An important shift happened in the public sector when the government started embracing a “Cloud First” approach for their IT strategy, prioritizing cloud technology for data storage and compute versus continuing to invest in on-premise solutions. Compliance challenges and technical issues associated with migration aside, the benefits of moving everything to the cloud were considered too large to outweigh the challenges. Fast forward to today with a few years’ experience under our belt, “Cloud First” has been supplanted by “Cloud Smart,” reflecting an evolved approach to how federal agencies should manage their digital transformation and migration to the cloud.
This evolution from Cloud First to Cloud Smart calls for a broader strategy that looks at the entire data ecosystem. Moving data to the cloud and using cloud for storage and compute is no longer an all or nothing proposition. In some cases, legacy data can’t be moved to the cloud and in other cases data shouldn’t be moved to the cloud in order to afford it the highest levels of protection and security. So, what are the best business practices that have been learned since the original start on the journey to cloud? And how do those best practices apply to a hybrid IT environment?
To outline a few key best practices government agencies should implement when ramping up a hybrid IT environment, we spoke with Commvault’s David DeVries, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives – SLED, and Richard Breakiron, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives – Fed, DoD and the Intelligence Community.
DeVries and Breakiron have spoken with Government Technology Insider at length about the importance of data readiness and what that means for the public sector. They emphasized that there is not a one-size-fits-all IT approach. Finding the right mix of on-prem and cloud-based technology to support a government agency’s IT needs is highly dependent on the agency’s mission at hand.
“Being ‘Cloud Smart’ means being smart about what needs to go into a cloud environment,” DeVries explained. “Not all data is suitable for that environment and it’s up to agencies and their trusted partners to determine the approach that’s right for their mission.”
“The level of customizability and agility in the cloud is often misunderstood,” added Breakiron. “Contrary to popular belief, not all apps and data need to be housed in the same cloud environment. Agencies don’t need to ‘study’ an app or data for a year before choosing to move it to the cloud or procure a separate tool specifically for migration. Cloud migration doesn’t need to be a complicated process.”
Breakiron and DeVries encourage government agencies to apply these best practices on their path to cloud readiness:
- Prioritize data governance – Without strong data governance, the following best practices are nearly impossible to implement. This includes knowing what data your agency has and which department is responsible for what data.
- Only migrate clean data – It seems obvious, but making sure data is squeaky clean before migrating it to the cloud prevents headaches moving forward. This is the opportunity to clean house and make sure your data sets are as accurate as possible.
- Visualize your data – This best practice helps support the migration of clean data. Looking at data from a different perspective can help identify data that’s “dirty” more easily.
- Inspect your data – This best practice is important to perform while data is at rest, in-route to its cloud destination, and once it reaches the cloud.
- Create and maintain a data index – A comprehensive data index enables more agility in data pulls and minimizes expenses. If you know exactly the data you’re looking for and where it’s housed, pulling and re-pulling excess data is no longer an issue.
An example that came to mind for DeVries and Breakiron that exemplifies these best practices for a hybrid IT infrastructure is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a division of the Department of State that advises in decision making for foreign assistance projects. In its engagement with AWS and Commvault, MCC modernized its backup solution and secured business continuity efforts without any added costs to the organization. By moving to a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery approach, they were able to reduce their backup storage needs by 25 percent.
Government agencies have long viewed the cloud-based work environment as daunting and tedious, but with the right groundwork laid, the cloud offers many agencies a new way of becoming more effective and efficient. Finding a healthy balance of on-prem and cloud solutions that serve the needs of your specific agency will enhance productivity, security, and a new standard for data readiness.
Interested in learning more about the steps government agencies should be taking to optimize their hybrid IT approach? Download this graphic from Commvault’s Richard Breakiron and David DeVries here.