Local, state, and federal government agencies are adopting the cloud, and saving money doing it.

In the beginning, there was ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the government’s first packet-switching network. Essentially, it was the Internet, before it was called the Internet. Originally, it was developed through academic research and government funding. The first three terminals connected to each other were located in Santa Monica, Berkeley’s University of California, and M.I.T.

In recent years, the technological savvy of Washington has been going downhill, particularly in contrast with the private sector. The government simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid innovation of big name tech companies developing and spitting out new technology every few months. Recently however, it was released that the public sector is almost entirely operating its servers in the cloud.

Two years ago, the government knew things needed to change. So they started making strong push towards updating their practices and moving everything to the cloud. The budget dedicated towards technology management is triple the defense and public security budgets. The current total for IT on the budget? $78.8 billion.

An IT survey was commissioned and found that of the 302 local, state, and federal government agencies questioned, all together they saved $15 billion in 2011 from their technology adoption. And, the savings are projected to grow. By 2015, governments are hoping to save up to $23.6 billion. The survey was completed by MeriTalk, with additional funding from Microsoft and NetApp.

Without a doubt, these private sector investors have a financial interest in helping the government see the error in their ways. If Microsoft (for example) can help the powers at be see how behind their technology is, and can paint a picture of the savings the government can continue to reap from investing in their IT even more, then chances are high Microsoft can get the contract from the people the company helped, and can put a good chunk of change in their pockets.

Part of cloud use that many companies are still behind on is desktop virtualization. Plenty of companies have begun to put their servers in the cloud but haven’t begun putting desktop accounts in the cloud. Desktop virtualization allows personal accounts to be accessed from any workstation connected to the Internet, so it isn’t a set of user data on a hard drive to log into, it’s in the cloud. That way, employees can work from abroad, at home, the train, anywhere with a network connection.

But the barriers to desktop virtualization are high. 57% of federal government employees polled thought that server virtualization is more important than desktop virtualization. 64% of state and local government agents thought so as well. And who knows, maybe for some companies, it really is. For many companies, having a solid foundation of server virtualization precedes moving towards virtual desktops.

Another problem in not reaching total virtualization is the nature of the software. 43% of the employees polled said they thought the biggest barrier to moving everything towards the cloud would be making sure older software applications ran on newer platforms. Even though the budget is getting redirected towards IT management in general, there still isn’t enough money to hire engineers to re-purpose software for newer platforms.

Additionally, 39% of those polled thought that virtualization would simply take too much time. Moving all desktops and servers to the cloud takes a commitment that many private and public agencies aren’t willing to make.

The cloud can be an ambiguous term, and knowing what it means and entails can be confusing when you’re first starting out and trying to utilize it. Check out our blog post about the benefits of moving to the cloud called “Why Isn’t Every Company in the Cloud?” to learn more.