NARA looks to multi-cloud

The federal government's archive drafting a multi-cloud storage acquisition strategy to accommodate other agencies' digital data.

cloud migration (deepadesigns/

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is in the process of moving to a multi-cloud acquisition strategy to store the increasing deluge of digital records it receives from other federal agencies.

"We're moving from off-premises storage solutions and into the cloud," said Sheena Burrell, deputy CIO at NARA. The move, she said during a Sept. 24 AFCEA Bethesda webcast, will facilitate acceptance of records from other federal agencies that have moved to the cloud, but may not be using the same cloud vendor as NARA.

The move is in line with the record-keeping agency's sharpening of its overall digital modernization plans for the last few years. It plans to stop taking in federal agencies' paper records by the end of 2022.

This summer it released its Digital Preservation Framework that incorporates comments from agencies, experts and stakeholders in the records management field, identifies 16 electronic record category types and offers a set of best practices for managing risk to prevent the loss or diminution of government's digital work.

IT modernization by other agencies, including their migration to the cloud, said Burrell, makes the new multi-cloud strategy imperative. The increase in the volume of digital records coming from those digital systems and cloud applications will only get steeper in the coming years, she said.

NARA, said Burrell, is currently in the acquisition planning process to for a multi-cloud storage contract. The agency is consulting with NASA, which currently has a multi-cloud strategy, for tips on how to proceed, according to Burrell.

"We're looking into multi-cloud contracts, so that we're able to take records from other federal agencies the way that they store them in their cloud systems and not have to transfer them to our cloud system," she said.

NARA uses a couple of cloud providers now, according to Burrell. The agency's current cloud storage provider for its electronic records archiving system is Amazon Web Services (AWS), she said, while the agency stores its own employee records in Google's cloud.

"It's vital for NARA, for the federal IT infrastructure, to modernize and accommodate that increase. As agencies adopt Cloud Smart initiatives, it's also imperative that we're able to accommodate whatever cloud strategy that they have when they're storing their records," she said. The connection between NARA's cloud and other agencies' clouds will make the records more accessible without delays