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UK local councils favour hybrid cloud as legacy IT management needs persist

Research into the IT buying habits of more than 300 local authorities in the UK reveals a growing appetite for using cloud, as councils continue to grapple with managing and maintaining legacy IT

Most local councils in the UK are adopting hybrid cloud strategies as a way of working round the constraints of their legacy IT estate to achieve better business agility and efficiency.

That’s according to the Local government cloud adoption 2018 report, co-authored by public sector-focused cloud provider EduServ and IT trade body Socitm, which saw 373 of the UK’s 418 local councils quizzed on their on- and off-premise usage.

Of those questioned, 64% said their organisation favours the hybrid cloud method of consuming IT resources, with 81% relying on one or more datacentres to host their workloads and applications.

Despite the ongoing reliance on in-house datacentres, the report suggests local authorities are steadily building out their use of cloud resources, with 72% saying they use the public sector G-Cloud framework to procure off-premise services.

Also, 40% of participants said they have a formal cloud adoption strategy in place, and 62% said they store data in the cloud – up from 52% in 2016, when Eduserv last carried out research on this topic.

“The standout finding from this research is that councils are in no way averse to cloud technology,” said Andy Powell, CTO of Eduserv, in the report. “While not the dominant IT model, a growing majority are using cloud in some way and more plan to do so.

“However, for things to move faster, it is clear that council CIOs need to acknowledge and overcome barriers caused by culture, skills and the way that councils budget for IT.”

Although the hybrid cloud approach allows councils to make use of existing on-premise investments while tapping into cloud for agility and efficiency reasons, balancing the needs of both environments can be tricky, and could be holding back innovation overall in local government, the report says.

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“Speaking to IT leaders for this research, it’s clear that there is a cloud-first intent across local government and a real hunger to use the new applications and infrastructure that cloud offers in order to make a real difference to the way councils operate,” said Powell.

“Unfortunately, a legacy IT hangover caused by outstanding contractual obligations and the demands of maintaining or upgrading old systems so they remain fit for purpose, is slowing the rate at which councils can move forward.

“To better equip their organisations for a digital future, it is clear that councils need to move quickly to formalise their approach to cloud IT, educate their organisations about the business outcomes that cloud can deliver and shift focus from maintaining IT to partnering the business through that change.”

Martin Ferguson, director of policy and research at Socitm, backed this view, but aired concerns about how this could be holding back local authorities from tapping into all the benefits cloud can bring.

“It’s concerning that some councils are still hesitant to adopt cloud technology, especially when you consider the benefits that come from it in terms of efficiency, productivity, modernisation, agility and unlocking legacy IT,” he said.

“I would urge local authorities to rationalise software portfolios and to put in place intelligent policies to embrace cloud offerings for the benefit of citizens.”

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