Community Perspective

What does the cloud mean to the state of Alaska?

Cloud computing has become a part of everyday life. Each of us participates in the cloud every day, whether it’s using a cloud-based email service at home or work or buying a cup of coffee using the Square at your favorite coffee shop. But what is the cloud really?

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely. Instead of relying on a server that is physically located locally, cloud computing uses servers hosted in other locations. If that environment is owned by a third-party, it can be referred to as a public cloud. If that environment is owned by an organization for its exclusive use, it can be referred to as a private cloud. Many organizations use combinations of public and private clouds, as well as some on-premise computing. These environments are often referred to as hybrid clouds, and they offer flexibility to use each type of environment according to its strengths.

The state of Alaska has been using both private and public cloud environments and has recently embarked on an effort to migrate significant additional computing and storage requirements to the cloud. By increasing the use of cloud environments, the state will be able to achieve significant cost savings by paying for what we actually consume instead of buying significant excess capacity to handle spikes in usage. The state also will be able to create storage and computing capability without buying new hardware, provide dynamic disaster recovery by locating backups in diverse locations, and secure data in environments that maintain the strictest compliance to federal security standards. Additionally, a public cloud-based environment removes the burden of maintaining and patching hardware for the systems that are migrated.

An increased focus on cloud computing also produces a skill lift for state of Alaska information technology professionals. The use of hybrid cloud environments is commonplace in the modern world and allows professional growth and skill development among the state of Alaska workforce. Our IT professionals will continue to manage and maintain our servers; they also will develop a skillset in cloud storage, application, networking, and management solutions.

A modern technical environment provides an attractive place for skilled technologists to work and grow, attracts new talent, and helps develop technical skills that can potentially be applied in many businesses throughout Alaska. Creating a more modern, efficient, and effective information technology environment not only helps us serve Alaskans but also provides an appealing place to work for Alaska technical talent.

Modernizing our information technology infrastructure in a thoughtful, planned manner will allow us to leverage technology in many ways that greatly benefit the state of Alaska.

Bill Smith is chief information officer at the state of Alaska Office of Information Technology.

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