Why running cloud services well matter for the government
It is easy today to imagine that everything can be placed “on the cloud” and have them run properly without a glitch.
Especially with the pandemic, cloud services have made a real difference in ensuring that important services can keep going and lives can carry on. But for government agencies and businesses alike, one problem is common when moving to many of today’s popular cloud services, such as those from Google, Microsoft or Amazon - making sure that the services run well with changing technology trends.
Placing all your eggs in one basket comes with risk. The same applies to technology vendors, so any organisation needs to find a way to ensure that it does not depend only on one cloud vendor for a critical part of its infrastructure.
Problem is, it is not easy to juggle all the different technologies from different vendors. Even though the idea of having one’s apps and data running on multiple cloud vendors is gaining traction today, this is not a simple undertaking.
Harmonising data and apps
For government agencies, it is important to make sure that data is stored accurately and securely. You certainly don’t want two different versions of a citizen’s data on different clouds or have it exposed to any unnecessary cybersecurity risk, for example.
This is the reason why GovTech has been trying to ensure that similar systems deployed for a service should run on a single cloud provider. Interoperability is an important factor.
Despite the hype of multi-cloud setups, having data “harmonised” across various clouds is a complex task and involves a fair degree of risk. The challenge is to make sure that there is flexibility in choosing different solutions while ensuring that the data and operations are not affected.
Baby steps, first
To be fair, many organisations are still taking a much less ambitious step - simply getting on the cloud in the first place. Even moving from using computers sitting in your own data centre or office to one that is run by a large-scale operator isn’t as easy as many think.
This is why GovTech has set up a playbook of sorts for government agencies to quickly get onto the cloud, while avoiding the common pitfalls faced by others before. In the playbook are examples of what other agencies have carried out in the past and the strategies they implemented, which can be replicated for a quick and successful move to the cloud.
There are also templates, almost like “Happy Meals” or set lunches, in which commonly required components are placed together, so there is less time spent looking for where to start on the cloud.
Need for expertise
The expertise needed to run services on the cloud may be new for many businesses. Indeed, the online environment can be unfamiliar to many IT staff, at least compared to the old days of running a server themselves.
Yet, there are ways to better distil the lessons learnt from others that have gone onto the cloud earlier that can be quickly disseminated. In Singapore, a roving GovTech cloud engineering team also goes to government agencies to assist them in onboarding cloud services. This “Swat team” of sorts provides the technical expertise that may be needed to get things up and running quickly.
Of course, the best way forward is to eventually build up cloud capabilities in more government agencies, so that e-services delivered to citizens will be improved over time. This way, the government can tap on the reach and scale of the cloud while also be competent enough to tackle issues that arise. Ultimately, this is the best way to serve citizens as we transform how we deliver services through digital technologies.
This article was contributed by Alfred Siew. Alfred Siew is the editor of Techgoondu.com, a technology news website based in Singapore that was founded in 2008.https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/why-running-cloud-services-matter-for-the-government