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Florida’s data appears bound for the cloud

Lawmakers hope for cheaper, better data storage.

Will all state data soon head to the cloud?

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee Tuesday advanced an overhaul of state technology.

The legislation (SB 1570) requires state agencies to manage their data storage using cloud computing with private vendors.

“The world is going to cloud technology,” said Sen. Ed Hooper, the bill’s sponsor. The Clearwater Republican said shifting data to the cloud will improve service while reducing costs.

Other states including California, Texas, Michigan and Virginia have already made the switch.

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Hooper’s legislation reorganizes the state’s technology structure significantly, eliminating the Agency for State Technology. All functions there transfer now to the Division of State Technology within the Department of Management Services.

Most notably, that moves the state’s data center under DMS.

The legislation shuffles other government duties a bit, asking the Department of Environmental Protection to now review all geospatial data, for example.

But codifying a “cloud first” policy into law generated the most discussion in committee Tuesday.

“Why would we put a ‘cloud first’ policy into statute rather than allowing am agency to figure out if that’s best?” questioned Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat.

Hooper said it’s important to get all state agencies working with the same structure so data can be easily shared when needed.

Dave Clark, the DMS chief of staff, noted the term “cloud computing” largely related to storage of mainframes. If state agencies contract with major providers like Oracle and Cisco, different offices can easily access data around the state.

Such a system also inherently disaster-proofs storage, he said, by making sure data isn’t all stored in a single location that could be vulnerable to a hurricane or other threat.

Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, expressed reservations about outsourcing cyber-security protections for state data.

But Clark said private contractors have incentive to maintain the strongest firewalls available around data.

As more states rely on tech firms for data services, that will only become more important as public contracts won’t stay with corporations that allow major data breaches.

Hooper’s bill now heads Senate Appropriations. Identical House legislation (HB 5301) already has passed the House.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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