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Minnesota Leads the Way for Private Clouds

Written by don

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Probably one of the most sensible and natural customers for the cloud is the government sector. Why? Because states’ budget deficits are growing larger and, at the same time, public employees, including IT pros, are being asked to do more with less.

And one of the most notable examples of the cloud working for a government is Los Angeles’s decision to move email and other applications for workers to Google — in a five-year contract expected to save the city $5 million. At the time, I said that LA’s experiment on the public cloud was worth watching, and that, as a result, other municipalities and governments would follow suit and migrate to the cloud.

Well, the latest example is Minnesota’s new agreement with Microsoft to establish a private cloud. In a story I read on the development, the agreement calls for the State’s Enterprise Unified Communications and Collaborations services to be delivered through Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

Minnesota’s agreement touches upon all executive branch agencies, but other Office of Enterprise Technology customers, including local governments, cities, counties and educational entities, can elect to take part in the agreement, too.

Minnesota is now the first U.S. state to move to a large collaboration and communication suite in a private cloud environment.

Here’s what Gopal Khanna, Minnesota’s State Chief Information Officer, has to say about the agreement with Microsoft, which enables the state to manage and deliver key business applications locally, but house them remotely in a single data facility: “The combination immediately improves our security and cuts our costs, making it possible for a digital infrastructure that can transform government into a 24/7 operation – even in hard times.”

Email, instant messaging, web-based collaboration and conferencing are all included in the agreement and will be provided at significantly lower rates than Minnesota can currently offer internally, according to the article. It will also cut redundancy and save the state “millions” in upgrade investments and ongoing costs.

For other government CIOs out there reading this, you may be asking: ‘But how can Minnesota be sure that its data will remain secure?’   The answer is that its applications will be housed in a dedicated BPOS environment and delivered online via a direct connection to Minnesota’s secure network.

My personal suggestion for any municipality or state would be that, while security arrangements such as Minnesota’s sound top-notch, it’s advisable to monitor apps and data using a third-party — to get a really independent view of and reports on up-time and outages.  And if you’re a website manager for a local or state government, such services, like Paid Monitor, can even do load-testing experiments to gauge how much traffic your site can handle — enabling you to add bandwidth and resources if needed.

Minnesota’s leading the way now for state private clouds! Let’s see now which other states recognize a good idea when they see it.


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