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The State of West Virginia Considering Moving to the Cloud
Aug. 22, 2011 –(Charleston Gazette, The (WV) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge)– West Virginia’s Office of Technology is examining a new way to deliver subscription-based software, document management and data storage services to state government agencies whose workers would tap into the “cloud computing” network via the Internet.
In recent months, state officials have discussed cloud-computing services with representatives of IBM, Verizon, Hewlett Packard, ASG Software Solutions, Google, Microsoft and other companies.
The Office of Technology also is conducting an online cloud computing “business application” pilot project with Salesforce.com, a San Francisco-based cloud computing firm.
State government leaders predict cloud computing could save the state millions of dollars and increase worker productivity.
“Cloud-based solutions can typically be delivered in a fraction of the time compared to traditional in-house based information technology solutions,” said Kyle Shaffer, the state chief technology officer.
With cloud computing, state employees could log onto any Web- based service that hosts software programs that workers would need for their jobs.
The state would no longer have to buy expensive software licenses. The state also would save money on computer hardware, Shaffer said.
The remote cloud-computing network – owned by a company – would run email, word-processing, data analysis and document management programs.
“It’s like a huge mainframe in the sky,” said William J. Bayes, an account executive with Herndon, Va.-based ASG Software Solutions, a company pitching its products to state officials.
Shaffer and Bayes said using cloud computing services would not lead to job cuts – although many state workers would have to sign up for training to learn new software and data management systems.
“Kyle Shaffer knows the cloud is going to increase productivity,” said Bayes, who met with Shaffer last month. “He’s not interested in taking people’s jobs away.” State workers would be able to access cloud applications anytime and anywhere, provided they have a computer linked to the Internet.
Using cloud computing, the state would likely spend less on computer hardware because state agencies wouldn’t need computers with as much speed and memory. Instead, data would be stored on the remote cloud network. Cloud computing service also would have more processing power and speed up calculations.
“The cloud gives you an opportunity to use it when you need it,” Bayes said. “You’re only paying for what you use.” Many people are already using cloud computing, he said. Popular email services, such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! mail rely on cloud services.
“Everybody’s using the cloud in a lot of different ways,” Bayes said. “It’s just not called that, and they’re not aware of it.” Shaffer said cloud computing has some disadvantages.
Cloud services come “pre-packaged” and “often do not provide the same level of flexibility as traditional in-house-developed information technology solutions,” he said.
Cloud computing services – sold in different forms and models – also sometimes raise security and data ownership concerns, Shaffer said.
Companies and organizations that buy cloud services must be careful that they don’t lose control of their data when they terminate cloud service agreements or transfer the information to another cloud service provider, he said.
“Anyone who is considering cloud computing should be aware that this is a relatively new, evolving technology,” Shaffer said. “Cloud customers must be careful to include data ownership, security and audit requirements when negotiating contracts for cloud services.” The federal government and other states – as well as many businesses – already have adopted cloud-computing services, Bayes noted.
“This will lift West Virginia to a technology that makes it be viewed as a state on the cutting edge,” he said. “It will lift the state above the clouds and mountains into the blue sky.” Bayes plans to lead a free seminar on cloud computing Oct. 20 at 9 a.m. at the Charleston Marriot. For more information, email Bayes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-464-1477.
KYLE SLAGLE | Sunday Gazette-Mail illustration Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre[@]wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.
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