At a Cloud Computing Summit this week, the questions began as, well, just questions.  They were simple and basic: “Exactly what do we consider Cloud Computing;” answer, (my paraphrase), “Lots of things to lots of people.”

Later, the question grew almost hostile: “What are we gaining by this;” “What is the real benefit;” and “Is this really just clever marketing?”

I remain an advocate for Cloud Computing. I am convinced that its economic, ecological and efficiency pluses will out weigh its potential downsides in the end. Talking about the cloud for the government, perhaps Air Force Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, the former CIO of the Intelligence Community, said it best: “We need to stop trying to fight the inevitable.” The mostly government crowd was not so sure. They were asking tough questions and were more than a little skeptical.

Frankly, I am OK with that. Cloud Computing is a reach right now for most Government clients. Given the importance of the data with which they routinely work, I want them to ask the hard questions. Every potential cloud consumer should do the same. Often, you see clients moving toward the Cloud simply because they think “they should.” Fashion is a bad reason to go to the Cloud.

It was pounded home by the speakers that any organization considering a cloud model should follow a few key steps. Analyze what you have now (level of security, ability to retrieve data, compliance, cost of infrastructure, etc), decide where you want to go, and then make any erstwhile cloud provider PROVE to you they can deliver on their promises.  All the speakers said to go slow. Run trials and then pick non-critical data or apps and try it out. An incremental way forward is the only wise course.

In this case, the naturally conservative and cautious tendencies of government agencies display the right way to approach this new way to do business. We will go to the Cloud, but let’s do it right.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More
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