Half of respondents to the latest research into public sector and the Cloud feel positive towards using public cloud services for their organisation.

Indeed, a majority of respondents to UKAuthority’s ‘G-Cloud, CloudStore & the future of public sector ICT’, identified Cloud benefits such as rapid piloting (65.1%) and flexible roll out of agile, innovative solutions (66.7%) that can enable mobile and flexible working and collaboration across organisations.

However, only a third (36.5%) believed that Cloud would save public sector in the short term and just 12.9% thought that government’s target of ‘50% of new government ICT spend being in the Cloud by 2015’ would be met.

There were some clear themes of concern underlying this doubt: incompatibility with existing non-cloud services (78.7%); the need to work both online and offline (70.5%); the need for a detailed comparison of total cost of ownership (65.8%); and the ability to run ‘hybrid’ cloud/on-premise models (54.5%) are all cited as ‘very important’ in moving to cloud services by a majority.

Security was a big concern: almost half of the sample (48.4%) are not sure that Cloud computing would be appropriate for business critical applications. Indeed, quite rightly, more importance was placed on security and privacy issues ahead of cost in the decision making process: in respondents’ minds security and privacy must be ensured at all times; and potential cost savings trumped neither of these considerations.

However, plans for implementation of some cloud services in the public sector over the next 12 months look solid. Activity around Software as a Service (SaaS) will be greatest, with over a third (36.3%) ‘very likely’ and a further three in ten (29/2%) ‘possibly’ going to use some cloud services in their organisations. Around half were very likely/possibly planning to use some Infrastructure as a Service (52.6%) or Platform as a Service (51.5%). However, over half (55.6%) are ‘unlikely’ to use cloud data storage for sensitive information in public cloud within this time frame.

Email is driving most change, in that 5.8% of respondents already claim to use a cloud email services, 9.6% intend to within 12 months, and a further quarter to have the majority of email services in the Cloud within 24 months. Use of other cloud applications was lower, however, within 24 months, predictions of a migration to Cloud rose to 22.3% for office applications; 16.0% CRM; 12.2% document management; and 12.2% for other applications. 

 Denise McDonagh, G-Cloud Programme Director / Director of IT at the Home Office, in her foreword to the report, said that the findings gave valuable insight and “a useful benchmark for the G-Cloud Programme as it moves in to a phase of consolidation and propagation”.

Cloud computing, she added, had brought “a step change in the economics and sustainability of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) enabled service provision. Government is committed to the adoption of cloud computing and delivering computing resources to users as needed (an on-demand delivery model). By exploiting innovations in Cloud computing we will transform the public sector ICT estate into one that is agile, cost effective and environmentally sustainable.”

 Microsoft’s UK Chief Technology Officer, Mark Ferrar, said that it was now down to Cloud suppliers to do more to drive awareness of the benefits of cloud, build trust and show customers how to embark on a journey to the cloud. “For Microsoft this is about ensuring that our customers are able to review, for example, the content on our Trust Center. And Microsoft is planning to make more case studies available that explain the ‘how’ of cloud computing and show the immediate benefits, value and savings of real customers who have already moved to Office 365, Azure, Windows Intune or CRM Online – many of them large enterprises with similar needs for security, privacy, reliability and trust.”

It was the experience of working with such customers to define their journey to the cloud that would be valuable to public sector organisations, said Ferrar. “The results in this survey validate our own experience of conversations with customers, confirming that an incremental, integrative and hybrid approach to cloud, and an ability to work in both offline and online modes are very important considerations.”

Microsoft is also committed to ensuring that its cloud services offer a reliable and safe platform for many thousands of UK SME partners in the Microsoft ecosystem who build solutions and deliver innovation to public sector customers. This vibrant market enables ISVs to develop apps using a variety of tools – including the .NET framework and even open source favourites like Java, Ruby, Hadoop and Node.js – that really leverage the power of our Azure IaaS/PaaS compute platforms, or create business workflows or apps that perhaps leverage the Office 365 SharePoint Online or Dynamics CRM Online cloud platforms. 

Added Ferrar, “These approaches can help to de-laminate the commodity ICT elements from the bespoke business process elements, which may well be unique to a particular organisation. It allows customers to migrate end-to-end services from legacy infrastructure to the cloud on their terms. It also ensures that cost savings can be realised as well as being able embrace the innovation that SMEs can deliver into the mix, both now and in the future. These needs, expressed in the survey, are therefore particularly well suited to the Microsoft approach to hybrid cloud services and the overall Microsoft partner ecosystem.”

Research highlights

  • 5.8% are already using Cloud email services - 26.8% will do so within two years
  • But just 12.9% believe that 50% of new government ICT spend will be in the Cloud by 2015
  • 78.7% say that integration with existing systems for any Cloud service is 'very important'
  • 70.5% also wanted the capability to work both online and offline.
  • 70.5% are concerned about security and compliance
  • 87.2% want freedom to choose their own length of contract
  • 93.3% agree that migration costs are part of TCO

For a copy of the report when it is published email Ann@ukauthority.co.uk

Coming soon: an interview with Microsoft’s UK Public Sector Head of Business Development, Daniel Batts, to hear more about Microsoft’s response to the report's findings.