Though many state and local governments are increasing their cloud computing budgets for 2017, most are leery of the risks of moving to a public cloud, according to a recently released MeriTalk survey.

“We prefer private clouds on a lot of things,” said Jeff Porter, IT infrastructure director for Fairfax County (Va.) Government. “We have always looked to stay away from public cloud.”

The survey results found that 54 percent of cloud-based applications in state and local government are run on a private cloud, rather than public. Porter explained that the reluctance about public clouds is often due to security concerns, ownership of data, and the computing power of the public cloud being offered.

“You need to go forward because technology is about going forward, but at the same time you have to manage the risks,” said Porter, adding that state and local governments can be particularly susceptible to security or technological problems that shut down necessary operations. “We don’t have time to sit back and say ‘well we can’t give you services today because we got hacked.’ ”

“No one wants to be the first one with their data lost or hacked in some huge public cloud scandal,” agreed Chip George, senior director of State and Local Government and Education for the U.S. Public Sector at NetApp. “Some of those are real and some of them are perceptions.”

Porter also said that many contracts for public clouds include clauses that would require an agency to pay to get their data back, should they choose to stop using that cloud provider.

“With a lot of these vendors, you have to pay to get your data back, there’s a fee to get your data back,” Porter said.

“If you want to try it, try it, but how do you get out of it?” said George.

Porter also addressed the struggle that many state and local government organizations would have in getting enough IT experts that could both manage new technology on the cloud and deal with necessary legacy systems that hadn’t been migrated. He said that this requires them to have employees that “really understand the future and still deal with the legacy stuff.”

George said that Porter’s concerns were “very analogous to what we’re seeing across the country,” though both agreed that cloud use would likely expand as companies and government agencies mature their IT posture.

Today, George and Porter found that many state and local governments are most willing to migrate their email and public-facing websites onto public or hybrid clouds.

“I think the hybrid model is going to be the leading model for years to come,” said George.

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