Success Stories

Cloud for Government: Learn How a Large Federal Agency Transformed Program Operations in the Secure Government Cloud

May 24, 2024 / #Unstuck Government

One day, an information technology specialist with more than 20 years in federal service who managed a large federal agency’s FOIA technology, encountered a significant challenge. The longstanding request management software at the agency needed an upgrade, but the knowledge on how to upgrade the system had been lost over time. 

“I’m not a server hardware guy,” the administrator admitted. “But they allowed me into the server room, just me and one other contractor, and I had to get on the phone with a representative of the company to walk me through the upgrade step-by-step.” 

Literally, the administrator had to manually handle physical hardware, loading it with the latest software version and installing it on-premise in the agency’s server room—a process reminiscent of installing software via CD-ROM back in 1996, but without any instruction manual! 

Putting Out Fires with Aging On-Premise Solutions

The problems didn’t end with that single upgrade. Each time the agency performed server maintenance or upgrades, the administrator went to bed stressed, wondering if the system would fail. 

“When turnover occurs, there is a loss of institutional knowledge on how to maintain legacy servers, do upgrades, and perform maintenance,” the administrator noted. “Over time, as we lost manpower that understood what it takes to keep the application running, we would lose days of productivity every time we upgraded.” 

During one upgrade, the agency’s FOIA team lost two full days, another time it was three days, and finally, a staggering five-day downtime occurred during an upgrade the administrator was personally trying to manage. 

“We survived the upgrades, yes, but why should we have to just ‘survive’?” the administrator questioned. “That stress and downtime just isn’t necessary.” 

Why is the Government Still Computing in the AOL-era?

Many software applications across the federal government—from EEO complaints to FOIA request management—are still installed on-premise, which seems outdated at a time when software on our personal devices update automatically while we sleep. 

The U.S. Federal Government has been slow to shift from on-premise to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software in the cloud. These large-scale transformations can be stressful and time-consuming, necessary but are necessary for long-term stability and to maximize agency productivity and efficiency. 

Building a Case for FOIAXpress in the Cloud

Each agency will have a different cost-benefit analysis for a cloud conversion, but for this large federal agency and FOIAXpress, it was a clear win-win-win situation. The administrator calculated how maintenance costs, security risks, and user frustrations were driving employee satisfaction down, and IT and FOIA program costs up. 

“I came with hard numbers and showed the Chief Information Officer and the office of the general counsel that manages our FOIA program, and said, ‘Hey, this is how much it costs to maintain this application on-premise compared to the cloud solution,’” the administrator explained. 

There were three primary areas addressed to build momentum for change: cost, security, and people. 


  • Data usage on agency servers by the on-premise FOIAXpress.   
  • Hours spent by database administrators and IT support on FOIAXpress.   
  • Impact of downtime and upgrades on agency productivity.   
  • Benefits of new features in the cloud version of FOIAXpress.   
  • Best funding options for cloud solutions. 



  • Engaging stakeholders who support the change.   
  • Addressing concerns of skeptics to refine the implementation process.   
  • Ensuring the FOIA team has the necessary knowledge for the transition.  

The shift to software in the secure government cloud eliminated downtime, staffing stress, and the bugs of aging software. 

Outcome and Benefits 

After transitioning to a cloud-based solution, the agency immediately realized benefits including: 

  • Reduced demand on government data centers. 
  • Decreased maintenance costs. 
  • Lowered tech support expenses as service and support are included in cloud license fees. 
  • Increased productivity despite network outages since FOIA processors could access the application securely from anywhere. 
  • Consistent annual budgeting with predictable costs for cloud licensing.  

“It just reached a point where something had to change, and the opportunity to move to a cloud solution came at the perfect time for us,” the administrator reflected. “It has worked out well.” 

Thanks to the foresight and effort of the administrator, the agency’s FOIA program has successfully entered the cloud era, demonstrating a significant transformation in how federal information is managed. 

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