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Almost half of UK's largest councils lack cloud strategy, Eduserv FOI study reveals

Eduserv study into cloud take-up inside local authorities suggests council CIOs are still over-invested in on-premise technology

The slow take-up of cloud services in 100 of the UK’s largest councils by revenue is laid bare in a report by public sector-focused non-for-profit IT provider Eduserv.

The company fired off Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 430 local authorities across the UK, questioning how they are using cloud in their organisations, before breaking down the results in a series of reports authored by Eduserv principal analyst Jos Creese.

The first examines the responses of the UK’s 100 largest councils, with the feedback revealing that 44% of these councils have no cloud adoption policy in place.

“[This suggests] many existing IT strategies pre-date or do not include cloud delivery models,” wrote Creese.

“This is consistent with other Eduserv research which suggests that, even if a policy for cloud adoption exists, many councils are still unsure how to use cloud safely in practice without risking data security.”

That view may go some way to explaining the high proportion of councils (63%) that said they operate two or more private datacentres, a finding Creese described in the report as “worrying”.

“Although it can be assumed that some of these may be small, nonetheless, given the overheads and risks of owning and running a professional datacentre service, this means there is a still an opportunity for councils to reduce cost and risk through off-site hosting using cloud or third-party centres,” wrote Creese.

The research also shows 66% of councils use third-party datacentres to host their IT workloads, while 90% favour the use of on-premise data stores.

However, the research also revealed that 73% of councils use cloud-based storage in some form or other.

Modern cloud strategy will help overcome challenges

Speaking to Computer Weekly about the report’s findings, Creese said there are number of reasons why local authorities may be reluctant to give up on their on-premise storage repositories.

“Inflexible and legacy IT contracts are a problem, but there are also issues such as retaining integration across systems, controlling federated identity management, and fear over data security and cloud resilience,” he said.

“These are legitimate challenges which are best addressed in an effective cloud adoption policy and a modern IT strategy which expressly deals with the risks and migration.”  

The low levels of cloud use in local councils is an area the government has repeatedly outlined its commitment to addressing through the G-Cloud procurement framework, where around 77% of sales are sourced from central government.

Read more about local government and cloud

In terms of what needs to be done to address this, Creese said the supplier community has an important role to play, particularly when it comes to being open and transparent about what moving to the cloud is likely to entail.

“Other research has suggested some cloud suppliers overplay the benefits and downplay the issues [of moving to the cloud]. This is not helpful,” he said.

“A reputable and responsible supplier will help clients to plan for the migration to a cloud service, identifying and helping to in place risk management.

“In particular, it is important to know where your data resides, how it can be recovered, and so ensuring it is in an appropriate location for the level of data sensitivity,” he added.

Read more on Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)