Move to cloud? Not so fast for Sacramento County

Sacramento County CIO Rami Zakaria plans to keep relying on the county's on-premise data center — even as other municipalities shift to the cloud.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As state and local governments across the country are attempting to move operations to the cloud, California’s capital county is trying to keep operations in its own facility.

Rami Zakaria, Sacramento County’s chief information officer, told StateScoop in an interview in his office that the county’s existing server bank could be the most efficient way to keep the county running efficiently.

“For the most part we are really an on-premise county,” Zakaria said. “Our county has invested a lot of money [in our operation]. This building was built specifically for IT as the county data center. The county made a really tremendous investment in technology.”

More than a decade before the cloud boom, Sacramento County invested $47 million to build a data center in its downtown Sacramento headquarters. The facility has battery banks and generators the size of rooms that can keep county business operations online for days in case of a power outage. By having physical control over those systems and their backup operations, Zakaria said he feels he has more control over the county’s digital operations.


“Having robust systems that run without interruptions and are solid, while we’re charging forward to replace them, we don’t have a sense of emergency,” Zakaria said.

The county stores and operates its data and operations at that on-premise data center, and also has a recovery data center offsite. The two data centers run separate network backbones and Internet connections for added security and reliability.

“We’re taking our major information systems and we back them up religiously, some of them every two hours,” Zakaria said. “Our goal is we went down, we would not lose more than two hours of data.”

And while the county shies away from jumping headfirst into a cloud, that doesn’t mean it avoids the technology entirely. Several employee-facing services, like the management of the county Board of Governors’ agenda management system, run on cloud-based infrastructure.

“We’re open to looking at the cloud, but we really want to take a kind of educated approach to it,” Zakaria said. “You know, at the end of the day I would really prefer not to have 70 different cloud provided county services.”


But in general, the county feels it provides higher quality services in-house, Zakaria said.

“We think it carries value but our county has very low appetite for downtime,” Zakaria said. “It’s totally expected that when you come in, your phone, your network works, your computer works,your systems work and so on. We have not had problems with those. So just selling the cloud, just to be in the cloud, I don’t think it’s the right approach for us at this time.”

While Zakaria is willing to embrace more cloud in the future, he said other governments are not approaching the technology with the same perspective.

“I think that if there is a compelling case for a cloud-based solution, we won’t discount it but we just want to make sure it is completely the right fit for us,” Zakaria said.

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