AWS Public Sector Blog

Best practices to support a transition to cloud-first environment

The world’s leading digital governments rely on the cloud’s flexibility, innovation, and scale to empower officials with the insight they need to deliver top-tier public services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) helps governments become digital organizations, which enables them to focus on their core mission – serving citizens.

Modern governments work on the front lines of service delivery and face a challenging fiscal environment. With no room for administrative waste, governments increasingly need rapid access to technologies that simplify their processes, deliver massive reductions in administrative costs, and enable innovation to create efficient and effective citizen services.

Commercial cloud computing has become the default pathway for governments to transform themselves into innovative citizen-centric service delivery organizations — just as it has become the default for innovation in the banking, insurance, and professional services market. Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) such as AWS offer a range of on-demand services from compute, storage, networking, and databases to powerful analytics including artificial intelligence and machine learning functions that make service delivery more accurate and more effective.

Throughout the service sector, the cloud has become the industry standard as organizations recognize the cost-savings potential relative to on-premises data centers, the cloud’s embedded high level of security, and its data science capabilities (in addition to a myriad of other benefits the cloud offers).


A Cloud-First policy directs or requires government agencies to use commercial cloud services as the primary enabler for IT modernization. CSPs now make it easy for government customers to move away from the capital expenditure (CapEx) model of buying and owning physical IT assets that depreciate.

Instead, agencies can allocate their IT budgets toward operating expenditures (OpEx) to cover only the services they use, while also avoiding traditional CapEx-related ‘tech debt’ through having on-demand access to leading-edge IT products and services. A well-crafted Cloud-First policy leads to cost savings, provides greater security than on-premises solutions, allows the flexibility for government entities to adjust usage, and augments efforts for workforce development and transparency.

Key Policy Considerations

Federal governments from Argentina to Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, the Philippines, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States have adopted smart cloud policies to modernize their IT infrastructure.

Drawing on these experiences, AWS has identified a set of best practices to support a transition to cloud-first environment.

  1. Promoting Cloud-First Policies: Governments issue a policy statement with an actionable directive – including timetables—that creates a framework for the implementation of cloud technologies, clarifies the roles and responsibilities of government entities and CSPs, and establishes a procurement vehicle that is designed to gain the full benefits of cloud technologies. Once governments have established cloud-first policies and infrastructure in place, their IT professionals can engineer ‘born-in-the-cloud’ or ‘cloud-native’ solutions.
  2. Cloud Accreditation, Compliance, and Security: Governments use existing domestic and international cloud-centric accreditation systems to evaluate CSPs (rather than create their own unique certification programs) and leverage the shared responsibility model for cloud security.
  3. Data Classification: Governments categorize their data based on its level of sensitivity, and then manage each segment in a manner congruent with its level of sensitivity.
  4. Data Privacy and Control: Governments establish and/or adopt complementary security and data processing and privacy policies to support a successful transition to the cloud.
  5. Cloud Contracting and Procurement: Governments design and institute a cloud-contracting vehicle that agencies can use to gain the full benefits of cloud, with cloud-centric terms and conditions, pricing, governance, and security. Contract vehicles and procurement guidelines recognize the pay-as-you-go model of commercial cloud computing, and the role of CSP partners and resellers in the cloud delivery model.

As governments transition to cloud-first policies, CSPs have identified a few potential policy pitfalls. To optimize the cloud journey, government leaders need to (1) fully commit to the cloud, (2) formalize the budgeting and procurement processes, (3) establish timelines for cloud migration, (4) take steps to avoid traditional hardware and licensing-based vendor lock-in, and (5) take the time to build and then follow a cloud migration roadmap.

The AWS team is at the disposal of government leaders to help develop and implement smart cloud-first policies.

Read the whitepaper here.

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

AWS Public Sector Blog Team

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Blog team writes for the government, education, and nonprofit sector around the globe. Learn more about AWS for the public sector by visiting our website (, or following us on Twitter (@AWS_gov, @AWS_edu, and @AWS_Nonprofits).