February 17, 2017
Why the public sector is embracing public cloud services
By: Simon Mitchell

The UK’s public sector is on course to embrace the public cloud. In a recent blog post on the subject, James Stewart, Director of Technical Architecture and Head of Technology at the Government Digital Service, indicated that the Government is ‘on a journey away from the Public Services Network’ (PSN), and encourages departments to use public cloud alternatives. Here, I’m going look at why the Government is recommending this move and how it’ll benefit public sector departments and the public.

A question of security

When selecting IT and data systems, security is of paramount importance to public sector organisations, due to the sensitivity of the citizen data they transact. As a private cloud, the PSN was historically favoured by the Government as services delivered over it were perceived to be more secure than public cloud alternatives. Even today, the one thing that could hold back adoption of the public cloud is this perception that it is less secure than private cloud.

Our message to public sector organisations is that the fear, uncertainty and doubt that have historically surrounded public cloud security capabilities need to be challenged. The reality is that public cloud services are often more secure than private alternatives, as they’re managed by a team of dedicated security professionals and constantly updated.

Significantly, central Government recognises this, as outlined in its recent guidance on the cloud: ‘cloud providers have a significant budget to maintain, patch and secure their cloud infrastructure. This means public cloud services can mitigate many common risks that often pose challenges for government organisations’.

This is the greatest benefit of public cloud services: they take the headache out of security by putting it in the hands of experts who live and breathe cybersecurity day in, day out. Indeed, the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre now asks public sector departments to ‘consider whether your IT security engineering team is going to be better or worse at security management for a major commodity product, offered - as a service - by the major vendor who developed it’. The implication is that in most cases the answer will be ‘worse’.

The benefit to citizens

With the security credentials of the public cloud correctly understood, it’s essential public sector organisations start using these services as soon as possible, as the benefits are significant. For example, there’ll undoubtedly be cost savings achieved by moving to the subscription-based payment models favoured by public cloud providers and these will prove important as the Government continues its austerity agenda. But most importantly, public cloud services free IT teams from many of the back-office functions of running commodity services. As a result, they’ll have more time to focus on innovation; in the process creating better services for the UK public.

Change is afoot

It seems likely that we’re witnessing a turning point in the provision of IT services to the public sector. However, at Accenture we recognise this change won’t be easy, and many organisations will need to go through a significant transformation. In my next blog, I’m going to look at the Government’s recommendations around how public cloud services should be securely deployed, and outline Accenture’s thoughts on how best you can manage your journey to the cloud.

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