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May 08, 2017
Public cloud computing can help police forces manage the data deluge, is your force ready?
By: Allan W Fairley

In my first blog in this series, I discussed why police forces need to invest more in cyber security—or face a growing risk that their critical systems and information may be infiltrated. Amid today’s rapid advances in police technology, factors ranging from proliferating cyber attacks to rising use of mobile connectivity are seeing the related security risks grow by the day. In this second blog, I look at the pivotal role of data in technology-enabled policing, and examine how public cloud computing can provide a better way forward.

In police systems—as with those in all others sectors—everything ultimately comes down to data, which is the key currency of the future. Police forces are already awash with valuable data to help them prevent and tackle crime, and the deluge will only grow in the years ahead. So, amid the technology transformations they’re currently undertaking, police forces need to find the time and resources to do a holistic review of their current approaches to data (including technology and associated processes like training), get a clear view of the status quo, and use the resulting insights as the foundation for future transformations.

Data centres should be a particular focus of these assessments. Police forces are currently investing huge amounts on private data centres. However, these bring several potential problems for the future. For one thing, the exponential growth in data from devices such as body-worn cameras will be expensive to manage and store in dedicated physical data centres. For another, it’ll be difficult for individual forces’ private data centres to keep pace with global advances in cyber threats and security, exposing them to rising risks.

These factors point towards greater use of public cloud services from proven providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Public cloud is a source of secure computing power and storage that’s increasingly trusted by banks and utilities, and in turn by government bodies. As we move more towards preventative policing, it makes less and less sense for police to maintain their own data centres that they use only a fraction of the time. Conversely, the logic for using cloud on demand is becoming ever more compelling.

In the past six months, I’ve seen this message starting to gain traction—with police forces’ mindset changing and the beginnings of a move towards public cloud. Since the big public cloud providers are constantly fighting off cyber attacks, and have the resources to invest in the latest security, their solutions are substantially better protected than private data centre alternatives. What’s more, the capabilities available in the cloud are better and cheaper, and using cloud facilitates collaboration between forces.

In light of these benefits, a migration to cloud seemsinevitable—and, in fact, it’s already underway. To cite just a few examples, the Met are using a public cloud solution for body-worn camera data, as are Devon & Cornwall, and Thames Valley are evaluating Microsoft Azure.

Meanwhile at a national level, an assessment is being progressed for the establishment of setting up a national SOC for all UK police forces, dovetailing with the rising use of public cloud locally.

This SOC proposal is a fantastic example of police forces coming together and collaborating for mutual benefit—and if it doesn’t come about, it would be a waste of a great opportunity. So let’s make sure embedded bureaucracy and politics between forces don’t get in the way. As policing becomes technology-enabled and data-driven, we must keep security front and centre of our thinking—or the benefits from all the investment will be fatally undermined.

See this post on LinkedIn: Public cloud computing can help police forces manage the data deluge, is your force ready?

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