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Emergency Services' storage in The Cloud

Author: Marc Valls Estefanell

Date: 2018-02-26
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Originally posted to author’s linked-in page on February 14, 2018

Cloud. Yes, the cloud. It is not about the weather, it is about technology. In recent years, this concept has become trending due to thousands of articles talking about it; however, do we really know what it means and its implications? The truth is that the cloud has an enormous potential and it can radically transform for good Governments and consequently the Emergency Services. But what is the cloud? Which are the main key players? Pros and cons? And, what about the way forward?

"Cloud" is the colloquial term used to describe the technical term of "cloud computing". Years ago, we used hard drives, CDs and more tools to store our data. At present, with the cloud and thanks to the internet, we can remotely safeguard our data into data centers or server farms in multiple locations around the world. These are physical places where companies store our files on multiple hard drives.

At the industry level, the key players are Microsoft (Azure), IBM (Bluemix), Amazon (AWS), Google (Gloogle Cloud), etc. Obviously, each cloud (name within brackets) has its own applications and functions; therefore, each one has different audiences. For example, Azure is perfect for Governments. For this reason, Microsoft has a contractual commitment to uphold the FBI’s security standards. This reflects Microsoft’s commitment to help government customers in order to leverage the cloud while they stay compliant with critical public sector security, privacy and compliance requirements.

At Unblur, a startup based in Barcelona, we are using Azure to store the data (videos from drones, body cams, fixed cams, etc) that collects in real time our Incident Command Software to help field teams make decisions.

So far, so good. But which are the main pros and cons of the cloud?


  1. High accessibility. Is possible to store data and access to them from anywhere in the world and with any electronic device. Consequently, “there is a tremendous opportunity for Emergency Services. Different agencies can see the incident at the same time and work together to solve it”, said Andrew Hawkins, Senior Director of Local & Regional Government (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) at Microsoft. John Lynch, IT Account Manager in Dublin Fire Brigade, is in line with Hawkins and pointed out that cloud is essential for Emergency Services and it has many functions for them.
  2. High storage capacity. The cloud allows storing vast amounts of data. For example, Met Police equipped 3.500 police officers with body cams. These thousands of cams generate an enormous amount of data. So, in this case, Azure allows Police to upload automatically any video evidence and the ability to keep it forever and ever..
  3. High cybersecurity. The leading cloud providers are, probably, the most secure companies in the world. They are continuously investing huge sums of money in the security of their platforms through their employees: the best cybersecurity experts to address any cyberthreat or cyber attack. So, the investment in cybersecurity from these companies is much larger than, for example, any national police.
  4. More cost-effective than an on-premises software system. Cloud-based on Software as a Service (SaaS) offers fit solutions according to the size of the agency, eliminating unnecessary expense: purchase and maintain large physical databases on their premises.


  1. Cloud servers out of the country. Probably, servers that store your data are out of your country. This is unfortunate because everybody like to have valuable things, like data, very close. However, data is repeated in different servers around the world, therefore, in the face of a man-made, or not, disaster against the server where your data is stored, no data will be lost.
  2. Data in the hands of outside entities. It is a consequence of the previous point and there is only one solution: trust, trust in cloud providers because they have no reason to manipulate your data unless they want legal problems.
  3. The danger of being hacked. The cloud depends on the internet, so it cannot be overlooked that it is subject to the tremendous amount of cyber threats and cyber attacks and, of course, it can be hacked.

For Emergency Services, the adoption of the cloud requires patience, trust, belief in the transformation that supposes this kind of technology and willingness to change the way of operating. So, it is ideal to start step by step, slowly, to develop a strategy. One example is the Secure Cloud Strategy of the Australian Government (download PDF report here). This strategy has been developed to guide agencies and make sure everyone can make the most of what cloud has to offer.

In conclusion, the cloud is the future for Emergency Services and one day, very soon, it will be indispensable for them. At present, enormous companies like Microsoft, Amazon, IBM or Google are developing their own platforms. Obviously, this technology has pros and cons, but the advantages of it outweigh its potential risks. Without a doubt, there is a data storage challenge that cloud can solve. However, it is not easy, especially for Governments, to embrace a technology that radically transforms the way of operating. Therefore, it is essential to start step by step and to develop a cloud strategy.

Marc Valls Estefanell is Director of Education & Public Policy at Unblur




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