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Is Microsoft Azure Right for State & Local Governments?

19 May 2016 by Jessica Hall

With Microsoft Azure, your state and local government agencies can leverage the cloud, allowing you to transform mission-critical workloads by increasing efficiency and productivity. Offering enterprise-grade compliance, privacy and security capabilities at an affordable cost, this cloud-computing platform and infrastructure solution provides many benefits to agencies.

With offerings that have been specifically developed to meet the needs of government agencies, Azure can also be used by these organizations to benefit from a hybrid cloud approach. With numerous data centers now making use of a hybrid infrastructure, it’s imperative to take emerging trends and critical considerations into account before making a choice for your state and local government agency.

Study certifications and compliance.

David Mayer, vice president of product management for software at Insight, says there are certain certifications and compliance measures that providers must adhere to in order to meet the needs of state and local government organizations. “State and local entities may need to consider where data can reside and who can access it,” he adds. “There are issues of data sovereignty. There are many different variables that go into the equation.”

With Azure Government, Microsoft’s compliance certifications ensure your state or local government agency’s most complicated and crucial requirements will be met. The company also works directly with states to sign state-level Criminal Justice Information Services information agreements.

Consider pre-approving providers.

Whether the solution is likely to be used throughout the agency or it’s more probable that certain departments will need a specific type of technology, it’s helpful to determine which providers meet compliance needs and regulations. “We are starting to see state-level agencies issue a request for a proposal specifically with the objective of creating a set of cloud solutions that their departments are approved to purchase,” Mayer says.

Two common choices for many organizations are Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Mayer explains AWS has been certified for most federal agencies, but Microsoft has them beat. “I believe [Microsoft is] now certified for all public agencies,” he says.

Choose between Azure and AWS.

While Azure is built on the same technology as the company’s software stack, you can also run different versions of Linux and host non-Microsoft-based applications using this cloud-computing platform and infrastructure offering. “Azure is a flexible solution that matches the majority of your regulatory and security needs,” Mayer adds. “It also uses your existing management tools."

The other solution, AWS, is an end-to-end, self-contained platform. Because Amazon doesn’t offer a software stack to base its infrastructure on, everything needs to be compatible with AWS, allowing government agencies to run their IT environments in the cloud in their entirety.

“… You’re providing all of your IT infrastructure, directory, security information and networking information — everything about your IT organization — to Amazon,” warns Mayer. Consider if you’re comfortable with Amazon having that information.

Understand the benefits, costs and potential pitfalls.

As predicted by DataCenterKnowledge.com, Hybrid IT is the next wave of computing. It’s estimated that the hybrid approach will continue to impact IT architecture, initiatives and decision making until 2020, which is when it will become the norm for most organizations. Because data centers are serving as connection points between traditional IT and cloud solutions, these cloud-rich infrastructures facilitate the simplification of developing internal hybrid IT solutions.

Azure helps you scale up or down as needed, ensuring that you can increase your state or local government’s impact. “As cloud vendors scale, they are capable of delivering their service at an increasingly cheaper cost,” Mayer says. With prices decreasing and offerings increasing, your agency will benefit from a move to the cloud.

Bear in mind that it’s also important to select a provider who’s likely to remain in business. As reported by DataCenterKnowledge.com, sizeable telecommunications companies are currently evaluating how they can offload their large data center portfolios. Verizon has already done so, recently shuttering their public cloud services division. Because they’ve acquired a large share of the market, Microsoft, Amazon and, to some extent, Google offerings are hard to beat.

Leveraging a long-standing partnership with Microsoft, we can help you assess if Microsoft Azure is the best solution for your state or local government agency. Talk to a specialist to learn more.