cloudsWe’ve written before about a number of cities across the globe moving to cloud computing systems for their public administration. However, central government has perhaps seemed a little more reluctant to commit to cloud computing. But no longer.
Like its local counterparts, central government has many good reasons for moving to cloud-based systems. There are the economic benefits of running an up-to-date system, rather than out-of-date servers, with additional functionality tagged on later. And there are the technical difficulties of working across firewalls, and operating split-site or remote teams. So it’s good to see that both US and UK government departments are moving towards cloud computing.
At the beginning of May 2013, the UK government announced its new ‘Cloud First’ policy for IT procurement. This means that all public sector IT buyers should consider cloud-based solutions first for all IT projects, before any other solution is evaluated. This is required for central government, and recommended for local government, so is likely to drive adoption of cloud-based solutions.
At the same time, the government announced a third G-Cloud supplier framework has gone live. This is the list of suitable suppliers available through Cloudstore, the online marketplace for cloud IT services. There are 708 companies on the new framework, including 368 firms new to G-Cloud, and more than 80% are small and medium-sized enterprises.
And not only are cloud-based solutions likely to be more efficient for the way government works, but the introduction of the ‘Cloud First’ policy, and the G-Cloud Framework is all part of a drive across UK government to reduce the cost of technology in government. A recent NAO report showed that efforts in this direction are working, with estimated savings to the taxpayer being £316 million in 2011/12 alone. And the UK government is also considering a move to cloud-based commissioning of IT services that have become commodities, and can therefore be bought from any supplier. The idea of the G-Cloud Framework, and particularly the inclusion of so many SMEs, is to reduce dependence on a few large firms, and introduce more price competition into IT procurement, thus driving down prices.
G-Cloud Programme Director Denise McDonagh said:
“Sales from G-Cloud are rising steadily, with cumulative spend now over £18 million – two-thirds of it with SMEs. Off-the-shelf products from the Cloud can be up to 30% of the cost of bespoke solutions.”
But despite this move towards more companies being involved in IT procurement, Huddle is still celebrating a record year. The company reckons that 80% of UK government departments and the NHS already use Huddle solutions for their IT! Their latest figures also show that Huddle is the most successful provider for Software as a Service (SaaS) on the G-Cloud Framework, securing 16% of SaaS contracts to date, and almost a quarter of total SaaS spend via the framework.
UK government departments are using Huddle’s technology to share data classified up to ‘Restricted’ (the lowest level of classification). They have also taken advantage of access to apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry, to enable use of mobile technology for officials to work anywhere with an internet connection.
And in the US, Huddle has just launched its new cloud content collaboration SaaS offering for the US government. This includes secure sharing of all content, with full version control and tracking, and mobile apps for iPad and iPhone, meaning that government officials can work securely wherever they are. The system also offers full integration with SharePoint and email systems that were previously in place, to solve any legacy issues.
Huddle has two main models for US governmental content sharing: Huddle Public Cloud, and Huddle Private Cloud. The Public Cloud is for unclassified but sensitive information, and for good secure collaboration between government departments, and with third party suppliers and agencies, as well as external stakeholders. The Huddle Private Cloud is for classified and high-secure collaboration, and is reckoned secure for even ‘top secret’ information relating to national security.
Last financial year, Huddle reckons it had a record year for public sector contracts secured worldwide, with the number of deals secured increasing by 26% year on year. New customers included the European Commission, US Department of Justice, Federal Aviation Administration and the Commonwealth Secretariat. And with all these products available, it’s perhaps not surprising that Huddle is celebrating. It will be interesting to see whether the UK government’s desire to see more suppliers trumps Huddle’s undoubted expertise in providing cloud-based computing solutions for government, both central and local.

Image credit: Clouds by Ben Jones

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