Cloud Computing

How Governments Can Move to the Cloud with Confidence

For some state and local government IT leaders considering a move to the cloud, the perceived obstacles to making the migration can seem daunting. As many municipalities have already learned, however — and many more are discovering — Accela’s cloud migration process offers governments a swift and painless path forward that ensures the agency’s complete ownership of data and the liberation of resources that can be used in other areas.

The difference of delivering from the cloud

It’s important to first understand some of the benefits of migrating services to the cloud.

Overall, a cloud approach to service delivery offers all the key benefits of a cloud implementation including automatic updates and ensuring users are always on the most current version—IT staff no longer has to devote time and effort to the care and feeding of legacy hardware and can refocus their time and attention elsewhere.

When Gwinnett County, Ga. moved their Accela services to the cloud, for example, officials quickly realized:

• A higher level of security and compliance with less in-house effort
• A transition to Accela Mobile and the improved functionality it brings to their field workers
• Improved citizen engagement for licensing with the adoption of Accela’s Business Licensing Civic Application

In short, services delivered from the cloud frees up the technology team to serve less on operational issues and more on delivering top-notch outcomes through their civic platform.

Perceived challenges

IT leaders may worry about the time and effort needed to migrate legacy applications to a cloud infrastructure, potential cost overruns, or a perception that vital citizen services could be disrupted. Past experience may have left a lingering sense that the unknowns in a major IT effort outweigh the possible benefits.

“It’s the perceived overall risk of the project,” said Jim White, Vice President, SaaS Migration – Accela. “People will ask: What if it doesn’t work right? What if it takes a lot longer than expected? Overall, there’s just a feeling that IT projects are never a sure thing.”

Accela answers these concerns with a simplified process and a proven migration protocol that ensures a seamless transition.

A structured methodology

Accela offers a well-defined and structured methodology in support of cloud migration, with support that begins even before the formal transition is underway. “We do a lot of discovery work up front to scope the project, to identify any potential issues,” White said.

This up-front work helps to ensure there will be no unpleasant surprises along the way.

“Then as we go through the transition, Accela has resources lined up on our side to do the heavy lifting,” White said. “We’re going to make the code changes. We’re going to make the configuration changes. We’re going to do the unit testing.”

The municipality’s own team will have a role to play, handling local matters such as firewall rules and network interfaces — the areas with which they are already familiar. “The expertise they need shouldn’t be anything outside of what they already have to support their on-prem systems,” White said.

It can take four to six months to lay the groundwork for a cloud migration, and the official ‘go-live’ can occur over a weekend to help ensure the smoothest transition. “They’re logging out of their system on Friday and then coming in on Monday and logging into the new system, and all their data’s there, all their task assignments and workflows,” White said.

For the vast majority of customers, the process will look more like a routine upgrade than a major new implementation. “We already understand all the requirements,” White said. “All we’re doing is taking everything they’ve got now and moving it.”

Success stories

Accela has already helped nearly two dozen municipalities to make a seamless migration to the cloud.

“Weston, Fla. for example, was one of our first SaaS adopters,” White said. “It was a very easy, very straightforward project. They only had a couple of interfaces, not a whole lot of reports, and we did it in less than four months.”

Officials in Gwinnett County, meanwhile, were looking to improve the citizen experience by shifting a range of Accela applications to the cloud. They worked alongside Accela’s SaaS migration team to thoroughly understand the costs, timing, and likely outcomes of such a move, and were able to execute the transition in a matter of months.

Freed from legacy infrastructure, the county can now focus more on innovation and new citizen experiences, rather than on managing a data center infrastructure. Leaders there report faster processes, and higher-level security and compliance, all with less effort on the part of the IT professionals.

While some may be unsure about the costs associated with a move to cloud, White said, this need not be a weighty concern.

“This is about considering the total cost of ownership — not just the cost of the software, but the indirect costs of supporting a data center, the staff, the storage, the backup,” he said. “When you factor all of that in, in most cases, SaaS will probably cost a little less to what you’re doing today.”

###

Read more how Gwinnett County said goodbye to costly upgrades and paved a better path forward in the cloud here.

About The Author

Since 1999 Accela has provided market-leading software solutions that empower state and local governments worldwide to build thriving communities, attract and grow businesses, and protect citizens. From planning, building, licensing and permitting, to asset and service request management, finance, environmental health and more, Accela’s SaaS offerings are designed to readily solve government’s biggest challenges with extensive domain expertise built into every solution. Powered by Microsoft Azure, Accela’s open and flexible workflow automation technology helps agencies address specific constituent needs today, while ensuring they are prepared for any emerging or complicated challenges in the future. Accela’s solutions serve more than 80 percent of America’s largest cities. Accela is headquartered in San Ramon, California, with additional offices around the world.

Read more from this author