Federal agencies have been actively looking to transition their IT resources to cloud-based solutions as they offer increased security and cost-effectiveness. They plan to invest billions of dollars each year in their IT and cybersecurity efforts, including the use of commercial cloud services.
While transitioning to cloud services, federal agencies usually face a few challenges. These include establishing cybersecurity, acquiring cloud services, nurturing a skilled workforce, and tracing costs and savings.
Let’s understand them in detail.
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1. Establishing Cybersecurity
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) in 2011. It was done to provide a standardized approach for selecting and authorizing the use of cloud services that meet federal security requirements.
However, despite all 24 major federal agencies participating in FedRAMP, many agencies have been reported to continue using cloud services that are not authorized through the program.
2. Acquiring Cloud Services
Incorporating a service-level agreement into cloud service contracts is a critical part of acquiring cloud services. It defines the level of service and performance that the agency expects from the contractor.
However, in April 2016, it was reported that five major federal agencies did not always incorporate key practices for these agreements in their cloud service contracts. This was due to a lack of guidance that fully addressed the key practices.
The practices included specifying what constitutes a security breach, the responsibilities for notifying the agency, how data and networks will be managed, and the range of enforceable consequences for non-compliance with the agreement.
3. Nurturing a Skilled Workforce
Having skilled IT personnel is crucial to support the federal government’s cloud adoption efforts. However, as per the reports, three federal agencies have faced challenges related to the cloud-related workforce.
For instance, cloud-related skills and skills gap analysis for cloud personnel weren’t included in the workforce development strategy. Secondly, the Department of Defense (DOD) didn’t have a strategic plan for communication to prepare employees for the changes that may occur while shifting to the cloud.
4. Tracing Costs and Savings
Federal policies and guidance have emphasized the importance of reducing acquisition and operating costs by purchasing cloud services through cloud computing. However, in April 2019, it was reported that federal agencies faced challenges in tracking and reporting cloud spending and savings data.
For instance, federal agencies used inconsistent data for calculating cloud spends and weren’t much aware of the costs they need to track.
They also had difficulty in tracking savings data systematically and expressed that the guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) did not require them to explicitly report savings from cloud implementations. As a result, the reported cloud spending and savings figures from federal agencies are likely inaccurate.