The modern notion of digital transformation—a strategy that many smart cities and counties say they are committed to in 2019, seems jarringly misaligned when juxtaposed with typical Election Day images. Such images involve lines of citizens filling out paper ballots with pens and pencils, and Election Day facilitators checking off names of voters in burdensome, paper registry books. Where is the alignment between local governments that are striving to offer citizens omnichannel communications, personal digital interactions made possible by machine learning technology, and personalized mobile messaging; and antiquated voting processes? While we are likely still many years (if not decades) away from local governments facilitating entirely online voting processes, there are benefits of storing a critical component of your election day data in the cloud: your voter registration data.
Why Your Voter Registration Data Should be Cloud-Bound
The future of secure local government IT infrastructure is in the cloud. While this news is not a surprise to IT professionals, you may not be ready to make the migration from your on-site servers to an intangible cloud storage model. Local governments are under extreme pressure to keep user data secure—now maybe more than ever before. If you’re hesitant to place the security of your voter registration data in the cloud, know that there are significant benefits of cloud storage, such as greater security and a reduced threat of damage to hardware from natural or local disasters, and that’s just the beginning of the opportunities available to cloud-reliant local governments.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing
Consider the following benefits of cloud computing for the public sector:
- Cost-Savings. At a time when local governments are expected to do more with fewer financial and human resources, your budget may not support new hardware and infrastructure to dedicate to election data. The cloud, however, offers a more cost-effective solution to data storage and system upgrades.
- Utility Pricing. The cloud offers a more financially scalable solution as the needs of your community change. Local governments that choose to store their data with a hyper-scale provider such as Microsoft Azure, only pay for compute time when the cloud services are being used. Therefore, the only recurring costs are associated with storage.
- 24/7/365 Monitoring. At a time when local governments are under constant threat of cyber attack, they need the support of a service that offers around-the-clock monitoring—something that cannot often be accomplished in-house with aging hardware and software, a tangible cybersecurity skill gap plaguing the public sector, and limited resources, especially when it comes to the pressure of Election Day. Cloud hosting solutions typically provide more robust disaster recovery solutions and minimized downtime of critical applications than any traditional on-site hosting methods.
In an era where expectations of civic transparency have never been higher, possibly the biggest hurdle any local government looking to store its data in the cloud will have to face is convincing voters that their personal data is secure. Such a concern is understandable especially at a time mega corporations and trustworthy brands that range from tech companies to hotel chains, to retailers have all experienced a data breech. Further complicating the matter, attempts to hack and extort data from local governments are on the rise. How then, can local leaders convince citizens to trust their data to the cloud?
Where Does the Data Go and Is it Really Secure?
A key to overcoming citizen objections regarding cloud storage is helping them to understand (without boring them with the techy details) that in a cloud environment, data is still stored on hard drives. In fact it is saved on off-site servers owned and managed by reputable service providers in an environment and using resources, infrastructure, and personnel that ensure it is more secure than data stored using conventional methods (on-premise server farms).
The data is then made accessible to its owner via the Internet. Cloud storage providers maintain computer servers and storage devices that are connected with computer networking equipment. Depending on the provider chosen, when local governments partner with a cloud storage provider, their data is stored in one of the provider’s regional data centers—likely whichever facility is closest to the municipality.
Citizens should also understand that when they hear stories about hackers infiltrating systems and absconding with personal information, most of the attacks hit traditional, non-cloud-based servers. Similar to how your life savings is more secure sitting in a bank along with millions of other people’s money—and sitting in an intangible digital format—rather than stored under your mattress, data is often more secure in the cloud that hosted using traditional on-site servers.
The Future of Civic and Citizen Data
At a time when sensitivities surrounding election efficacy and security are at an all time high, it may seem like transitioning your data to the cloud will only further agitate nerves. In reality, it is likely the safest place for your citizen data, which means it is exactly where such a critical component of your democratic process needs to be.