Federal managers doubt cloud computing's cost-savings claims

Government managers are apprehensive about the security in cloud environments, and many are skeptical of its promises of major cost savings.

Despite mandates that direct federal agencies to transition to cloud-based services, federal IT managers express reluctance in making the migration due to security concerns, a survey reveals.

The 2011 State of Cloud Services in the U.S. Federal Government poll from Ponemon Institute shows that more than one-third of the managers surveyed cited safety concerns as one of the reasons for not using cloud services. An even bigger number of respondents (42 percent) said lack of suitable applications or services prevent them from using a cloud approach. 


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But security emerged as the primary fear. Nearly half the respondents said they were “not confident” about the overall data protection and security features of their current or prospective cloud service providers. Twenty-six percent chose “confident,” while only 17 percent stated they were “very confident.”

The majority of respondents (56 percent) also said the pressure to move to the cloud inadvertently creates security risks for their organization. Sixty-two percent also said their organization has applications and data that are too sensitive to move to the cloud environment.

Respondents had varying opinions on who is most responsible for cloud security. For the few agencies using private clouds (12 percent), most thought their organization, rather than the cloud provider, should be most responsible for security. In a public cloud, however, which 30 percent of the sur\veyed agencies use, more respondents said the cloud provider should be tasked with keeping the environment safe. (The remaining agencies use a semi-public cloud shared with any government organization (33 percent), or a semi-public cloud shared with a limited number of U.S. federal government organizations (25 percent).

Most respondents were also not sold on the promises of cloud computing as a long-term money saver. Only 12 percent said the cloud could bring significant cost saving, while one-third said the cloud would have no impact on cost. Nearly 20 percent thought the cloud would result in some cost increase; 6 percent said a cloud migration would lead to significant cost increase.

Most respondents said they were “somewhat familiar” with the “cloud-first” initiative, and more than half said they have partially complied with the directive in identifying only one or two cloud services. Less than one-third said they have achieved full compliance with the strategy to move three or more services to the cloud.

More than 500 government professionals were surveyed, with the majority (36 percent) holding a managerial position. Most respondents were employed at defense or civilian agencies and the executive branch.

 

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