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Choosing a CSP for Your Government Agency? Make Sure These Six Criteria Are Covered

Government agencies are turning to the cloud for scalable solutions and cost-effective collaboration across the enterprise. However, while the need to invest in new technologies and software is apparent, many struggle with the procurement of a cloud service provider (CSP) for their government agency – especially given the steep barriers to entry and risk involved in data migration. GovDataHosting is here to help. We’ve outlined six criteria to cover when pursuing your due diligence and selecting the best cloud service for your mission.

1. Show me the certifications.

Identifying providers that adhere to recognized standards and quality frameworks is one of the most crucial first steps in shortlisting potential CSPs for your government agency. For instance, GovDataHosting follows FISMA, NIST, and DoD RMF guidelines, and is FedRAMP High Certified. This places A&A implementation on the fast track and helps government agencies meet all necessary requirements as quickly as possible. It’s summed up in a simple phrase: do once, use many times. When a cloud service offering has been verified and authorized once, agencies can more fluidly grant ATOs and cut down on both time and cost. These standardized offerings are a clear sign of a trusted and credentialed cloud service provider.

More generally, ask a CSP about their structured processes, effective data control methods, service status transparency, and knowledge management approaches. These are strong indications of how detail oriented a provider is, and whether they are current in their methodology. It’s also helpful to understand how often each of their processes and certifications are reviewed and renewed, particularly given the industry’s rapid technological progression.

2. Security should always be at the forefront.

Securing data in the cloud protects the entire Federal ecosystem, while streamlining mission objectives and business operations. If you’re on the hunt for a CSP for your government agency, make sure they stress data security measures across all systems and processes. Cloud providers should employ a variety of security protocols that are continually reviewed and updated to mitigate the evolution of malicious attacks.

Validate whether the cloud vendor’s security measures (such as firewalls, anti-intrusion detection, routine auditing, end-to-end user encryption, and multi-user verification) are rigorously followed by reviewing any existing internal incident, audit, or action reports. If your agency handles high-impact data, like that of financial systems or healthcare, confirm that your potential CSP understands the complexities of these industry-specific regulations. With an emphasis on data protection from the start, your agency will be in a much better position to maintain smooth operations.

3. Clearly define the service and deliverables.

When contracting a cloud service provider, everything should be in writing. Clarify the roles and responsibilities of each party at every stage of the contract lifecycle, and demand a robust service level agreement (SLA) that defines data accessibility, uptime projections, service capacity, remediation policies, and resolution expectations. It’s important to fully understand any exclusions or caveats. What if you need tech support? Outline the resources and procedures available to you. Choose a cloud service provider that can deliver a project scope that is both unambiguous and highly detailed.

4. Discover where the datacenters are – and who manages them.

It matters where your information is kept, especially as it relates to security and control. Selecting a CSP for your government agency that uses bargain-priced foreign sites for data storage is a red flag. Sure, the cost savings is tempting, but your data could be at risk. Avoid datacenters in parts of the world that are unstable or hostile to the Federal government, or which demonstrate a negligent approach to information security and compliance regulations. Data is valuable and there will always be attempts to steal it, whether by individuals, criminal groups, errant companies, or foreign governments. GovDataHosting datacenters are proudly located in the continental United States and are exclusively supported by U.S. Citizens.

It’s also worth mentioning: Mother Nature can play just as influential a role in your data management as intentional cyber-attacks. Natural disasters like storms, floods, fires, and earthquakes can destroy a datacenter and the information kept within. Know where these centers are and how they are protected from threats.

5. What happens when service goes down?

Speaking of disasters: If you were to lose your critical business systems, software, and connectivity, how would that impact your mission? When a cloud service provider goes down, both the immediate and residual effects can be substantial. Ask the CSP you’re considering for your government agency about their disaster preparedness and recovery plans. These detailed protocols should include:

  • Roles each party (both your agency and the CSP) are responsible for in the event of data unavailability
  • Escalation processes
  • Expectations for backup servers, redundancy, and data preservation
  • Restoration plans and anticipated recovery timelines
  • Integrity checks and ongoing system improvements

System outages tend to induce panic – ensure your agency has done its homework and is ready for the unthinkable with an extensive disaster recovery plan. You might also consider purchasing additional risk insurance as an added security measure, to further shield your agency and cover any potential losses that might arise from data failure.

6. Prepare for the end of the relationship.

Breakups are hard. That’s why it’s critical to negotiate an exit strategy prior to signing an agreement with a new CSP for your government agency. You’ll want to ensure a smooth transition with full access to your data and systems – and with minimal penalties, downtime, or headaches. To reduce long-term pain points, make sure you know how you’ll retrieve your data, what condition it will be in, and for how long the provider will maintain redundancy files.

Vendor lock-in is often one of the most unanticipated scenarios that government agencies face when they decide to move services. This happens when your current data and systems are locked into proprietary or incompatible technologies, creating a road block to your migration. Insist on standardized technologies instead of custom-built applications. This keeps data portability top-of-mind and allows you to efficiently move your data from one CSP to another.

The right CSP for your government agency makes all the difference.

Selecting the best CSP partner for your government agency can allow you to efficiently adopt emerging technologies, innovate in the cloud, and propel your mission forward. It’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Requirements should be rigorously researched and defined across all aspects of the enterprise, with executive input and involvement from the start. The benefits of cloud adoption are already being felt across the Federal space: lower costs, enhanced flexibility, and greater peace of mind throughout the data’s lifecycle. Start the conversation today with GovDataHosting and enjoy single-source, integrated services that outperform the rest.

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