May 04 2021

The Challenges State and Local IT Face with Hybrid Cloud

Recent research offers insights into how state and local IT managers are using hybrid cloud and the hurdles they need to overcome.

During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, government agencies have embraced hybrid cloud technologies, but they have faced challenges in managing and securing them, according to recent research.

In a report earlier this year from MeriTalk entitled “Hybrid at Hyperspeed: Cloud Strategy for the New Reality of Government,” based on a survey of 300 federal, state, and local IT leaders, large majorities say the pandemic has increased adoption of hybrid cloud tools. According to the report, 83 percent of state and local respondents say the pandemic amplified the importance of migrating to a hybrid cloud environment, with 66 percent saying the pandemic accelerated their organization’s hybrid cloud adoption by a year or more.

At the same time, 57 percent of state and local IT managers feel their organization is not getting the most out of its hybrid cloud investments.

Among the largest challenges cited by survey respondents are managing and securing data across environments (52 percent), migrating to the cloud (27 percent) and justifying the investment (19 percent).

Brittany Johnston, research director at MeriTalk, says the survey shows that state and local IT managers see real benefits in hybrid cloud setups. Hybrid cloud enables agencies to hang on to legacy systems where they are needed “and then find the best fit where they have the opportunity to modernize.”

Yet 72 percent of state and local IT managers say they wish their organization would have constructed a more thoughtful data strategy before migrating.

The Benefits and Challenges of Hybrid Cloud

According to the survey, 79 percent of state and local government IT managers agree a hybrid cloud is the ideal operating system for a resilient government, and 83 percent report improvements in their ability to meet the mission thanks to hybrid cloud deployments.

Among the chief benefits of hybrid cloud, according to the survey, are improved data availability and interoperability (37 percent), improved flexibility/agility (37 percent) and improved cybersecurity (36 percent).

John Thomas Flynn, senior adviser for government programs at MeriTalk and the former Massachusetts and California CIO, notes that it has long been evident to state and local IT leaders that hybrid cloud makes the most sense, given the costs of running government services and private cloud vendors.

Yet, Flynn notes, every state and locality is different in its approach to hybrid cloud, and it’s a tricky deployment to get right. “Without question, it can save money,” he says. “There are a lot of trade-offs. If you don’t do it right, it can be more expensive.”

79%

Percentage of state and local government IT managers who say hybrid cloud is the ideal operating system for a resilient government

Source: MeriTalk, Feb. 2021, “Hybrid at Hyperspeed: Cloud Strategy for the New Reality of Government”

Yet hybrid cloud offers a way to move to the cloud gradually from a more secure, on-premises environment to a less expensive and more efficient public cloud environment, Flynn notes.

When it comes to public cloud, the survey found that the top high-level strategy considerations for state and local IT managers are security (86 percent), optimization and performance (83 percent), data stewardship and management (77 percent) and cost control (72 percent).

Flynn notes that more needs to be done at the state level to empower chief data officers to manage and secure data across environments. He notes that CDOs have been tasked with inventorying agencies’ data and systems and determining which should be more accessible and migrated to the cloud. That is a “huge job,” he says, and CDOs need to be work more closely with CIOs on those tasks.

Indeed, according to the report, as Johnston notes, only 39 percent of state and local respondents have evaluated data and applications as part of a strategy to better manage data in hybrid cloud environments.

State and local IT managers should consider turning to a trusted adviser from the private sector to help them assess cloud strategy and migration, Flynn says.

RELATED: Why cloud tools are the best way to transform government service delivery.

Overcoming Hurdles Related to Hybrid Cloud

The report makes three key recommendations for IT managers. One is to design a comprehensive data strategy as part of a hybrid cloud setup.

“Public sector IT managers agree managing and securing data across environments is the single biggest challenge of hybrid cloud,” the report states. “Before migrating, construct a future-focused strategy that allows you to see your data, make decisions based on it, and understand how much it costs.”

Another key recommendation is to home in on security, which is the top priority when moving to a hybrid cloud environment. “Secure systems by expanding continuous monitoring capabilities and improving consistency between on-premises and cloud security,” the report says.

Finally, the report advises partnering with a cloud specialist to help control costs and optimize performance: “Maximize your investments by collaborating with trusted partners and working with peers who have gone through the process.”

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