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U.S. Government Movin’ on Up Into the Cloud

Folks in the United States have been griping about how much the US federal government spends three years. Well, according to an article by Joe McKendrick, the government may have finally started taking these complaints seriously.

Federal agencies that have adopted cloud computing have already saved approximately $5.5 billion, according a federal IT consortium that McKendrick quoted in his article. The real question here is where will those savings go? Will they be distributed evenly among programs like Medicare and Social Security, or will they go to pay for things like education and struggling state governments? Obviously, we’ll just have to wait and see. Still, the federal government’s decision to embrace cloud computing will set the tone for the entire country.

According to a report issued in February 2011 by the federal government’s chief information officer Vivek Kundra, “cloud computing has the potential to play a major part in addressing inefficiencies and improving government service delivery. The cloud computing model can significantly help agencies grappling with the need to provide highly reliable, innovative services quickly, despite resource constraints. For the Federal Government, cloud computing holds tremendous potential to deliver public value by increasing operational efficiency and responding faster to constituent needs.”

As with any organization, the federal government also worries about security. Government agencies have fallen victim to hackers in the past and probably will again in the future. For this reason, it’s important that the U.S. government follow the same advice that many MSPs give to their own clients: Be careful what you put in the cloud. Although government agencies make use of safety features such as complicated passwords and encryption, they still would be wise to avoid putting classified information in the cloud. There’s no such thing as a fail-proof safety measure.

In many ways, storing documents in the cloud can be safer than locking paper documents away in a file cabinet. For one thing, paper documents can easily get misplaced or misappropriated if they’re left lying around. When they’re in the cloud, something as simple as a password prevents unauthorized individuals from accessing important documents. Encryption, of course, makes transferring those documents between departments or organizations faster, safer and less expensive than using FedEx or a personal courier.

According to McKendrick, who quoted statistics from a survey of 108 federal IT managers, 48% said their agencies were moving collaboration tools to the cloud, 47% said that they were moving email to the cloud, administrative applications (43%), conferencing software (28%) and “mission applications (25%) rounded out the top five cloud-based applications that federal agencies and organizations are currently implementing.

Many in the U.S. would say that it’s about time the federal government started taking serious strides to cut spending. Others might worry that adopting cloud computing is a bad move. Honestly, it’s an inevitable move. How can the United States ever hope to remain competitive either in business or politics if its led by a government that clings antediluvian ideals.

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