Big Data is in the headlines now more than ever. Of course there is a continuing debate over privacy versus national security, as the recent controversy surrounding the NSA proves. But there is no doubt that there is a real need to sift through, maintain and catalog just about every bit of information that comes to and from an enterprise – from e-mail to PDFs to streaming video.
You’ve surely heard of the cloud – unless you’ve been living on a cloud. The cloud, simply put, is an Internet service. In the not too distant past all files would be stored on a piece of hardware, typically a hard drive attached to a computer, or on a CD (or perhaps, if you go back a ways, floppy disks).
Cloud computing is an application that is run, and resides, on servers that are often remotely located from the building in which documents and content are actually generated and received. One advantage of the cloud is that it allows for organized archiving of huge amounts of data, and since it means less hardware is needed for storage on site, this translates into dollars saved through efficient use of information technology budgets.
Nowhere is information overload more apparent than the federal government, where almost unfathomable amounts of bits and bytes flow in and out of virtual inboxes on a daily basis. The Presidential Directive M-12-18, signed by President Obama two years ago, requires that “Federal agencies will manage both permanent and temporary email records in an accessible electronic format” by 2016. As the US must learn to do more with fewer dollars, one Washington, D.C.-based privately-held company, IQ Business Group (IQBG), has led the way in bringing one of the largest federal agencies, the Department of the Interior (DOI), into the 21st century.
Last year the company scored a $53 million contract with the DOI, the federal agency that is responsible for federal land and natural resource conservation. The eight-year contract for IQBG’s software as a service (SaaS) platform is part of DOI’s IT Transformation initiative, which is expected to save $100 million annually. Known as the eMail, Enterprise Records, and Document Management System (eERDMS), the platform captures and auto-classifies (stores in folders according to subject) 100% of a staggering 75 million e-mails per month. One impressive feat: it took only 45 days for IQBG to get eERDMS up and running for the DOI, which has nearly 100,000 employees nationwide. This compressed time to going live illustrates the advantage of software based solutions: cost savings.
Michael Beck, IQBG’s CEO, notes that his company’s contract with the DOI is among the largest information technology initiatives in the federal government. “We’re the first to provide a comprehensive solution for e-mail archiving and journaling for an entire cabinet level agency,” he says, “and our competitors [which include companies such as IBM] do not have a fully-integrated product in production like ours that includes auto classification, record keeping and eDiscovery support.”
The DOI contract has helped IQBG expand its public sector practice, which includes state, local and higher education clients, from 30% of revenues to 65% of revenues. And the company’s SaaS offering has led to impressive growth — Beck says IQBG’s total revenues have grown “in excess” of 100% over the past few years, and total information captured and processed by the company has grown from 10-15 terabytes in 2012 to an estimated 75 terabytes (eHow.com equates a single terabyte as equivalent to about 143 million pages of stored Microsoft Word documents).
That top line is likely to continue at its heady, triple digit growth rate, Beck asserts. Though some IT industry analysts project a slowdown in overall IT spending amid fear of a general economic slowdown and ongoing US government sequesters, Beck predicts “a considerable increase in [government] spending on the cloud based governance solutions, as there is pent-up demand, based upon success from early adopters – we expect to see more activity in this space.”
There is also the prospect of a fiscal fourth quarter “budget flush” where government IT departments must spend the dollars they are budgeted – or lose them, because they don’t roll over to the next fiscal year. The impact to the bottom line can be significant: As Forbes noted last year, MeriTalk Cloud Computing Exchange, an online community of Federal government IT executives, estimated that the movement from on-premise systems to cloud-based systems could save more than 7%, or $12 billion, off government IT budgets annually.
One notable hesitation of some IT managers to commit fully to the cloud revolves around the issue of security; in this age of hacking and seemingly new headlines every day about sensitive data poached from consumers and government agencies, caution abounds. But Beck contends IQBG has been at the vanguard of ensuring its clients’ data – especially that of the DOI – is “like Fort Knox”. For one thing, the company operates a “private cloud” for the government, which means that data moves back and forth behind the DOI’s security, known as the firewall. In addition, the company has attained and continues to secure government accreditation certified status.
Success at the federal level is driving IQBG to seek new government contracts at both the state and local level. Beck states that the company is actively bidding for new contracts at least 36 months in duration, and often longer: “Nothing is too small, and nothing is too large …and every state wants to embrace this.”