Can you use commercial cloud services with government devices

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In principle, you can use commercial cloud services with government devices, however, as is often the case, there is a bit of nuance here. To begin with, there needs to be clarity on what exactly you mean by government devices and then there needs to be clarity on what exactly you mean by using commercial cloud services.

If you have been assigned a government device for work

If you have been assigned a government device for work then you will also have signed an agreement determining what you can and cannot do with it. You should therefore refer to this agreement before deciding whether or not you can use commercial cloud services with your particular government device(s) and if in doubt ask.

If your government department works on a BYOD policy

If your government department works on a bring your own device policy then there will also be an agreement regarding its usage, but in this case, the agreement will typically be turned on its head. In other words, it will specify what your employer can and can’t do with your device. In this situation, you will probably be safe enough to use commercial cloud services with your “government” device, but it’s still a good idea to check.

If you’re considering whether or not to use commercial cloud services for government purposes

If you’re considering whether or not to use commercial cloud services for government purposes then your first step is to determine what you mean by commercial cloud services. Cloud services come in two main forms, private and public. Private clouds are cloud platforms which are for the sole use of one customer, known as a tenant. Public clouds are cloud platforms which are shared between different, unrelated tenants.

Commercial Cloud Services

Both forms of cloud platform are offered as commercial cloud services and both forms can be used interchangeably, for example in hybrid cloud and hybrid multi-cloud architecture. The question of which one, if either, you use in which circumstances, largely boils down to the issue of control versus flexibility. Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

Traditional on-premises IT infrastructure

In principle, traditional on-premises infrastructure gives organizations the highest degree of control and security. In practice, however this isn’t necessarily the case either in the private sector or in government. It may be true of corporates and larger, security-orientated branches of government, but it’s often a whole lot less true of SMBs and smaller government agencies.

What is indisputable is that traditional, on-premises IT infrastructure involves a lot of capital expenditure in assets which may become effectively obsolete before they have been properly depreciated. It’s also true that traditional, on-premises IT infrastructure takes up a lot of physical space in what may be prime working real estate and also that any hardware repairs/swap outs will need to take place on-site, which means having an in-house team or bringing in external personnel as necessary. For all these reasons and more, it has been increasingly falling out of favor with both the private sector and the government and being replaced by private and public clouds.

Private clouds

Private clouds can be implemented either on-premises or off-premises (or a combination of both) and offer the highest level of security available in a cloud environment.

As previously mentioned, there’s a lot of nuance in deciding how the security of commercial private cloud services compares to the security of on-premises infrastructure. It is, however, fair to say that even commercial private cloud services offer much more flexibility in both cost and usage which still offering a very high level of security and control.

Public clouds

Public clouds are always implemented off-premises as they are owned and run by a commercial cloud service provider. On the one hand, the fact that they are shared environments does make them, in principle, slightly less secure than both traditional on-premises infrastructure and private clouds. Again, however, it’s a fairly open question as to what this actually means in practice.

In the private sector, even public clouds can be more secure than on-premises infrastructure, especially when you’re talking about SMBs with limited knowledge and resources. Even in the governmental sector, using a public cloud can be useful for maintaining security as some government departments are in a very similar position to SMBs.

Commercial public cloud services definitely offer a very cost-effective, flexible and scalable way of managing IT resources and these days many government services will place as much importance on this fact as their private-sector counterparts.

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