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Innovating through Cloud Computing

Technology offers the greatest source for innovation in the public sector and one of the best examples falls within the area of cloud computing. As I noted in a recent paper, the U.S. federal government spends nearly $76 billion each year on information technology, and $20 billion of that is devoted to hardware, software, and file servers. Traditionally, computing services have been delivered through desktops or laptops operated by proprietary software. But new advances in cloud computing have made it possible for public sector agencies alike to access software, services, and data storage through remote file servers.

I looked at possible cost savings a federal agency might expect from migrating to the cloud. After undertaking case studies of government agencies that made the move, I found that the agencies generally saw between 25 and 50 percent savings in moving to the cloud. Public officials can save money by reducing the number of file servers they need to purchase, cutting software costs, relying on fewer information technology specialists, and improving the efficiency of their data storage utilization.

In 2008, Washington, D.C. city government shifted many of its 38,000 employee email services across 86 agencies to the cloud, and the migration saved 48 percent on email expenditures. In 2009, the city of Los Angeles moved email service for its 30,000 employees to the cloud. An analysis undertaken by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana for the City Council found that the five-year costs of running the new Google system would be $17,556,484, which was 23.6 percent less than the $22,996,242 for operating GroupWise during that same period. And in terms of personnel savings, the city needed nine fewer people in its information technology department.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing is responsible for launching and tracking unmanned space vehicles from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and employs more than 10,000 workers. The Wing had 60 distinct file servers, but found that it utilized only 10 percent of central processing unit capacity. Commanders modernized their system and saved $180,000 per year in annual computing costs. In addition, the unit saved money by not buying new hardware or deploying new software. These are just some of the ways the government is using technology to save money and increase efficiency of its operations.

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