How to get started with Azure Government

Stuart McKee, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft

This blog was contributed by Stuart McKee, Chief Technology Officer, US State and Local Government, Microsoft Corporation

Many government agencies would like to take their first steps toward adopting cloud services. With so many options available, it’s hard to know where to start, and the idea of modernizing everything can be daunting. In most cases, taking a planned approach means greater success overall.

Adopting cloud technology can mean a lot of things, from extending services to your current environment, to fully hosted applications, and everywhere in between. How do agencies take that first step? Many start by simply increasing current on-premises capabilities through services such as business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) before moving to more advanced cloud scenarios using IaaS and PaaS services. Before long, agencies are expanding into new offerings that only the cloud can provide. Read on for simple suggestions to kick off your journey to the cloud.

Integrate with backup and disaster recovery

For state and local government agencies, protecting, retaining, and securing data is crucial. Many agencies are still not prepared to protect their apps and data from catastrophic events such as natural disasters, simple user error, or even malicious activities that cause downtime and data corruption.

Adopting traditional disaster recovery (DR) solutions, such as hosting and managing a secondary datacenter, is expensive, complex, and time-consuming. In most cases, DR covers only 10 percent of systems, leaving massive amounts of infrastructure unprotected. As such, many agencies turn to backup for DR.

While backup can help with corrupted data, unfortunate deletions, and even ransomware situations, it is not a true DR solution because downtime means that citizens will be impacted. Add to this a painful tape restoral process, and the entire experience is frustrating—no wonder many agencies have never even taken the time to test a complete recovery. You need a DR solution to quickly restore multiple servers and networking covering OS, application, and data in a structured order.

Microsoft Azure Government provides a built-in solution for cloud-based backup and site recovery services to provide no-fuss, cloud-based recovery solutions.

  • Replace secondary sites and on-site tape backup using simple pay-as-you-go (PAYG) services—pay for what you need, when you need it.
  • Incrementally back up servers to the cloud using customized schedules to ensure no business impact.
  • Utilize built-in retention to ensure data lifecycle policies and actively defend your servers from ransomware.
  • Protect your entire datacenter and perform isolated DR testing with no impact to your business.
  • Enable a fully automated restore plan, including recovery scripts that enable failover in minutes.

Getting started couldn’t be simpler. To help, Microsoft provides step-by-step solutions and architectural guidance for both DR and backup.

On-demand scalability

Serving citizens seamlessly during peak usage hours, on special occasions (such as elections), or during emergencies is one of the largest concerns for state and local governments. Scaling on-premises infrastructure to meet such usage spikes requires an initial outlay of hardware purchase to meet the maximum expected load, most of which goes unused, costing precious budget. Otherwise, agencies must constantly drive hardware procurement efforts, approval cycles, and extra deployment processes, all within tight timelines when the need arises.

Wouldn’t it be easier to have access to the hardware when you need it, but only pay for it when you use it? Azure can do this. Whether for web-based apps or server-based solutions, Azure provides seamless hosting and rapid scale-up/scale-out capabilities.

By simply moving your .NET, Node.js, or Java application to Azure App Services, you can have a fully customizable platform that can scale up when peak loads are high and scale back as they drop, so your site is always available, no matter how many requests per second it receives. And best of all, pay only for what you use—no more wasted infrastructure just sitting around waiting for the next peak occurrence.

Your data hosted through SQL, MySQL, Oracle, DB2, or others can also be migrated to Azure and enable simple-scale capabilities, or you can leave your data on-premises—it’s your choice. You can extend this capability to your servers and virtual machines (VMs), as well. Through simple migration options, move your Linux and Windows VMs to Azure, even if they’re running on VMware, and take advantage of PAYG options with integrated scale-out to ensure their peak-time readiness.

Like BCDR, getting started is simple with the guidance of Microsoft.

 Innovative solutions

State and local government agencies continuously work to better serve their citizens through services like public safety or urban mobility. It has always been a struggle to share data and services while remaining fully secure—especially with confidential citizen information. Azure can ensure easily centralized and secured data with inbuilt data and identity, as well as security solutions.

Store and protect confidential citizen information that can be readily queried using advanced data services, driving new modern reporting experiences. Share this data with important partners like emergency services while remaining confident the person viewing at the other end can see only what they have permission to.

Azure Government can help you take citizen experiences to the next level, providing a platform to build and deploy intuitive mobile or web apps, add artificial intelligence to your devices, and enable mobility for workers to connect with citizens and colleagues more easily.

The sky is the limit as you start using IoT and advanced analytics capabilities to better control sensors and devices to make smart parking systems, streamline fleet and asset management, implement intelligent traffic and transit management, and much more.

Let’s sum up

In this blog series, we’ve discussed what citizens expect and what state and local government agencies are looking for when digitally transforming their IT. Cloud services are the key enablers of digital transformation, and Azure Government is the trusted cloud provider for all types of government agencies.

Only Azure Government can provide you with the platform you need to drive fast modernization while ensuring the broadest level of compliance. Read some customer stories to learn more about how agencies are taking advantage of Azure services to meet their modern requirements.

What to do next

It’s time to define the next steps for your cloud adoption strategy. You can get started with Azure Government by migrating a test environment and exploring the innovative tools and services. To learn more about Azure Government services and digital transformation scenarios, check out the links below.


To learn more about the challenges and opportunities that come with a government cloud solution, view our on-demand webinar, The Benefits of Moving to the Cloud for State and Local Governments.



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