Last month, Chip George, Senior Director for State and Local Government and Education for NetApp U.S. Public Service, attended the NASCIO 2016 conference in Orlando, Florida.  The annual gathering of state CIOs and their teams is always a highly productive and informative meeting at which collaboration is the name of the game.  We sat down with Chip to ask him what he learned at NASCIO and how this knowledge is being put to work back at the office.  Here’s what Chip had to say:

GovDataDownload (GDD): You recently attended the NASCIO 2016 Annual Conference, what did you learn at the event?

Chip George (CG): It was my fourth time attending the NASCIO Annual Conference. The previous events were exceptional both in organization and content, so I was excited to attend the 2016 Annual Conference.  What I find really impressive is how open, engaged, and collaborative the state CIOs and their teams are.  It makes for energetic conversations and thoughtful solutions because everyone’s pitching in sharing experiences, lessons learned, and best practices.  And the best part is you know that this collaboration continues after the event, both at the NASCIO mid-year conference and on a regular basis based on how strong the working relationships are.

This type of knowledge sharing is particularly important in this day and age as state CIOs are dealing not only with more data but also more threats to data.  One of the biggest topics of discussion was data security and how to migrate – and then secure – data in the cloud.  Within those broad topics, ransomware was the biggest area of concern for state CIOs.  Its ability to cripple an agency is unparalleled, but the good news is that there are some strong solutions coming to market that enable state CIOs to take control, encrypt their data and restore normal operations from a backup copy in under half an hour, without paying the ransom.

GDD: So, migrating data to the cloud is a big part of a successful data management strategy.  What are some of the trends here?

CG: In terms of cloud migration, it’s amazing to see how state governments have embraced the cloud in the last two years. We did a recent cloud research report and it showed that 82% of respondents say public sector institutions plan to increase their cloud spending in 2017.  Texas CIO, Todd Kimbriel, noted that the technology is here. “It’s not going anywhere,” he said at NASCIO. There are also more nuances about how to use different types of cloud solutions – public, private, hybrid – to optimize efficiency and manage costs in a highly effective manner.  Each has their benefits and drawbacks. Public clouds are great in terms of cost and flexibility, but are weaker in terms of overall security; private clouds give you control and security, but can silo data. Hybrid clouds offer the best of both worlds, if you know how you want to segment and classify your data.  But at the end of the day it is all about cloud services and how to apply them properly.

GDD: What are some of the obstacles that have held back cloud migration?

CG: There are three things that have stood in the way of cloud migration – security, cost, and contract vehicles.  We talked about security above, but the most important thing to note here is the maturity that’s developed.  There’s no longer an instinctual reaction to say that all data is too sensitive. Instead CIOs are identifying different types of data, or identifying data that is useful and figuring out if sensitive data – like Personally Identifiable Information (PII) or Protected Health Information (PHI) can be stripped out to enable the rest of the data to be used for vital agency work.

The cost objection has simply been removed by competition and the reduction of uncertainty.  With so many cloud providers in the market, competition has really driven prices down.  Plus with tools on the market that make moving data in and out of the cloud far less onerous than it was even two years ago there’s less risk of getting locked in on contracts – and not being able to take advantage of price competition – which makes it more feasible for state CIOs.  Speaking of contracting, a recent development with the announcement of the NASPO collective contract vehicle, which states can opt into for access to consolidated buying, will make the process of buying cloud services much easier for CIOS.

GDD: Anything else you’d like to share?

CG: Normally at this point in an interview, I’d talk about what the outliers – those who are not even considering a move to the cloud – can do to research their options and hasten their migration to the cloud. But there simply aren’t very many, if any, out there.  So, really my advice is for those who are considering cloud as an important next step but need help getting there:  they should look for capabilities that allow easy data movement from/to/between cloud solutions and on-premise data centers.  This will allow them to deploy a successful hybrid cloud that will provide cost benefits while also treating sensitive data with the appropriate level of security.

Interested in getting more tips and strategies on migrating to the cloud?  Check out this comprehensive report from NetApp and MeriTalk and register for the companion webinar today.