Cloud computing is the future of public safety technology and is available from many vendors today. Cloud computing will permeate public safety the way it has in the business community over the past decade. Let’s examine how public safety agencies can prepare for cloud computing.
Since cloud-based computing requires external internet connectivity, it is critical to implement a comprehensive security solution that includes the following:
- Implementation of two-factor authentication for signing on to any device on the system.
- Utilization of point-to-point VPN connectivity to the CAD, Mobile, and RMS software solution to prevent unauthorized access and limit hacker attacks.
- Utilization of encrypted data and messaging for all CAD, Mobile, and RMS transactions.
- Repelling security attacks and hackers with network monitoring. Agencies need to work closely with their IT departments and solution providers to create an environment that will withstand these attacks.
- Firewalls that are monitored 24/7.
- Staff training on security breaches; especially on how hackers use devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones to gain access to operating systems and networks.
- Cyber-security, internal audits, and third-party audits to ensure the resiliency and safety of the public safety network and all connected devices.
Select a public safety vendor that has a mature cloud-based solution, your required functionality, and a published and verifiable roadmap for future functionality.
Things to look for when evaluating public safety cloud computing solutions:
- Is the solution cloud-native or just a vendor’s application being hosted in the cloud?
- How long has the cloud-based solution been available from the vendor?
- Does the vendor have a published roadmap for future enhancements and features?
- How many public safety agencies are running the cloud-based solution in a live environment?
- What, if any, slowdowns are experienced by public safety agencies that are in a live environment?
- Has a public safety agency in a live environment ever been down, and if so for how long and why?
- Examine the standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) from the vendor that will dictate required uptime and responses to critical failures.
To maximize the investment in a cloud-based CAD, Mobile, and RMS solution, ensure the correct infrastructure and network are in place before implementation. To ensure the infrastructure and network are ready for cloud-based computing, look for:
- High-speed (1 GB or higher) connectivity to the internet from multiple providers. For example, procure two diverse high-speed internet connections from two internet providers.
- Ensure connectivity redundancy exists between the cloud, internal network, servers, and devices.
- Ensure the cloud-based solution has built-in application and database redundancy to automatically switch from one set of servers to another in case of hardware failure or software updates.
- Ensure uninterrupted power supply and backup generators are in place, maintained, and tested regularly to limit outages.
While public safety agencies need to be cautious when upgrading to a cloud-based solution, there are many benefits including:
- Reduced reliance on internal IT resources to support CAD, Mobile, and RMS solutions.
- Reduced reliance on internal IT to upgrade CAD, Mobile, and RMS solutions since this function is performed by the vendor.
- Cloud-based applications typically support a wider range of devices including desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.
- Cloud-based solutions typically have more frequent upgrades because it is easier for the vendors to perform the upgrades in the cloud than on-premise.
- Cloud-based solutions are typically subscription based, which translates to less up-front cost and more predictable yearly costs.
There are several challenges agencies need to overcome before procuring these new solutions. While cloud computing has been successful in the business environment, there are several challenges in the public safety environment.
These challenges include:
- How best to incorporate cloud computing into their existing environment
- Software functionality and potentially reduced functionality
- Network speed
- Interruption of service concerns
- Cloud Platform performance concerns
While some of the infrastructure, security, network speed, and redundancy issues have been overcome, many agencies are struggling with being able to duplicate the resiliency, speed, and security of existing on-premise solutions. Some agencies are choosing to implement a “hybrid” cloud-based environment where a majority of the platform resides in the cloud, but with a hot failover on-premises.
The challenge for public safety vendors is moving their CAD, Mobile, and RMS software solutions to the cloud while keeping the same functionality, speed, and resiliency compared to on-premises solutions. As the cloud-based market matures, many of these factors will be resolved.
Winbourne has been providing consulting services to public safety agencies for over 20 years. Our professionals are ready to assist your agency with assessing readiness and procuring a CAD Mobile, RMS cloud-based solution.