Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms have proven themselves as millions of businesses and individuals have switched to a cloud-based data service. Businesses leverage cloud-based storage services like Dropbox and Google Docs so that their teams and employees can have instant access to vital information and enjoy file-sharing across devices. Individuals also use SaaS—often without even realizing it (think cell-phone apps, Gmail, and tax preparation software).
So why do law enforcement agencies hesitate to switch from on-premises to cloud-based CAD/RMS systems? Main concerns for law enforcement agencies include security, budget, reliability, accessibility, and system management. Because LE SaaS systems are relatively new, many traditional LE agencies have adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude. But the advantages of cloud-based SaaS CAD/RMS systems are compelling the more progressive LE agencies to take a look. Here are the five most significant reasons for police chiefs to consider making the switch to cloud-based CAD/RMS.
Agencies who use traditional CAD/RMS systems pay top dollar to access their information. These on-premises, physically installed systems are quite expensive on the front-end and can cost a 100-officer agency up to $1.5 million in start-up fees alone. But that doesn’t include the significant costs of annual support and maintenance fees. The same 100-officer agency would spend roughly $200 thousand per year in annual contract fees. This is a huge investment, and because upgrades can be costly and can disrupt operations, most agencies choose to remain on their older, outdated platforms well past available upgraded technology. Paying top dollar for software that ages out practically as soon as it’s installed is a trade-off some agencies believe is the “safe” choice. But it’s not.
In addition to much more affordable subscription-based fee offered by cloud-based SaaS CAD/RMS systems, agencies also receive the latest software with automatic updates that don’t disrupt day-to-day operations. This means that the SaaS CAD/RMS will serve their needs better and for a much longer period of time than a traditional on-premises solution. In contrast to the $1.5 million initiation fee and the roughly $200 thousand in annual contract fees, SaaS CAD/RMS systems can be installed and maintained for about $45 thousand per year for a 100-officer agency.
In recent decades, the introduction of cloud-based systems and internet utilization in criminal justice have opened the door for more sophisticated cyber-threats. This has complicated matters when it comes to protecting information in local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. It’s no wonder many agencies worry that switching to a cloud SaaS based system might make them more vulnerable to these types of threats. But to address these concerns, the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy has set rigid set of standards for law enforcement agencies to follow which protects sensitive information such as criminal backgrounds and fingerprinting records.
The fact is, CJIS-compliant SaaS systems offer greater security measures than most on-premises installed systems. This is made possible because modern SaaS platforms employ the latest security and encryption technologies and, are managed by cyber-security professionals who must adhere to strict FBI-CJIS requirements for their physical servers, networks and employee security. Many traditional LE agencies with on-premises installed systems have challenge passing their FBI-CJIS audits because their technology and security is not kept up-to-date by their in-house IT staff.
One of the most obvious advantages of a cloud-based SaaS service is the easy accessibility. It’s the main advantage for iPhone users who use the iCloud, businesses who use Dropbox for business, and people who use music and video streaming services. Having access to cloud-based information allows users instant access to millions of files and data.
This same concept and benefits apply to law enforcement officers. The ability to quickly and securely access CAD/RMS from all agency-approved devices has become essential to compete with advances in criminal technology. Giving officers direct access to real-time information increases officer safety and also increases officer/civilian accountability. Anytime, anywhere access also allows officer to complete paperwork in the field and decreases desk-time.
One of the most complicated aspects of field work lies in communication. When several responders (including dispatchers, field officers, etc.) are involved in one incident, being able to update everyone with real-time information is vital. It increases response time and efficiency, and the benefits of this are self-evident.
The beauty of cloud-based data sharing is that each authorized user has access to immediate updates, since they’re stored immediately on the cloud. Officers needn’t wait to be back at desks to record events, and automatic updates within the system mean that responders who aren’t in the same vicinity can have critical updates that can sometimes even mean the difference between life and death for officers and civilians alike.
Cloud-based hosts are able to serve millions of companies and organizations with relatively few employees. Streamlining work-flow means fewer people can handle more tasks, and that’s what cloud-based SaaS systems and platforms are designed to do. Combining specialized personnel with efficient software creates a dream-team that could only be imagined until recently, and is only possible through SaaS.
So if budget savings on the front-end of SaaS CAD/RMS aren’t enough to warrant serious consideration, perhaps the budget savings on IT personnel are. System administrators and technical specialists are expensive, highly skilled personnel, and outsourcing this kind of work to a CJIS-compliant cloud-based facility saves a significant portion of the staffing burden that could then be re-purposed to meet focused emerging LE technology requirements.
When considering upgrades to agency systems, it’s normal for Chiefs to be hesitant to consider a completely different way of doing things. Methods and processes are like a well-oiled machines, and officers and agency personnel are all accustomed to a particular way of operation. Upgrading to a SaaS format isn’t merely intimidating, but can seem counterintuitive in light of the time already spent training, conditioning, and planning for older data-storage models.
Switching to SaaS CAD/RMS is simple, inexpensive and will improve operational efficiencies. Agencies that have made this move have experienced tremendous benefits. Start-up fees are virtually non-existent, and subscription-based fees are drastically smaller than maintenance contracts on older models. But the back-end comes with its savings too, with less IT personnel and no server hardware expenses.
But the biggest benefit to upgrading to SaaS involves better communication on the field. When officers are updated with information instantly and have access to criminal records, up-to-the-moment updates and alerts on cases they’re able to perform their duties with a increased safety and efficiency. They have to spend less time at their desks recording information that can now be kept up to date and in the field, so they’re able to use their skills to protect and serve, rather than sifting through paperwork for many hours per day.
Making the transition to SaaS isn’t without its growing pains. It involves relearning and accommodating new technology, but when CJIS-compliant cloud-based providers are available for maintenance and round-the-clock technological help, it’s doable for any agency, and its benefits can mean heightened safety for entire communities.