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July 09, 2012

Federal Government Taking Another Look at Moving to the Cloud

By Oliver VanDervoort, Contributing Writer

While it seems as if everyone is racing to adopt the cloud, recent storms that caused major power outages is causing some to rethink what exactly should be stored on third person databases. Amazon is one of the top cloud storage providers in the United States, but storms caused outages at an Ashburn data center that has caused congressional leaders to take a long look at keeping government data on these kinds of servers.

Most IT professionals have begun to swear by outside cloud data storage companies, but Congress is becoming a little wary about just what kind of data should be unloaded to other companies. While these particular outages affected private companies such as Pinterest and Netflix, as opposed to the federal government, lawmakers say this may be a sign of things to come. More federal agencies are starting to move their data storage requirements offsite and that has a few people in Washington, DC nervous. The House of Representatives committee on commerce, manufacturing and trade is currently studying what kind of risks can be expected from these moves and would like to hold a hearing on the matter before Congress goes on its August recess.

“Last week’s powerful thunderstorms, along with the massive disruptions they caused, exposed some of the vulnerabilities of cloud computing,” said the panel’s chairman, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), in a statement. “But I also believe the problems extend way beyond consumer convenience and customer service. There are some serious privacy issues which we need to look at as well.”

Meanwhile, federal officials are continuing to move their data offsite. Most of the data that is currently being moved to cloud servers is not classified, but rather has to do with e-mail and government sites. Most of these moves have to be balanced between the amount of money that can be saved (the feds saved about $15 million by moving their e-mail to Google’s (News - Alert) cloud) and the loss of control and security. Government entities also claim that outages are less frequent in the cloud. 

David L. McClure, associate administrator of GSA’s (News - Alert) Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, says that the government buys packages that guarantee access 99.9999 percent of the time.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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