Cloud computing has captured the attention of the public sector because it's a technology model that can help organizations reduce costs, boost efficiencies and improve agility.
And state and local organizations are doing more than window shopping, according to a survey of 1,200 IT professionals in government, healthcare, education and business. The findings of the inaugural CDW·G Cloud Computing Tracking Poll indicate that government organizations are, in fact, gradually moving to the cloud.
When organizations first experiment in the cloud, they typically adopt an application for office productivity, e-mail or conferencing. In fact, 84 percent of organizations polled report that they have already deployed at least one cloud app. They also report reducing their IT costs by an average of 21 percent. What IT department wouldn't want to save money while enhancing computing capabilities?
"Many organizations are carefully -- and selectively -- moving into cloud computing, as well they should, because it represents a significant shift in how computing resources are provided and managed," says David Cottingham, senior director for managed services at CDW·G. "With thoughtful planning, organizations can realize benefits that align directly with their organizational goals: consolidated IT infrastructure, reduced IT energy and capital costs, and 'anywhere' access to documents and applications."
Indeed, many public-sector agencies call cloud computing an intended destination. Already, 29 percent of the state and local officials surveyed have drafted a strategic plan for cloud adoption. Even more significant, 61 percent are in either the discovery or the planning phases of adoption.
Given the potential for cost reduction, cloud will likely capture a larger share of IT attention going forward. The state and local organizations surveyed expect to spend 23 percent of their budgets on cloud computing by 2016. All told, IT professionals in state and local government anticipate garnering an average annual IT savings from cloud computing of 18 percent within five years, according to the poll.
Despite the desire to migrate infrastructure, servÂices and apps to this new model, state and local IT officials also expect to encounter some obstacles along the way. By far, security represents the greatest concern among cloud users and nonusers. But as with other technology platforms, tools and tactics exist to help organizations implement protections. These include employing encryption, managing access to cloud applications, changing passwords every 90 days, making use of intrusion detection, and monitoring for patches daily.
"IT managers are taking a hard look at their IT governance, architecture, security and other prerequisites for cloud computing, in order to ensure that their implementations are successful," Cottingham says.
Despite any hesitations, however, it's clear that IT professionals in state and local government will be paying close attention to cloud computing in all its variations moving forward.