GPN recently got Lucas Binder’s views on cloud trends in government. Binder is vice president of business development for Lightpath. The Jericho, N.Y.-based firm offers Ethernet-based network and managed IT services.   The company is a commercial telecommunications services provider that works with local governments to help them deploy fiber networks. Here are Lucas Binder’s responses to GPN questions.

GPN: What cloud applications offer the most benefit to local and state governments?

Lucas Binder: When our government customers want to make a move to the cloud, they are looking for definitive benefits, such as reduced costs, improved efficiencies or feature enhancements. They are not interested in the cloud for the sake of moving to the cloud.

Our company has seen major interest for two applications in particular: hosted voice and videoconferencing. As aging voice systems grow expensive to maintain and are more susceptible to damage and downtime, government entities are increasingly moving these systems to the cloud to support business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) needs, reduce management requirements, control costs (usually with flat monthly fees) and use advanced calling features to better communicate with other government organizations throughout a town or county. The simplicity of a hosted voice system cannot be understated. One of the towns we serve put its chief of police in charge of the hosted voice system, which requires minimal attention from him.

While videoconference solutions looked poised to take off a few years back, they were ultimately too costly and difficult to use. The cloud has changed this. Government customers require security and reliability in their videoconference applications.

Managed videoconferencing from a service provider like our firm gives government customers access to meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 25 participants. The offering is provided for a flat monthly fee, greatly reducing upfront costs. With these solutions now easier to use, vendors are seeing greater adoption by users once they are deployed within an organization. And our customers are finding some really interesting new ways to use videoconference. For instance, one of our police customers on Long Island wants to use the technology to help officers bring crime scenes directly to the chain of command at headquarters in real-time. In the past, the police agency would have detectives and police calling in intermittently with details.

GPN: What is Lightpath’s advice for local government officials on implementing an IT setup that includes a cloud component?

LB: Government officials have key decisions to make around whom they will buy the service from (e.g. directly from a service provider or from a vendor that delivers the service over the public Internet). If the service is mission critical, are you making sure your connectivity to the source is resilient? Are you meeting in a carrier hotel or a data center? Who pays for the cross connects? Is the hardware in a common or private space? Best effort connections are just that. Mission critical systems should not depend on those connections. You need to be sure to work with dedicated connectivity with the proper class of service to insure a reliable experience. Further to that end, is the customer’s local area network ready in terms of being up to date, able to support class of service, have Power over Ethernet-capable hardware and structured cabling able to support the service?

Government officials should also make sure that their Internet/data transport provider has a full understanding of what they want to implement from a cloud perspective to ensure that the network can meet what are typically stringent support requirements. The officials should also consider if they need the service to be accessible remotely and what is entailed in supporting that need. For BC/DR planning, how will they ensure reliability of the service, and will it be fully accessible at a backup location should a building become damaged or uninhabitable?

GPN: What is really important in the process that governments need to focus on?

LB: One area that is frequently overlooked is the social impact of a new service. Are there privacy issues at play? Will access on personal devices be allowed? Is there a new process that users will have to be trained on? How will user adoption be promoted?

Overall, government officials need to consider the end-to-end impact of rolling out a new cloud service — from the network to the end user. The service should not only improve on what’s being replaced from a functionality standpoint, but also create efficiencies that drive increased usage. This adoption is ultimately the difference between a slam-dunk and a missed opportunity.

GPN: Thank you, Lucas Binder, for your views.

For more than a decade, Lightpath has worked with Westchester County to build a network that now spans more than 1,100 fiber miles, providing services to nearly 60 percent of the municipalities in the county. The project included 225 government buildings and more than 200 commercial buildings, schools, libraries, health care institutions and public safety organizations. The network has the ability to reach more than 75 percent of the 30,000+ businesses that operate in Westchester County.

In the video, Jack Randazzo, superintendent of the Syosset, N.Y., Fire District, tells how his department uses the Lightpath network to enhance connectivity. The system also enabled the district to create a backup communications setup.

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