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Cloud Considerations for Cities, Towns and Villages

When the pandemic hit, many cities responded by moving essential systems to the cloud. In fact, a 2021 National League of Cities survey of 46 information technology professionals from across the U.S. found that more than 60% of respondents said their cities are using cloud solutions.

Recent articles on GovLoop have covered the benefits of a cloud-first approach and the resilience that cloud-based technologies provide. So why haven’t all cities rushed to cloud computing?

NLC’s report, “Cities in the Cloud: What City Leaders Need to Know About Cloud Computing,” discovered that the pace of cloud adoption revolves around two main considerations: cost and security.

Cloud Consideration No. 1: Cost

Cloud offers the opportunity to lower IT operational costs, lower IT maintenance costs and maintain more predictable overall costs. However, for leaders of small cities, towns and villages, the opportunities are often weighed against potential obstacles including higher staff training costs, the costs of migrating systems to the cloud and the potential for overspending on unused or underused capabilities.

To counter cost obstacles, the small city of Jersey Village, Texas, took a measured approach in transitioning. Because their move to the cloud was not going to provide an immediate cost savings, the city transitioned services over several years with expenses built into the budgeting process.

Throughout the transition, Jersey Village kept its sights set on its goals including spending less time on maintenance and more time improving customer experience. “The cloud ends up giving us the value we’re looking for especially on the customer-facing side. It allows us to work smarter,” said Bob Blevins, IT director for the city.

Cloud Consideration No. 2: Security

Cloud security provides greater assurances around backup and recovery during disasters and greater cybersecurity safeguards provided by cloud-solution vendors.

Cities that haven’t yet adopted the cloud expressed security concerns around a perceived loss of control over equipment, sensitive data and compliance with regulations.  

To assuage these fears, city leaders should look for cloud vendors that include explicit data access rights in contracts. They should also look for cloud applications that meet the stringent requirements of government, and vendors that keep pace with regulatory needs.

Moving Forward

While cloud first makes for a generally good mantra, taking a goal-first approach helps government leaders maximize the opportunities of moving to the cloud while minimizing the obstacles. 

The NLC report goes on to detail the goals and results of successful cloud adoptions from cities in Virginia, Maine and New York, as well as the city of Jersey Village in Texas.

“Whether it’s open data or moving to other cloud-based technologies, my advice would be to determine the goals of your administration and then determine what cloud-based technology can support those goals moving forward,” said Kirk McLean, director of open data and chief of staff to the chief information officer for the city of Buffalo, New York.

Steve Goll is the editorial content manager at Tyler Technologies, Inc. In his role, he shares stories of government leaders finding solutions to challenges across a range of disciplines. During his 15 years of government experience, he worked at the state level in economic development and higher education, at the local level in K-12 education, and at the county/regional level as a workforce development council member.

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