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Security an important feature of cloud communications apps

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Many organizations that are migrating vital business components to the cloud are focusing on the security of the hosted environment in addition to ease of use and other benefits. According to Computer World, the General Services Administration has set a goal to be the first federal agency to meet the Obama administration's "cloud-first strategy" by moving three major IT services to the cloud.

By pushing services such as hosted VoIP or unified communications to a cloud-based model, the agency can lower costs and meet the federal telework mandates, while setting an example for other departments to follow or learn from.

"Our administrator Martha Johnson has issued us a mandate that GSA goes first," Casey Coleman, the GSA's CIO, told the news source. "Our goal in doing that is that by adopting these technologies, GSA can provide the value and share the lessons learned in deploying them to other federal agencies or other corporations. Our goal is to serve as a public steward for the prudent adoption of new technologies."

According to the news source, the GSA will have moved its UC, remote desktop management and customer relationship management solutions to the cloud by the end of the year. However, the agency's focus has not only been on fast adoption, but secure deployment as well. A representative from Deltek, an IT market research company, said that the GSA has been very aggressive toward the security issues related to cloud computing services, and is working closely with the National Institute for Standards and Technology on the matter.

Coleman stated that the department has worked very closely with the vendors it chose for these solutions in order to implement cloud solutions while still maintaining information security. One way this was ensured was by keeping control of authentication and sign-on data in-house, rather than outsourcing.

Another primary benefit of pushing toward a cloud-based solution is the flexibility of it. According to Coleman, the new platform at the GSA allows individual teams to develop the tools for their own specific needs out of a shared, standard set of data, security and architectural requirements. The agency has already estimated that the shift to cloud-based UC will reduce its operating costs by 50 percent over the next five years.