No rain in the cloud

Today’s rapid environment does not allow for downtime, especially in the event of a disaster. Enter the cloud.
Written by Mark Cleverley, IBM, Contributor
Commentary - It's no secret that governments all over the world have quickly become reliant on technology to provide their residents with better services. Everything from dog licenses to paying taxes are just a few key strokes away. Gone are seas of file cabinets. Instead they are replaced by a few servers that fit within a closet or a conference-sized room.

By taking advantage of technology, residents have grown accustomed to - and in many cases demand - access to services whenever they need it regardless of time and location. After all, when was the last time you were able to walk into the city clerks' office at 11 p.m., in your pajamas when you were on vacation three states away?

Citizens now have an "always on" mentality. Today’s rapid environment does not allow for downtime, even in the event of a disaster, so government organizations want to increase the reliability of recovery and in turn, minimize data loss. There is also explosive data growth, with both structured and unstructured data (i.e. documents, files), as well as the distribution of data.

It is more than convenience. For governments, it's about offering a new level of service and still being able to reduce budgets through increased efficiencies. There is a cost of doing business in the technological world. But what happens when the unthinkable happens? What happens when a flood, tornado, or hurricane hits and those servers that contain millions of bytes of data are now submerged or under tons of rubble?

Disasters - whether from hurricanes, earthquakes or IT failures - can stop a government organization in its tracks with the loss of crucial data and revenue. They need to assess threat risks and create a resilience strategy that helps ensure uninterrupted business operations and enables speed and agility when an unforeseen event strikes.

No one wants to think about this type of scenario, but it is a real one. Imagine all that data lost. Imagine not knowing who paid their taxes or not being able to pay our police officers, firemen, teachers, etc. Some would say this is the cost of doing business in a digital world, but it doesn't have to be.

While we typically think of a cloud as something that brings rain and is dark and ominous, the cloud could also be our saving grace.

To put it simply, cloud computing is the natural next phase of the Internet. Cloud computing is designed to provide the means through which technology services can be delivered to you wherever and whenever you need them. Cloud is helping businesses move from a strategy of recovery to continuous resiliency, and the cloud offers the flexibility to help accomplish that.

Governments need to assess threat risks and create a resilience strategy that helps ensure uninterrupted operations and enables speed and agility when an unforeseen event strikes - with recovery that can now happen in seconds versus minutes or hours.

Historically, governments created redundant technology running at multiple sites, adding to the complexity and cost of IT management. Cloud technology enables governments of all sizes a virtual and physical server recovery service that continuously replicates their applications and all associated data on a secure cloud infrastructure. This enables them to have the city up and running in minutes after declaring an outage in their IT infrastructure.

The cloud enables governments to more easily and cost effectively provide continuous service to their customers and ensure that their data and applications are protected and secure. IBM’s cloud allows clients to securely manage and balance workloads, lower application and system downtime, and reduce data loss. These services help clients avoid capital expense by more efficiently monitoring operational expenses and service levels, reducing the burden on IT staff.

Beyond having numerous cloud offerings, IBM has built relationships with organizations like the Michigan Municipal League so they can more easily collaborate with municipal workers who understand the unique challenges of local government. In doing so, governments have another ally in protecting their most critical information. Using new cloud-based services, governments can deploy business resilience services to protect their data and applications faster, cheaper and in a more flexible way than they could before with a traditional datacenter environment. These services are also significant because they free up IT resources to allow companies to focus on maintaining and growing their operations instead of just protecting data.

And while no one can predict the devastation that a natural disaster can bring with it, governments now have the tools available to get themselves back up and running and focus on ensuring their residents are getting the help they need.

Mark Cleverley is IBM's Director of Public Safety.

Editorial standards