As a natural evolution of data storage, cloud computing is growing in the enterprise space, especially given its potential impact on the way organizations access and use ICT products and services. The business and operational benefits of cloud computing are as relevant to the public sector as they are to the private sector, and in some cases, even more so.
With cloud computing, your data is stored and accessed from distant server farms rather than on your own computer. This makes it easy to accessing your information from anywhere, and without the need for physical proximity. Think about it – every time you access your email, you don't need to lug around a physical disk containing all your correspondences. You can just get online through your phone or computer, log in, and voila, everything you have sent or received is instantly available.
In a cloud environment, self-provisioning of services enables workflow collaboration across different agencies seamlessly and helps real-time response to increase/decrease in workload. A cloud environment frees up resources to invest in mission-critical applications, services and shift focus from asset ownership to service management thus improving citizen engagement and quality of citizen services thus delivered.
Cloud computing offers many advantages to the local government. Some of the most popular and applicable ones are the following:
The cloud allows you to be flexible - You can just add capacity as and when you need it. What does this mean? If a city government or a public library has a new service, it can roll these services out using the cloud as storage and backup. When the new service gains more users, staff do not have to worry about limited resources, because they can easily add the computing resources that they need. This means that they do not have to buy new servers and more hardware before they can release the new service.
The cloud allows for quick service updates - Getting on the cloud allows you to use the most current technologies and puts you in a position where you can take advantage of new technologies that are coming out. And you can do that even when you do not have a dedicated IT person on staff. The cloud provider will take care of software upgrades, system upgrades, hardware, and other things, so you get to focus on your operations and on more urgent tasks. This frees up your people to focus on giving services to the public.
The cloud allows for easy incorporation of other technologies - This benefit is much needed in legacy systems whose functions can easily be replaced with new technologies. With the cloud, you can easily integrate your current systems so that their functions become much easier to automate. With application program interfaces (APIs), you can put out new services based on the latest technologies. Governments can apply technologies to automate the collection of revenues, issuing of receipts and sending of reminders to citizens when payments are due, for example.
The cloud allows you to streamline and simplify your systems - All your systems can be co-located in one place, rather than being distributed all around. Whole departments can be linked so that they can instantly update each other on what they are doing
The staff's technical skills can be enhanced - Since they are no longer monitoring, building, supporting, and troubleshooting servers, staff members can focus on gaining additional skill sets and certifications to support a cloud solution. These enhanced skills include developing and using PowerShell scripts, management of data loss protection, and the implementation and maintenance of rights management.
By adopting a cloud-based IT strategy, governments can fundamentally change the way IT services are delivered and consumed while at the same time realizing tangible operational and financial benefits - reduced costs, improved organizational agility and transformation in service delivery. Government agencies using cloud computing can optimize legacy IT infrastructure while adding new services, decrease software/application maintenance, decrease project rollout timeframe, administrative costs and improve asset utilization, meaning they can focus on doing their jobs and letting technology fill the gap.