations or resubmit paperwork via post, this made it arduous both for customers to register and for state employees to sort through forms.

Starting in April, ranchers could log in online to create and register their brands as opposed to mailing in forms, although it will take a while for the state to track down email addresses from ranchers that were previously only identified via their telephone number or address.

We’re seeing that positive already in terms of the amount of paper that [we] can run through the office in a day. All that does is allow us the time to become better servants to the client as far as lost and stolen cattle reports. Those need to get out on a timely basis,” Smith said.

Maine Migrates Unemployment Insurance to the Cloud

Similarly, several states are moving their unemployment insurance systems to the cloud in order to cut costs and bolster security, business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities, Government Technology reports. Most recently, Maine moved its online UI portal to the cloud in a move to upgrade its 25-year-old legacy system that relied partially on COBOL.

“We got to the point where the IT staff to maintain them, we were facing both very expensive infrastructure costs, and, quite frankly, the state staff skill set was essentially aging out of the workforce with the technology we had,” Patricia O’Brien, deputy bureau director for the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL) told Government Technology.

The new system will be able to establish, validate and maintain “80 to 90 percent” of claims in real time, O’Brien said, making it easier for both the state and users.

“We really think that the new system is much more user-friendly, and it really walks people through step by step,” John Feeney, director of the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation for MDOL, told the site. “We realize that initially, there’s going to be a learning curve, and we’re going to have to get over the learning curve, but ultimately, it’s going to streamline the process because both sides are seeing essentially the same system.”

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