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A government agency heads for the clouds

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! The folks keeping tabs on the economic stimulus program took a big technological step recently by moving the government's popular stimulus-tracking Web site to "the cloud."

"Cloud computing" allows data and software to be stored in remote data centers rather than on-site servers, providing significant savings to an organization's capital costs and environmental footprint. Much like Gmail users store their e-mails and documents on Google, or Flickr users post and save their photos on the photo-sharing Web site, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board is now using Amazon servers to post and save stimulus-related information viewed on Recovery.gov.

"We are saving taxpayer dollars, about $750,000 over the next year and a half, and we expect to reap even more savings in the years to follow," RAT Board Chairman Earl Devaney wrote this week on his blog. "Consider this: We are a small outfit with four dozen employees, so imagine if other, much larger federal agencies were to follow our lead -- the savings would be magnified many times over."

Indeed technology companies -- eager to reap the financial and PR benefits -- have been pushing federal agencies to move to the cloud for the past two years. "Cloud computing" is an integral part of the Web 2.0 movement and, by extension, the Gov 2.0 revolution.

Federal officials have openly worried however that storing government data on public servers could make it vulnerable to hackers and other security breaches.

The Recovery Board is using Amazon's security capabilities to protect the stimulus data, and Devaney assured users that his security team could refresh and restore data in five minutes if there's an attack.

Plus, stimulus data is meant to be public. "None of our data is confidential," Devaney said. "The whole idea is to display the data in a user-friendly and transparent way."

Indeed if the Recovery Board's efforts work, it should signal to other federal agencies responsible for other public information that it's time to start looking to the clouds.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 14, 2010; 7:35 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: New order of succession at USDA

Comments

Agree 100%, Ed. Government agencies can realize a significant cost savings when they move to the cloud. At INgage Networks, we've been working with Gov 2.0 clients for the past decade to help them realize substantial ROI with SaaS: http://www.ingagenetworks.com/government. We've also found that low cost is just one of the advantages: http://www.ingagenetworks.com/saas.

Posted by: cwiley | May 21, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

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