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How Government Can Adapt to a New Secure Hybrid Cloud Paradigm

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “5 Cloud Trends to Watch in Government.” Download the full guide here.

Today, citizens using government services expect secure and mobile digital experiences, delivered any time, at any place, on any device. And the same is true about the government workforce, who needs access to an increasingly complex hybrid IT environment in which connections and services are no longer fully managed by the agency.

To do this, more and more of the public sector are moving their operations and applications to the cloud. But while agencies have adapted to shifting to the cloud, achieving security can still be a concern in hybrid cloud environments. The answer is to shift to a new model of cloud security where identity is the new firewall, and devices are the new perimeter, and flexibility is built in to the approach.

To understand how agencies can adapt to this new hybrid cloud paradigm, GovLoop sat down with Susie Adams, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Federal and Karina Homme, Senior Director, Microsoft Azure Government. Microsoft Azure Government provides cloud services to more than 7,000 federal, state, and local customers and offers the compliance, security, and flexibility that the public sector needs.

Similar to many other industries, government needs the agility to respond to almost any situation at any given time. But while the private sector can easily find such flexibility in the cloud, for governments, it’s not quite as simple. In addition to obtaining the computing and development power of the cloud, agencies must adhere to the highest levels of security while meeting complex U.S. government compliance regulations. That is complicated by the fact that today, data lives everywhere, not just in data centers or on desktops. But, how do you put a firewall everywhere?

The key is to approach security differently. As your data expands, identity should become your new firewall. That means that rather than tracking the billions of pieces of information swirling in and out of IT systems, agencies should monitor the users who access that data. While an agency’s data might be nearly infinite, they can define who should have access to what information and systems, when, and from where.

Additionally, policies and tools developed for an IT environment managed solely behind a secure physical perimeter are no longer adequate. Data must be protected on any device and in transit over any type of connection within a virtual perimeter that spans both the agency data center and cloud providers in what could now be called an agency “digital virtual estate,” according to Microsoft Federal CTO Susie Adams.

As data moves outside the agencies physical network and data center boundaries, identity becomes the key to unlock access for end users and system access to data regardless of where it lives. “The digital estate with the ID layer provides a stable hybrid-cloud solution so that agencies can combat cyberthreats, be more efficient, and reduce costs,” said Adams. That layer also needs to work fluidly with hybrid clouds, multiple partners and multiple devices, she further explained.

Finally, flexibility is key for government agencies looking to move to a secure hybrid cloud environment. “Using Azure Government, our public sector customers are able to move their data between devices, their data center, and the Azure Government cloud in a hybrid or multi-cloud infrastructure,” said Karina Homme, Senior Director, Microsoft Azure Government.

It’s more critical now than ever for agencies to take a holistic end-to-end approach to security that focuses not just on protect and respond, but on detection capabilities. Incorporating tools that leverage hyperscale cloud capabilities, such as Microsoft Azure Government, that focus on threat detection using big data analytics and machine learning is crucial.

Microsoft Azure Government offers the flexibility and built-in security features that enable leaders to test out their theories, lower costs quickly and achieve modernization.

In today’s public sector environment, the new security paradigm for government means understanding that identity is the new firewall; devices are the new perimeter; and that breaches will eventually take place.

Addressing these shifts with flexibility, portability, and the right vendor solutions with built-in security approaches is the way forward for government agencies moving their most critical data and applications to the cloud.

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