Cloud-First, Not Cloud-Only and Why There’s No ‘Perfect Solution’ Insight cover image.

The public sector’s IT challenges are difficult to navigate. While being under pressure to modernise, streamline and align with the Government’s cloud-first policy, the ever-changing political climate and changes in policy bring their own hurdles. Cloud-first is designed to reduce public sector spending on outdated IT and technology ecosystems, but many public sector organisations are yet to benefit from the savings and efficiencies that this approach can bring. Why then, when cloud-computing is adopted, is it often replaced with a cloud-only mindset?

 

Why Turn to Cloud-First?

If there is one thing that could be said to public sector organisations about using the cloud today, it’s that it provides the opportunity to deliver services flexibly, and to better meet their cost pressures.

Rather than spending valuable funds on hardware, software or licensing and renewal fees, you will reduce both your capital and operating costs by using the resources of your cloud service provider. The contract with most cloud service providers will include the costs of system upgrades, new hardware and software.

As the cloud platform is utility based, you only pay the service provider for what you use when you need it. Therefore, with a pay-as-you-go, subscription-based cost structure, cloud services require a lower initial investment and typically much lower overall costs than ‘on-premise’ models.

Though cost reduction is one of the benefits, organisations can gain much more with a flexible IT infrastructure. Many public services will experience seasonal peaks and troughs throughout the year. With an old-style server in a data centre, teams would previously have needed to build the infrastructure to meet the capacity required for peak demand. By using the cloud, services can be easily scaled up and down as needed, again allowing you to only pay for what you need when you need it.

Through adoption of the cloud, organisations can concentrate on their core competencies while leaving the complex task of running IT infrastructure to cloud service providers. This gives them the opportunity to quickly provision resources for any business opportunities that arise, which could otherwise be lost. Furthermore, by moving to cloud, you avoid the need to recruit additional in-house IT staff as well as saving on your energy consumption for running your own data centre.

Enabling Business as Usual

The value of taking a cloud-first approach has been magnified during the COVID-19 crisis. With many public sector organisations needing to move to a remote working model almost overnight, cloud services have been instrumental in maintaining business resilience in such disruptive moments. As part of Kent County Council’s (KCC) transformation planning with Cantium, the capability for remote working and the core infrastructure was already in place. However, in the face of this crisis, Cantium deployed numerous additional devices to increase KCC’s remote working resilience and structure to cater for 5,000 additional home-working employees. Employee access was implemented to the systems they needed via Azure AD application proxy and team meetings continued with the use of Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business. During this time, Cantium also delivered several new technologies to the council, including the rollout of Office 365 functionality to support remote collaboration.

Cloud computing models give businesses the ability to communicate and collaborate more effectively outside of traditional methods. With easy access to data, programs or any information stored in the cloud, users can share documents and work harmoniously from any location and any device. While such a crisis may be considered a rarity, it does highlight the need for cloud-based solutions, improved disaster recovery plans, regular data backups, and managed IT services.

Why Aren’t More Public Sector Organisations Using the Cloud?

Over 300 public sector organisations of different sizes recently took part in a UKCloud survey to identify the most common issues and challenges impeding broader adoption of cloud. The results were clear, showing a universal desire to move IT environments into the cloud. Almost 9 out of 10 surveyed, stated that if a ‘perfect solution’ existed, they would move all their IT into the cloud.

Unfortunately, the cloud is not a magical solution for every business problem, and some applications aren’t best-suited to a cloud solution. For example, some niche technologies might not be suitable for public cloud, or apps that have been built in a specific way might be better residing in a private data centre. Organisations that take a cloud-first approach must ensure this doesn’t shift into a cloud-only mindset as this can be counter-intuitive. While the cloud can handle a multitude of tasks, many businesses still rely on on-premise hardware to perform various functions. Switching all those functions to the cloud may be more cost-efficient, but they can sometimes be less productive.

The survey found a broad mix of technical and non-technical challenges that were impeding cloud adoption, perhaps because they also preclude a single cloud. However, by re-framing the term ‘cloud’ as a plural, we could open up solutions to some of the challenges at hand, using a mixture of clouds to suit particular requirements around budget, skills, the pace of change and security. The public sector is a community, all with different wants and needs, meaning that a single cloud can never be the ‘perfect solution’.

Before moving to the cloud, public sector bodies will need to conduct a thorough audit of their existing infrastructure, analysing where cloud solutions can provide the most significant cost savings. By creating a robust cloud roadmap that offers complete visibility of the cloud environment, public sector bodies will be able to deploy and innovate at a higher speed. Only then will they have the opportunity for newer technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to streamline their digital strategies. As a Microsoft Gold partner, we have proven expertise in transforming data centres into more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective solutions. Using our experience in working with the public sector, we are looking forward to supporting organisations as they transform their business with a cloud-first approach.

 

If you would like to find out more about cloud solutions, or how we can help manage your on-premise IT infrastructure, please contact us today on 03000 411 115.