For sustainable growth, the business world these days is actively adopting every technological advancement that it can successfully. One particular area of technology that has attracted the attention of many organizations is of Cloud Computing. Cloud! Cloud! Cloud! There is so much hype around it. But, the question arises what is it actually capable of and why should it be incorporated? Well, in a few words, Cloud Computing provides storage and application services, infrastructure, platforms, and software on demand to the client’s side and hence is also known as “on-demand computing.”
Often referred to as “Cloud”, it is captivating the public sector with its charm as information and communication technology (ICT) professionals are counting on this disruptive technology and finding cost-effective measures to benefit their organizations. As many public sector organizations have a vast amount of data to store, it becomes practically impossible to store every bit of it in physical storage systems. Cloud comes to the rescue through its virtual cloud storage platforms for such companies. The public sector can easily incorporate with it and move services to the cloud as it will not only be handy to deal with customers in real-time but also save them money too. Digital interaction is the focal point of introducing cloud technology as it provides flexibility of storage of data and information which can be accessed on the go.
Types of Service Models Cloud Provides:
SaaS (Software as a Service): It is the largest growing cloud market. Organizations access applications over the web which are managed and deployed by the third-party services. The main advantage of this service is that there is no installation or subscription charges involved. Examples of this service are Google Docs, Salesforce, etc. which again need no installation.
PaaS (Platform as a Service): In this model, the developers of the organizations take care of the code and the data, the rest of the infrastructure and O/S is provided by the third party services. The developers provide an application which runs on the platform already being provided to them. These types of virtual platforms are provided by Google Apps, Apprenda, and Microsoft Azure.
IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): As suggested by the name, Infrastructure as a Service provides organizations with the virtual machinery for their projects. The servers and networking issues are managed by the vendor whereas the organization is responsible for the operating systems, installation, development of software, etc. The great advantage of this service is that the client may install any platform on the infrastructure which is maintained off-site by a third party. This service is provided by various vendors such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure, Cisco Metapod, etc.
Further, Cloud services also differ on the basis of deployment models as discussed below:
Private Cloud: Managed independently by an individual organization.
Community Cloud: Shared by multiple organizations having similar or common goals. It helps to reduce costs as compared to private cloud.
Public Cloud: In this model, services and infrastructure are available to various clients or public. Google is a very good example of the public cloud.
Hybrid Cloud: Provides benefits of the private cloud coupled with the data transferability and sharing of the public cloud.
Impact of Cloud Computing On Businesses Around the World
Cloud Computing industry is expected to grow worth $191 billion till 2020.
UK govt. Launched “G-Cloud” initiative in 2012 which is the standout reform for getting full value from small and medium enterprises suppliers in a matter of seconds.
- There has been a steady rise in the cumulative jobs being created worldwide through Cloud Computing.
Benefits and Opportunities for the Public Sector
Businesses are experiencing cloud technology as a powerhouse tool for developing innovative strategies, forging new ties with the customer base, and tapping into the expertise of employees and partners. Apart from the cost management, flexibility through automation and scalability is the major benefit to the organizations from cloud services. Many social media management sites, project management tools, and platforms are drawing the benefits of cloud services. Also, not only expensive legacy software can be replaced by cheaper cloud alternatives but additional flexibility will allow for a revamp of the overall business processes using cloud and multiple sources.
Reduced Costs: Government agencies can avail greater advantages of economies of scale since hardware requirements decrease and efficiency increases. Also the cost of maintenance, operations, and upgrades are handled much more efficiently by a cloud provider at a lower rate.
Scalability: Cloud computing offers the ability to access greater capacity i.e. computing resources on demand. A good example of this can be noted of U.S. Census Bureau where in every 10 years it needs to increase resources in order to deal with the high amount of data. With cloud, the bureau hires cloud resources and pays for the specific period of time.
Access to innovation: Legacy systems need upgrades every time a new version of the software becomes available in the market or better workstations are out there. Hence, it costs a lot to keep up with the evolving trends. Whereas, with cloud computing, clients don’t need to worry about the constant hefty upgrades. The cloud provider incorporates new innovations into its system faster than the IT people in the government departments.
Accessibility: One major benefit of cloud services is that it provides mobility to employees. One can access the data from any part of the world resulting in much greater efficiency.
Disaster recovery: Cloud serves as the best resort to safeguard your data even if any natural disaster occurs damaging your infrastructure and data warehouses. The ease of recovering your data from the cloud has attracted the attention of many public sector organizations as they have a huge amount of data to store.
Main Concerns of the Organizations
Just because the cloud has many benefits, it doesn’t mean that challenges to adopt this technology have vanished completely. There are a few major concerns organizations deal with while incorporating this technology and moving completely to the cloud.
Security: Although, I think the cloud benefits security as, in my opinion, it defends information better than a client protecting their own network, looking at it through the eyes of government organizations, in their view there are a few concerns. For instance, government clouds can grow bigger as compared to others adhering to the amount of data it holds making them more alluring targets for cyber attacks, the CSP servers could be compromised, and there's a possibility of problems occurring between CSPs and the clients. After Edward Snowden’s revelations, organizations (especially the public sector) are skeptical about the security of their data in the cloud by reference to the suspected ease with which many telecom and cloud service providers facilitated National Security Agency (NSA) mass interception of their data.
Privacy: Organizations seek sound protection against accidental and nefarious access to their data and information. Hence, the decision to move their business completely to the cloud is only made after a thorough analysis of the rules and documentation of the agreement with the cloud service providers.
Vendor lock-in: The cost and efforts of moving one cloud to another are huge, however, fear of getting locked into a cloud server is heightened because the consumer is not in direct control of its cloud. Still, there’s work that needs to be done to address the movement of workloads from one cloud to another without experiencing any downtime.
Cloud computing is the manifestation of the digital revolution driving innovation at a fast pace. Migration to the cloud offers attractive and effective means of managing IT infrastructure costs to the public organizations with the benefit of mobility, flexibility, security, enhanced data storage facilities, and faster, more agile deployment services. Cloud computing will enable the public sector organizations to serve citizens and provide them with more intelligent consumption alternatives. Cloud computing has simplified computing operations effectively which has led the public sector to avail reduced costs and maintenance charges of operations. However, challenges, while acquiring this technology, must be addressed to successfully extract whatever cloud has to offer. An investment today in the tools and processes to overcome the challenges to cloud migration will reap greater benefits eventually.