Federal agencies like the idea of moving to the cloud but aren't in love with it yet, according to a new study from MeriTalk.

Three-quarters of feds polled said they want to migrate more data and services to the cloud but hesitate due to concerns over control and security.

According to the survey of 150 public sector IT professionals, 23 percent of agencies are wary of a third party managing sensitive government data, even if the cloud provider is FedRAMP certified. Another 32 percent said their data cannot be migrated because of security levels and data sovereignty issues.

Agencies that have begun moving services to the cloud started with the simplest systems, namely email and website hosting. Concerns over security and accessibility are causing more complicated systems like enterprise resource planning and custom apps to lag behind.

"Particularly with mission-critical systems, feds want assurance they can integrate with legacy tools and easily migrate data between the two," said Mike Younkers, director of federal systems engineering at Cisco, which underwrote the report along with Red Hat.

The biggest issue preventing cloud adoption is a fear of commitment, MeriTalk found.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said concerns over vendor lock-in and long-term contracts made them wary of moving ahead with cloud procurements.

Despite concerns, 53 percent of agencies employing third-party services said their experience was "very successful."

MeriTalk analysts offered three suggestions to help ease anxiety:

  • Start Small: Begin by migrating services with low security and privacy concerns and less operational risk. Build a model for success.
  • Ensure Your Provider Fits: Each agency has unique needs. Ensure cloud providers can integrate data with legacy systems.
  • Consider Open Options: Fear of commitment is hampering federal cloud acquisition, not results. Explore solutions that deliver long-term flexibility.

"Connect with peers who have been down the aisle. And if you feel locked in — get a good prenup," MeriTalk founder Steve O'Keeffe said. "Cloud is all about choice and agility. Otherwise, we end up back where we started."