May 15 2023

State and Local Agencies Must Build a Business Case for IT Infrastructure Choices

Government should consider time, risk and cost when weighing resources on-premises or in the cloud.

In this year’s CompTIA Public Technology Institute State of City and County IT National Survey report, 69 percent of cities and counties reported moving on-premises IT resources into private clouds. In a preview article, CompTIA PTI Executive Director Alan Shark writes, “many local government IT leaders have expressed frustration toward many leading vendors who are no longer offering on-premises solutions, thus forcing them into the cloud.”

But local governments should choose the cloud only when it makes sense to do so. When evaluating their IT infrastructure, IT officials should carefully assess their business needs and frame them in light of time, risks and costs. In short, no one should feel forced to make a decision that may not be best for them.

Weigh the Time Commitment for IT Efficiencies

When it comes to time, some agencies may be fighting a battle they cannot win. State and local governments both should consider the potential loss of time inflicted upon them by legacy applications.

Pure Storage notes this on its website: “Legacy applications are created using traditional application development methodologies based on monolithic architectural models. This means that the application’s code, services and other components are highly integrated, making the application harder to scale and adapt to changing environments.”

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As a result, applications that reside on a single system may become increasingly hard to access and difficult to expand. Adopting a service-based architecture modernizes applications while allowing them to run across various environments.

But agencies must consider whether a move to the cloud is feasible for some legacy applications. How much time might it take to move data to the cloud? Hours? Weeks? Months? That loss of time could be harmful to government operations and to citizen services.

In a 2022 MeriTalk survey of state and local IT leaders, 87 percent said legacy applications may prevent agencies from delivering modern services.

LEARN MORE: Why traditionally reluctant governments have increased trust in cloud security.

Assess the Risks of On-Premises vs. Cloud

In that same MeriTalk survey, 96 percent of state and local government IT decision-makers said they feel legacy applications and systems may pose a risk to critical infrastructure.

A decade ago, many state and local officials would have stated a preference for housing their government’s sensitive data in their own data centers within their own facilities, operated by their own personnel within the boundaries of their own geographic jurisdictions.

Those factors that might have favored on-premises data centers have changed in recent years, as major cloud service providers — such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure — are more secure than virtually any state and local government agency. And so, the script has flipped on cybersecurity when considering cloud versus on-premises infrastructure.

Source: MeriTalk, “Modernizing State & Local Government with Cloud,” 2022

But agencies also must consider the risks that follow if data is not available. Does a specific architecture or configuration lend itself to accessing data whenever it is required? Might citizen services suffer due to reliability limitations and throughput restrictions? Data may be secure, but governments may face risks due to a loss of quality in delivering services.

CDW experts note that nontechnical professionals also may find it challenging to access data when seeking to improve operations: “In others, they must rely on IT professionals to provide them with reports, which delays decision-making.” Any choice of computer architecture should avoid this undesirable outcome.

DIVE DEEPER: Why modernizing IT is a top priority for state and local governments.

Legacy and Modern Solutions May Prove Expensive

And, of course, state and local governments may not have much flexibility in dedicating funds to new IT resources. They may face fixed budgeting that discourages large new investments.

On the flip side, Taos notes on its website that state and local governments may face prohibitive costs from expensive maintenance for legacy hardware and rocketing costs for experts who know how to code old applications.

When considering new investments, agencies should realize that on-premises infrastructure may require a large upfront investment, while cloud computing may require monthly fees. Cloud also generally relieves the government of additional costs for real estate, utilities and more.

Fifty-five percent of states do not have a strategy for modernizing applications, according to a recent survey by the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. This hurts their visibility into understanding what actions might be beneficial from a cost perspective.

At the end of the day, governments must develop strategies to gain insight into which path best suits them and which path poses the greatest time efficiencies, the lowest risks and the best ROI.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.


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