i-MigrationIt’s easy to make quips about the government moving slowly. But our extensive experience over years of work with city, county, and state governments has shown us that any pause in activity tends to be a result of process, not of deliberate delay. Most common in contributing to gridlock are different departments and divisions utilizing different tools and workflows that don’t always work well together. Systems and data aren’t shared in a meaningful way. Employees and workers are held up by inefficient old tools that need to be updated but remain stuck in the past. Increasingly, many government organizations are working towards progress, and shifting to more efficient technological solutions.

A central Californian city government called us not long ago to ask about moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud. The government was due to buy some expensive new software licenses, and took the timing as an opportunity to consider a move to the cloud. The tools they used and data they stored were quite similar to many other cities we had worked with in the past. So too were the challenges they faced in making such a transition. The city manager asked us if there were savings to be found and productivity gains to be made by virtualizing utility billing and worker payroll systems, among other applications. We told the city’s planning committee that yes, there were indeed ways to cut long-term costs and increase employee productivity. But the path to get there was unique and couldn’t happen all at once. With their understanding of the goals and timeline, we started our assessment, and got to work.

The challenges faced by city and county government agencies

While cloud solutions would benefit government organizations, there are several roadblocks that must first be navigated. Many government entities utilize systems and tools that aren’t merely antiquated, but are offline completely. Unlike organizations moving from on-premise technology to the cloud, many city and county agencies are looking to move from filing cabinets full of years-old records to a digital solution. As you might imagine, that is a much different challenge. It’s one thing for a private business to move a few years of digital records to the cloud. It’s something else entirely for a county tax assessor to take decades of paperwork and figure out how to do the same. Furthermore, because many of these divisions have their own budgets, their own procurement processes, and their own needs, getting disparate agencies on the same page when it comes to moving to the cloud can present complications.

So what is the answer? Are government agencies just stuck, like a train rolling down tracks that have already been laid? Absolutely not. In fact, the opportunity available to municipal governments is unique in the sense that most of them do, in fact, have a budget for technology and refreshing IT infrastructure. This is far different than a small business that simply can’t justify any cost and is pulling hard to make it from one day to the next without their network falling apart or being hacked.

How cloud migrations can work for government agencies

The first order of business in moving parts of a government network to the cloud is identifying where the greatest gains can be made for the least expense. For example, hosted Exchange is typically inexpensive, yet email is a powerful intradepartmental communication system. For a few dollars per mailbox each month, agencies can have world-class email that is secure and managed by an external provider. Migrating current email to a hosted Exchange environment does add cost, but nothing on the scale of digitizing thousands of historical paper records, so it can easily be budgeted as one of the first steps.

Next, moving applications like worker time-tracking software and billing applications to the cloud creates a high-reliability solution that, once again, is secure and no longer must be managed by an internal resource. Finding the software tools used most often by government employees and moving them to the cloud can lead to greater reliability and productivity for all workers. Even better, bringing the same tools to different departments makes the sharing of information across these departments easier than ever before. For example, hosting Sharepoint in a private cloud would give different departments the ability to share files in a secure and private manner.

The most complex system to move to the cloud for most government agencies is indeed historical data. Digitizing thousands of sheets of paper stored in filing cabinets in a number of different offices is time-consuming, for sure. Moving that data to the cloud ensures that nothing will be lost, and information can be easily found. It’s a difficult decision to make, and depends on the individual situation. Our suggestion in many cases is to employ a hybrid cloud solution, where legacy data can be kept on-premise for ease of access and reduced cost, while newly created data is incorporated into the cloud.

What a successful cloud migration looks like

Once a migration to the cloud is in process, one of the most important aspects of a successful transition comes in training employees on the power of these new solutions. Make sure that if your government agency is exploring a transition to the cloud that you properly account for the cost and time associated with training workers on these systems. Without proper training, these new tools can lead to more frustration and, consequently, more delay in getting things done.

With DiamondIT on your side, a migration to the cloud can be made easy. Our team has years of experience helping government agencies plan and train employees for a successful transition to the cloud for long-term success. Explore what the cloud can do for you. Proper planning, deployment, and support will be integral to success. With DiamondIT on your team, you can be sure that gridlock and delay are things of the past!