Businesses all over Australia are moving to the cloud, providing many opportunities for growth in a flexible environment. However, when it comes to the private sector, there are more considerations to make when it comes to the security of citizen data and potential breaches.
This post outlines the pros and cons of moving your agency’s data to the cloud to ensure you have all the information required when it comes to utilising technology in the public space.
What is the cloud?
There is a misconception that data stored within the cloud is saved in an intangible structure somewhere literally in the clouds. The truth is, the cloud refers to physical structures such as warehouses or data centres that are purely built for data storage.
Cloud computing offers a more flexible way of working, as more employees can access data from a variety of devices, and it offers great time and money savings.
Pros of storing your agency’s data in the cloud
Collaboration and real-time updates
Many software providers today offer businesses the ability to store information in a central location that can be easily accessed by anyone at anytime.
The most straightforward example of this is Google Docs. Google Docs is an online word processor that allows real-time changes to be recorded on one central document that can be accessed and updated in real-time.
This means that anyone with an internet connection and the right permissions can access information remotely, opening up endless possibilities for flexible working hours and improved collaboration.
Data centralisation and recovery
Data centres are created to continually back-up data stored within the infrastructure, this reduces risks of data loss in case of an outage or breakdown within your agency infrastructure.
Information that is stored in the cloud can be recovered more easily as the data will generally be saved across multiple servers as opposed to one hard drive or server.
In the private sector digital data loss is a big issue, sometimes costing businesses up to $9000 to recover lost data in one instance. Data recover through the cloud will not only save you money in case of a disaster, but it is faster to retrieve.
The cloud eliminates previously expensive upfront software costs and replaces them with monthly on-going fees. It will allow your agency to pay purely for what it needs, rather than paying one lump some for a software platform that may not be necessary for your department.
In the private sector, some small businesses have seen a reduction in their energy costs by about 90%, purely from the efficiencies within their infrastructure created by the cloud.
Capital costs for the public sector can be reduced quite dramatically simply by decreasing the physical footprint of IT and leveraging existing investments in applications and hardware.
Cons of storing your agency’s data in the cloud
Security and vulnerability
One of the biggest concerns, and one of the biggest deterrents for adopting the cloud is data security.
You can read more about the challenges of BYOD policies in one of our previous posts as it outlines the lack of a cohesive federal strategy for coping with the management of data access across multiple devices for people that may move in and out of an agency.
There is always a risk of hackers and security threats, or mistakes being made when securing data through human error.
An important note to make when trying to mitigate this risk is evaluating what data is most sensitive. Is it open data that is readily available to the public? Or is it sensitive information that needs to be protected? These are the decisions you need to make when considering whether or not you should move your agency’s data to the cloud.
Accessibility of data
Another important fact to note is accessibility for your employees in case data cannot be accessed. If you have employees within your agency who work remotely, or in remote areas, there may not always be the right internet connection to access vast amounts of data.
Not all departments within major cities will have this concern, but it should be front of mind for remote departments that don’t have access to the NBN as yet.
Privacy is a complex and intertwining issue for many organisations within both the public and private sector. If your department endeavours to move to the cloud, it is important to take responsibility of the data you are storing within it.
A big decision to make is who accesses what data? Most encryption capabilities today make it possible for you to give permissions to particular employees for certain sets of data. Digital data assets all generally have differing permissions, and it is important for you to have a cohesive strategy for managing these assets.
There has been much international discussion surrounding the adoption of the cloud within the public sector. In 2015, Forbes wrote an article titled “Cloud adoption among government entities to skyrocket, says report”, however, the article demonstrates the cautiousness with which US departments have treated cloud-based technologies.
Many governments have adopted the cloud on a pilot basis, first migrating insensitive data to the cloud and testing the waters for security and vulnerabilities.
It would definitely be an important consideration to make, and it would be important for any government department that is embarking on a journey to the cloud to develop a strategy for who should have access to the data, and what data should remain protected through encryption.
Have there been any government departments that have migrated to the cloud successfully? Let us know in the comments and we’ll make it our next post.