Mar 14 2022

Fact or Fallacy: 7 Tips for Cloud Migration at State and Local Agencies

Weigh frequently cited obstacles to adopting cloud to determine their true degree of impact.

Many state and local government agencies still lag in adoption of cloud computing and cite various obstacles as a deterrent. Let’s examine some common beliefs about cloud migration to determine which might be true and which might be misconceptions.

Fact: Government Agencies Struggle with Siloed Data

Siloed data is a major obstacle for government agencies. Information collected over decades includes isolated and duplicate data that limits visibility across agencies, many of which operate under their own policies. Therefore, fragmented data sharing — or no data sharing — among agencies can result in redundant data being stored in the cloud, increasing overall storage costs. On top of that, agencies worry about the data they’re legally allowed to store, which creates additional challenges when migrating data to the cloud. A critical part of cloud adoption is ensuring that sensitive data remains secure because data migration is a high-risk process plagued with various vulnerabilities.

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Fallacy: Cloud Storage Is Inexpensive

A common misconception is that cloud storage is more economical than traditional ways of storing data. When agencies start retroactively preparing all of their data for migration and storage in the cloud, they can run into higher-than-expected costs. Many agencies experience sticker shock after migrating data. It also makes it harder for agencies to budget as they try to keep pace with growing storage demands. By tiering data, agencies can significantly reduce costs, paying more for data that needs to be accessed daily and paying less for data that can be stored away for regulatory or compliance purposes. But while tiering data can cut costs, managing data across multiple clouds is a challenge that comes with this approach.

RELATED: What are the main options for migrating off of a legacy mainframe?

Fact: Vendor Lock-In Can Be Avoided

Another big concern is being tied to the same vendor once all systems have moved to the cloud, especially if the vendor’s prices increase. Agencies that implement a multicloud solution can avoid dependency on one specific vendor. By using several cloud platforms, agencies have the flexibility to move between service providers. However, a multicloud architecture must be interoperable to avoid problems. PwC recommends using decoupled microservices with containers. Decoupling development and deployment will ensure continuous integration, while the use of containers will ensure interoperability.

Fallacy: Cloud Is Fundamentally Insecure

Many organizations view security as a leading challenge to cloud adoption. A recent StateTech Twitter poll reflected this view: 44 percent cited cybersecurity as the top roadblock for IT decision-makers. In reality, cloud service providers — including Microsoft, Amazon and Google — invest more in cloud security than most agencies. In fact, migrating to the cloud can improve security. Agencies can start small by moving a few workloads to the cloud and evaluating the results. Third-party assurance reports can also give agencies a glimpse into how cloud providers handle their data. Agencies can also choose a hybrid approach, where some data is stored in the public cloud while more sensitive data remains in private data centers.

Once agencies become comfortable moving their workloads to the cloud securely, they can transition fully from a hybrid cloud model to the public cloud. To avoid breaches, agencies must recognize that public cloud providers are not responsible for all aspects of cloud security. Agencies must manage security controls for their apps and user accounts.

DIVE DEEPER: Find out how three states have moved on from their mainframes.

Fact: Cloud Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All Solution

A single, comprehensive cloud model doesn’t exist. Every cloud implementation looks different for every organization because every organization has different needs. Agencies can choose from a range of models, such as Software as a Service for cloud-hosted applications; Infrastructure as a Service for cloud-based data storage, servers, and networking; or Platform as a Service for integrated cloud-based infrastructure, among others. Several factors can influence which cloud model an agency chooses, including the agency’s size, existing legacy systems, budgetary restraints and whether it wants to migrate its data gradually or all at once. Ultimately, the model an agency decides to implement should be well suited for specific apps or use cases.

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Fact: Cloud Migration Requires Skilled People

In a 2020 PwC Survey, 77 percent of CEOs expressed concerns about the availability of key skills needed for cloud adoption. Government agencies in particular may not have the funds to employ cloud migration experts, compared with private sector companies. For this reason, phased migration is a better practice for agencies that want to move to the cloud over time either by using existing resources or by hiring skilled individuals during those phases. Developing a cloud center of excellence within every agency is also a way for employees to expand their knowledge about cloud computing. Additionally, agency leaders must develop strategies for understanding what data they have, how it must be managed, and what their long-term goals are for cloud adoption.

EXPLORE: The challenges agencies face with hybrid cloud.

Fact and Fallacy: Moving Away from Legacy Infrastructure Is Costly

Agencies that have already invested in data centers and legacy systems are hesitant to move to the cloud. Ironically, legacy systems are the reason why agencies are looking to modernize. Agencies may not see the cost benefits of cloud migration in the short term. However, agencies can take a phased approach to moving their oldest systems to the cloud first because they’re the most difficult and expensive to migrate. Although moving to the cloud can provide significant cost savings, agencies shouldn’t expect immediate results simply by migrating existing systems. Agencies should also be streamlining their processes and redesigning their apps for the cloud in preparation for a migration project.

Yves Tessier/WikiMedia Commons

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