Public safety cybersecurity and the cloud

Cybersecurity is imperative for many industries, especially public safety. Agencies need to share incident information while also protecting sensitive data. On a broader scale, critical emergency systems such as 911 must be safeguarded. To make themselves less vulnerable, agencies should consider migrating from legacy applications to cloud technology.

Why are agencies hesitant to make the transition?

Public safety agencies are traditionally risk averse and wary of introducing new technologies. Becoming more secure is important, but if it upends workflows, moving to the cloud might not seem worth it. Many public safety agency leaders may ask themselves, “What if data is lost and the new system doesn’t work like the current one?”

What’s more, some agencies still believe the cloud is not secure. But the truth is, security and compliance are the foundation of cloud technologies, which are overseen by robust security and cyber defense teams. Cloud providers are investing billions of dollars each year on built-in security controls to prevent, detect and correct cyberattacks and safeguard data.

What is the cloud, and how can it boost cybersecurity?

The cloud isn’t a new concept, but some still don’t understand how it works. Simply put, it’s a secure, web-based network of servers that allows agencies to store and access their data and software from anywhere.

The cloud has many benefits, especially when it comes to cybersecurity. While the top priority in public safety is to help residents swiftly and efficiently, cybersecurity threats are becoming more prevalent and too sophisticated to be ignored. Agencies small and large are susceptible to cyber threats and won’t have comprehensive security measures in place without cloud technology.

A key benefit of leaving legacy technologies behind and moving to the cloud is that cloud providers invest heavily in security. For example, Microsoft recently committed to investing $20 billion over the next five years in cybersecurity. This amount of investment is not feasible for most public safety agencies, but by using the cloud, they can benefit from the security measures of these large technology providers.

Experienced cloud-based technology providers also use a variety of tools and techniques to keep customers’ data and systems secure, control which entities and services can access customers’ networks and proactively monitor systems and respond to security threats in real time.

More benefits

While security is key, the cloud also offers features for more elastic demand. For instance, if an agency uses on-premises technology, when it is planning for a large event with higher demand than normal, it might need four servers. If a normal day requires two servers, an agency is continually paying for four servers. The cloud lets agencies bounce between the infrastructure they need to meet demand. This scalability also turns into network resiliency.

While “the cloud” may seem ambiguous, it is not actually a “cloud.” The cloud is comprised of data centers and is a physical space for your data to be stored and protected. For example, you can get six total copies of your data by default with the Business Critical SKU of Azure SQL Service: three copied to separate networked data centers in a specific region (availability zones) and three within another region to provide network availability. This is to ensure that all critical workflows are secured and redundant in case a data center or an entire region experiences a breach or goes offline.

“So many people think the value of the cloud lies in the cost,” said Tunde Farrell, vice president of cloud technologies at Hexagon’s Safety, Infrastructure & Geospatial division. “And that could be the case, but the true value lies in the security investment made by cloud platform vendors, the accessibility of your applications and the elasticity of the provisioned cloud resources.”

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