UK public sector organisations are being encouraged to look to the cloud for new services. The publicly-stated approach set out in the Digital Marketplace Strategy is ‘Cloud First’. There is a growing confidence in the cloud and suppliers on the G-Cloud list are now seeing much higher levels of interest.
However, the level of engagement varies considerably. While it is very mature in some areas, such as central government it is not as strong in some other areas; local government, healthcare and blue light services.
For some organisations, there is much to be discovered, learned and experienced with respect to the cloud.
Yet cloud adoption is accelerating in many areas and is clearly seen as a vital and integral part of IT future. Why then, are some public sector organisations taking such a cautious approach? It may be that they feel that the cloud is not yet proven to be resilient enough to support critical services. Wary and risk averse business leaders and CIOs require rock-solid proof points before they will commit to a hosted service. Performance, security, and the critical role that connectivity plays in the delivery of cloud services are also a concern for many.
There is also some concern about the kind of supplier organisations to whom public sector bodies are being asked to entrust their services.
There are some very large, established and credible cloud services providers. But many of those offering services in the UK today are US multi-national corporations. While this in itself is not an issue, public sector organisations have a duty to protect the interests and information they hold on citizens. Placing critical services with overseas suppliers may raise questions over compliancy in this regard. Public sector organisations also need to consider whether it is prudent or advisable, given the continued austerity measures and cuts to public services, to award significant contracts to non-UK companies.
Furthermore, while these service provider organisations may have operations based in the UK, Ireland and other western European countries, much of their infrastructure and support network will, by necessity, be distributed. Under certain circumstances, it is quite probable that IT personnel in a UK organisation would find themselves dealing more often than not with an individual or team in a different country and time-zone.
However, this is not an issue that is confined only to non UK-based services providers. Access to support resources is in itself, a complex subject and would merit specific in-depth analysis and consideration in its own right.
Having a proven track record and being able to demonstrate commitment and financial stability are of equal importance as the service delivery capability of the organisation. Cloud services businesses must be viable businesses. While one of the principal aims of adopting a cloud service will be to reduce costs, the supplier must have a business model and funding that will support its strategy, approach and delivery capability for the long term.