Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Statistics • COVID-19 response

Cloud computing for operational continuity and disaster recovery


This article is also available in Russian.

Today, cloud computing stands out as a key element of an operatinal continuity and disaster recovery plan for statistical organizations, particularly in the face of the disruption national and global statistical systems caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Due to its reliance on hardware-independent virtualization technology, cloud computing enables organizations to quickly back up data, applications, and even operating systems to a remote data center, and to deploy them to multiple users distributed in many different locations.

Cloud computing has become increasingly common among statistical organizations that do not have the hardware or personnel necessary to fully deploy software applications onsite, or that need to test new software tools in the context of pilot data-solutions projects. It is an approach focused on the delivery, over the internet, of software, infrastructure and platform services hosted by a third party.

Cloud computing includes the implementation of a “software as a service” (SaaS) model, in which commonly used software applications are hosted on the cloud by a third-party provider and made available to users over the Internet, usually through a web browser. An advantage to this approach is that staff members that need to work remotely do not have to install or configure anything, as the underlying cloud hardware is maintained by the service provider.

In order to leverage cloud computing for disaster recovery and business continuity, statistical organizations need to establish an IT architecture characterized by the "containerization" of workflows and data flows, so that computing resources can more easily and securely be switched over to a cloud computing environment and remain operational.

Some examples of critical software applications that could leverage commercially available SaaS solutions include:

  • Email, videoconferencing, and other basic communication tools
  • File sharing and team collaboration.
  • Human resource management
  • Management of relationships with data providers
  • Management or relationships with data users
  • Specialized applications (e.g., statistical analysis software, GIS applications)
  • E-Learning delivery

A large number of commercial SaaS providers offer flexible, on-demand pricing arrangements as well as tools for user management and data migration. However, moving systems currently hosted on-premises to cloud services is a very complex task that requires:

  • Vendor selection and procurement
  • Data cleaning and migration
  • Addressing user management and authentication issues