Public safety agencies must continuously update their technological prowess to provide more responsive, accurate, and well-informed emergency services to the community. Emergency communications centers (ECCs) in particular are well-positioned for integrating new innovations and offerings such as internet of things (IoT) tracking/monitoring devices, sensors, newer wireless connectivity methods (such as LoRaWAN and NB-IoT), geolocation and mapping, as well as custom toolsets and third-party services. Forward-thinking organizations can effectively tie these together to augment and improve their emergency response and life-saving capabilities. That said, in most cases, the successful integration of these technologies is predicated upon the proper supporting cloud infrastructure.
In this article, you’ll learn more about moving your ECC to the cloud, key advantages to cloud adoption, in addition to some guidelines and best practices for shifting to a cloud-based ECC location mapping solution.
What is the cloud?
Cloud computing is a virtualization of IT resources (networks, servers, applications, and data storage) that enables customers to leverage on-demand, scalable computing resources on a metered basis. The “cloud” itself is a network of multiple geographically distributed servers working together to provide consistent, fault-tolerant IT services. The cloud could be for hosting custom websites/software applications, storing large volumes of data, or accessing popular applications like Office 365 or Adobe Creative Suite on a subscription basis. Using the cloud allows organizations to access cost-effective and scalable IT infrastructure and applications immediately out of the gate. In contrast, on-premise solutions require significant IT efforts for systems implementation, tuning, and maintenance. Organizations utilizing the cloud are spared the burden of maintaining software licenses, operating server hardware/on-premise IT infrastructures, and continuously monitoring for security issues.
What are some advantages of the cloud?
There are volumes written about the advantages of cloud computing — suffice to say, organizations yet to undergo cloud adoption are at a severe competitive disadvantage. For ECCs, this translates to extended response times and potential loss of life.
Some of the cloud’s main advantages include the following:
Cloud-based infrastructures enable efficient, streamlined data and information flow for resident systems and applications. Public cloud providers offer consistent, service level agreement (SLA) backed speed and data throughput guarantees, as well as APIs for integrating with other third-party systems. This enables organizations to realize operational efficiencies and improved situational awareness by creating a common operating picture (COP) — accessible via a cloud-based single streamlined view. Additionally, cloud solutions can support a broader diversity of users in different locations, leading to better server resource utilization and an overall efficient ECC operation.
The fact that Microsoft’s cloud services block over 300 million fraudulent sign-in attempts every day is a testament to its unparalleled cybersecurity defenses. However, cloud versus on-premise security continues to be a hot point of contention even as many public and private enterprises have already migrated some or all of their operations to the cloud in pursuit of improved cyber risk posture. For example, half of U.S. federal and local (state) government agencies have migrated some or most of their systems to the cloud to facilitate their expanding remote workforces while meeting stringent security compliance requirements. Additionally, several federal agencies have already entrusted critical services to the cloud. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) OpenFEMA application is entirely hosted in the cloud and enables distributed personnel to respond more readily in the aftermath of catastrophic events. It’s worth noting that some state governments, like New Mexico, have data localization laws that require data to be stored within the state. To find out if your state has cloud data storage restrictions, reach out to a cloud-based ECC software provider.
Organizations using cloud-based infrastructures and solutions can more readily implement operational continuity and data backup routines without the need to acquire, configure, and deploy additional server hardware or physical machines. Cloud computing’s elastic consumption model allows for IT resources to be created, scaled up or down, and deleted instantaneously, enabling ECCs to scale dynamically with seasonal incident spikes, special events, and spontaneous adverse weather conditions, to name a few. This high availability is critical for solutions in use by ECCs to meet emergency call volumes appropriately. Moreover, cloud providers typically offer guarantees of system uptime and availability via SLAs.
How do I move my ECC to the cloud?
A successful ECC cloud migration starts with a systematic, documented plan detailing which applications, data, and dependencies will be moved (and how) from the on-premise environment to the cloud. Though it may seem like a daunting affair, migrating your ECC to the cloud can be streamlined by adhering to the following pragmatic guidelines:
Identify drivers for cloud adoption
Organizations should identify their specific objectives for migrating their ECC to the cloud (e.g., hasten response times and improve service quality). Proper identification of migration goals as an initial step helps to ensure internal alignment with stakeholders and project participants/beneficiaries.
Understand your options
Three deployment models exist for the cloud: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS). Organizations looking for a turnkey software application usually need a SaaS solution. For example, Comtech’s SmartResponse™ platform is a cloud-based platform for real-time emergency situational awareness. A home-grown ECC software solution will require either a PaaS or IaaS deployment model to support the software offerings’ custom application environment.
Select the right provider
For IaaS/PaaS, the three leading cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Organizations looking for SaaS solutions should select a vendor with a clearly stated SLA and multiple channels for support. In either case, cloud service providers should hold certifications attesting to the security and integrity of their infrastructure or application. For example, Comtech has a dedicated page listing its ISO certifications to give customers the appropriate third-party validation.
Fully leverage the chosen provider
Once selected, the cloud service provider’s resources (such as free credits, training materials, and API/integration guides) should be fully leveraged in fine-tuning the ECC deployment. Ultimately, moving an ECC to the cloud is a relatively straightforward process with many benefits, most notably, future proofing and infinite scalability. The right provider will serve as a critical partner during the lifecycle of the ECC deployment.
How To Get Started
To learn more about how to best migrate your ECC to the cloud, contact Comtech today for a consultation and free demo with one of our cloud-based location software experts. Drawing from over two decades of industry experience, our team of experts can advise you on the appropriate plan of action and other available public safety options for your organization.