The G-cloud framework is a giant step forward in supporting this, but organisations should not put all of their eggs in one basket. Solely relying on one cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure may offer short term convenience, but has the possibility to lead to a vendor lock-in situation, taking the public sector back to square one. If the one cloud provider an organisation used had significant downtime, it could lead to massive project failure, data loss, and could end up being costly to fix. If the chosen cloud provider lags alternative vendors in future innovation areas the organisation deems a priority, they won’t be able to take advantage of the latest tech advancements in a timely manner.
The best way forward is to go multi-cloud, as it would improve data migration, increase accessibility for all staff, and adapt to the specific needs of the various departments in the public sector.
There is a real desire from a lot of the public sector to move towards multi-cloud. But there are obstacles holding them back. Organisation culture and attitudes are definitely one, as there is a short supply of people and experts who are able to understand the complexity of a multi-cloud environment. To combat this, organisations within the public sector need to formalise their approach to cloud IT and highlight the improvements to the agility, flexibility and efficiency that multi-cloud can bring.
Budgeting is often a major barrier to adopting a multi-cloud system. It is important for the public sector to have the most efficient and effective system at the lowest cost possible. Multi-cloud actually does that. The problem with sticking to a single cloud provider is that its users can get stuck having to pay increasing licensing fees and not being able to opt out of it. Using different cloud providers can allow the public sector to negotiate better contracts and choose which providers are best for which applications at the lowest cost possible.
Other issues include compatibility and portability. Transitioning from an old IT system to a brand new cloud provider can seem daunting to many in the public sector. There is fear that data will not transfer over from the old to the new, or that the two systems will not connect or communicate with each other. Given that budgeting is tight and technical experts are in short supply, it is also putting pressure on IT teams to solve these issues. Being able to connect the old system to the new will be key in ensuring that data does not get lost, employees still have access to what they need for their jobs, and that everything works together seamlessly. The public sector should venture into using different cloud providers to see which ones and which combinations work best for them.
Once these barriers have been crossed, the next big issue to tackle is the type of cloud to use and for what applications. Having various best in class cloud applications is incredibly useful, as it ensures a high quality of application. Take the NHS as an example, it could have one cloud app for patient records, one for financial management, and one for collaboration between specialists from different departments across the country, enabling them to discuss critical cases and ultimately deliver patient care in a more effective and efficient manner. As the NHS continues to digitise all medical records, cloud would also make records accessible across hospitals and practices as required, ensuring a single consistent view of a patient.
With various applications being used on different cloud platforms, it is crucial to ensure the whole system is integrated and works together. As the government is looking to boost the public sector’s multi-cloud setup, it will require a data integration platform that makes it easy to re-host if decisions prove to be incorrect or suit the needs of the sector. A data integration system that is attuned for a multi-cloud approach will make it a lot easier to process and migrate data and for staff to access the applications they need, when they need them.
A multi-cloud strategy can give the control of data back to the public sector. It may take some time and experimentation, but it enables any stakeholder of the public sector, whether it be the NHS, schools or local councils, to shape their cloud services around their specific needs, and switch it up when the situation warrants it.
The cloud has already provided greater flexibility and agility to the private sector, now we can see how it could also benefit the public sector as well. It is time to leave legacy attitudes to IT systems behind and really drive forward the move towards multi-cloud.