How the Pandemic Impacted Government’s Cloud Migration Plans: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

“Cloud-first” has been a government imperative for many years, but the pandemic usurped that strategy, making “cloud-now” a priority. The results have been transformational.

The cloud made wide-scale government telework possible but it has also given agencies the opportunity to test drive new cloud applications and experience the scalability and security benefits first-hand.

However, for all the good generated from this investment in “cloud-now,” challenges remain.

Although COVID-19 accelerated cloud adoption, there are still many situations where a private cloud is required—hence the popularity of hybrid IT environments. But these can be hard to manage at scale and require a specific skill set that’s not always easy to find.

While federal, state, and local agencies remain firm believers in hybrid environments, they face several obstacles including: ensuring a high-performing infrastructure; traditional monitoring technologies that may not work across heterogeneous ecosystems; the speed at which some cloud applications were rolled out may also have resulted in unresolved security and compliance issues.

That’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. But what can agencies do to combat these concerns

1. Take a new approach to tooling.

When planning a cloud strategy, it’s easy to assume the right tools and technology are a cure-all for the complexities of hybrid cloud management, but not all technologies are created equal, with many designed for on-premises data centers or the cloud, not both.

IT leaders must prioritize a plan to control the complexities of monitoring hybrid environments with an integrated, holistic view of overall health, performance and security across the network, databases and applications.

2. Optimize the hybrid network.

Network connectivity and performance will be key factors in ensuring the delivery of high-quality, mission-critical services by addressing network latency and any other issues before they impact end-users.

Software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) technologies can help simplify network management tasks by intelligently routing traffic around congestion.

3. Get a handle on identity and access control.

When employees, contractors, and citizens interact with data from disparate sources—in the cloud and on-premises—security teams are finding out things get much more complicated.

In a rush to fill the security holes created by the “cloud-now” imperative, access controls such as multifactor authentication will likely replace passwords as the gold standard for digital access. Other security practices like zero-trust frameworks, network segmentation, and adhering to the cloud provider’s security best practices can help secure high-value assets wherever they reside in the hybrid environment.

4. Shift skills and mindsets.

As IT leaders are finding out, the skills involved in managing a hybrid cloud environment are different than those needed for on-premises infrastructure. Virtualization, containerization, and even some elements of security create a wholly unfamiliar environment that must be managed in unison with, and to the same high standards, as on-site assets.

Technology can help, but agencies must also identify and nurture the right skills needed to support a hybrid cloud strategy in areas such as security and application performance monitoring. Agency leaders and users also have a role to play and should be educated on how a hybrid environment supports the goals of the mission and how it can be leveraged effectively and securely.

The pandemic has made the case for IT modernization and accelerated cloud adoption, but for these services to be truly utilized by government personnel and citizens alike, they must be high-performing, easily accessible, and secure.

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