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Public safety agencies have long relied on computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems to respond quickly and efficiently to public safety issues and infrastructure demands. Yet while these systems have done well to keep municipalities moving, advances in cloud computing have created opportunities for more timely, coordinated, and informed operations.

“There are many reasons to migrate those CAD and other mission-critical systems to a cloud environment," says Ralph Diment, Director Industry & Product Marketing at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure. "For one, public safety agencies are facing so much change with regards to new technologies, public expectations, and the scope and complexity of their missions. It's getting harder and harder to adapt to those changes with their current systems, whereas cloud-based systems can grant greater agility and collaboration, as well as the ability to keep pace with rapidly changing challenges." 

Certainly, as municipalities continue to modernize their IT environments, now is an ideal time to consider the cloud and the numerous advantages therein.

“It goes beyond having a secure online environment to store and manage data,” Diment adds. “When you move to the cloud, you unlock all kinds of benefits to solve all sorts of problems.”

Lofty advantages

“Cloud computing” has become a buzzword in recent years. Even still, there are plenty of benefits to justify the hype. Consider the following advantages:

Connected teams: Cloud-based CAD systems make it easier for public agencies to share accurate, detailed, and real-time information with their partners in the field, be they police officers, paramedics, municipal workers, or other essential stakeholders. This, in turn, facilitates more coordinated responses and a centralized environment wherein multiple teams and agencies are well informed and updated throughout the entire process.

Public accessibility/accountability: Cloud environments bridge the communication gaps between public agencies and the citizens they serve. For example, they can facilitate multiple public channels through which key information and evidence can be uploaded and circulated among the appropriate public agencies.

“It really is about creating and supporting an entire eco-system,” says Diment. “Once that critical evidence is submitted to a police department, say a picture or video of an assailant, it can immediately be parsed to officers in the field and then flowed through the chain of evidence into a department's record management system.”

Date analytics: In addition to storing and managing data, cloud-based systems can be leveraged to perform advanced analytics that help agencies make more timely, predictive, and informed decisions. Moreover, with advanced analytics comes the ability to identify trends and “big picture” insights which can assist public agencies in deciding where their resources are required most and better plan for future incidents.

Versatile design: Whereas on-premise systems must be physically upgraded and maintained by their owners, cloud-hosted systems are continually updated by their providers. Their web-services architectures are designed to make it easier to integrate with trusted, third-party solutions. This enables users to “plug in” third-party tools and functionalities, avoiding the cost and resources of creating and maintaining bespoke applications.

The trust factor

Talk about online data centres and virtual desktops inevitably brings up issues of cybersecurity –  and for good reason. With a growing number of data hacks, privacy leaks, and cyber attacks making headlines, public agencies have every right to be wary of where they manage their data and deploy mission-critical systems.

The demand for data privacy and security is not lost on cloud hosting service providers. If anything, says Diment, it's Hexagon's utmost priority: “It's difficult for even the most advanced IT department to come up with the resources to match the threats that are focused against them today. In a cloud environment, however, there's a peace of mind in knowing providers like Microsoft and Amazon are investing vast sums to develop and maintain the most current controls and security measures to address those threats, keeping your data safe and systems operational.”

Going up

Making the move to a cloud environment can seem daunting. And certainly, like any modernization initiative, it requires training, new technology, and organizational change to unlock the full value from one's investment.

Still, moving to the cloud is more straightforward than many suspects – especially since existing software can often be hosted on the cloud without major change. To really leverage the new possibilities cloud offers, however, agencies ultimately need to adopt CAD solutions like Hexagon's which are designed from the ground up to take full advantage of capabilities provided by cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure and AWS. 

Whatever the approach, says Diment, bringing CAD or other mission-critical systems to the cloud doesn't have to mean an overnight upheaval: "We've been very conscious to build our systems so that our clients can pick and choose what capabilities they need, and introduce them into their organizations at their own speed. Some may choose to deploy a few components in high-priority areas for 'quick wins' and build out the system from there, while others may begin with a more holistic strategy. Either way, effective migration begins with understanding what your organization wants to achieve from the cloud and what it needs to get there."

Ralph Diment is Director of Industry & Product Marketing at Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure, which provides mission-critical and business-critical software solutions to governments and service providers. Learn More about Hexagon's OnCall PortfolioFor more, visit www.hexagonsafetyinfrastructure.com.