Within the past five years, it seems that you can’t get through advertisements about technology without reading or hearing about ‘The Cloud.’ And although it’s prevalent in our everyday life, many people are uneasy around any bit of technology that comes with the term ‘Cloud’ because they fear various data breaches and losing private or sensitive information. The problem is that many people don’t have a great understanding of what ‘The Cloud’ is or of its capabilities. So, what is it, and how can it help public safety and an emergency call center?
Put simply, ‘The Cloud’ gives a user the ability to access data or various programs without them being on a local server or hard drive. If you are using Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, or even Gmail, you are already accessing information through The Cloud. This is why you can open any browser like Chrome or Explorer, see your current information on these programs, and make changes regardless of where you are. Cloud-based services have been around a very long time, with the term being coined in 1996, and will be around for as long as we are alive. When you break it down like this, it is far less scary and nefarious because it is so prevalent in so many applications or services we are already using.
Because agencies handle such sensitive information and data, security issues or fear of security issues are at the forefront of the IT department’s brain. It is probably one of the top reasons agencies are reluctant to switch some of their programs off-site and cloud-based. This is a valid concern, especially within their field, but companies are at more risk for a data breach within their internal servers than cloud-based. Based on a study by Gartner, “Through 2020, public cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) workloads will suffer at least 60% fewer security incidents than those in traditional data centers.” The reason for this is that cloud providers specialize in keeping your data safe. A small business with its own internal server focuses on many different moving parts within the company; they focus on data and storing data safely. Their business depends on that.
So, what are some of the benefits of cloud-based services within the 911 industry?
- Programs can be accessed from anywhere
- Updates are almost instant
- Your data is safer
- Recovery is easier
- Reduce technology costs
One of the most significant advantages of a cloud-based service is the ability to access the program from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. This may not have been a great selling point in the past, but in a post-COVID-19 world, the ability to work remotely has been critical for so many agencies. We have already seen some customers adapt to the pandemic by deploying remote workers to handle calls to ensure service continuity. This allowed their agencies not to skip a beat when the pandemic hit and still bring the highest level of service possible to their community. You already see Cloud-Based training in Certification training in dispatch centers due to the COVID-19 virus as well. Almost all training which used to be held in-person is now being done in front of a computer screen with a live instructor.
Having a cloud-based service also allows your agency to make updates to the programs almost instantly. Instead of needing a person on-site or having to remote into your internal server, these can be updated with a click of a button, and the next time your user logs in, they will have access to the freshest and newest version. The time spent on updating internal server-based programs is considerable, to say the least. You have to schedule a time with the company whose program you are using and hope they can do it between 8 AM and 8 PM and have your staff waiting with them. This can be costly for you, even if the update is “part of the service package.”
Recovery of lost data is a hassle and one that can hamstring the operations of an agency. If your internal server goes out for any number of reasons, it is no small process to get that data back. One advantage of a cloud service is that you can quickly recover your data during a server disaster. 20% of cloud users received all their data within 4 hours or less, where only 9% of non-cloud users can claim the same. That type of speed can be critical when operating a call center and needing to get back online, so you don’t have to field calls manually.
Another overlooked, but significant advantage of having your agency utilize cloud-based services is to eliminate high-cost hardware and time spent on that hardware within the agency. Servers are not cheap to maintain. Between the weekly maintenance, power costs and consumption, initial investment, future upgrades, and everything in between, an internal server can be a large part of the operating budget that could go elsewhere within an agency.
If the risks associated with cloud services weren’t manageable, global commerce and many aspects of the way of life within today’s world today would cease to exist. In short, approached correctly, there is no reason why 911 services could not function efficiently utilizing cloud-based services.