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In the cloud: Public sector digital reform will depend on the use of safe, efficient technology

Migration to the cloud is part of the Scottish Government’s digital transformation agenda | Alamy

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In the cloud: Public sector digital reform will depend on the use of safe, efficient technology

Migration to the cloud is an integral element in the Scottish Government’s mission to enable digital transformation in the nation’s public sector.

To this end it is encouraging organisations to undertake its Migration Readiness Assessment, which provides insights into cloud readiness and builds an action plan to close identified gaps, using the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework.

The cloud is, of course, well established as an effective, on-demand system resources, especially in terms of data storage and computing power, that avoids the need for direct active management by users.

By joining the platform, public sector organisations not only gain access to a pay-as-you-go service, identity and access management, but also benefit from a service aligned with the highest industry security standards.

What is perhaps less known is migrating doesn’t have to be as onerous or as expensive as many organisations believe, as Stephen Croke of CirrusHQ explains.

“If we’re going to see a public services transformation, there are key elements to consider,” he says. “First, efficient and safe technology exists that can help organisations harness more efficient and collaborative ways of working. This started with group meeting platforms but has evolved into document sharing and fully collaborative working: effective digital-based public services where the infrastructure is shared.”

Stephen points out, traditionally, public sector organisations would buy data centres and hardware then secure buildings to house this.

“Utilising technology in a more efficient way decouples them from those boundaries and creating those systems on components that can be reused helps organisations build better digital public services natively from the ground up.”

Stephen, who leads the CirrusHQ Business Development function and is responsible for customer engagement across the public sector, notes, however, there are barriers for companies who try to achieve this without support, including a shortage of skills, resources and finance.

“Where CirrusHQ comes in is we help organisations overcome all of these obstacles. They might have teams used to the old way of working and having data centres. I use the analogy where you’ve someone who goes to the work on a bike and, all of a sudden bikes are outlawed, and you say: ‘Hey, here’s a car!’

“You have to learn something completely new and so knowledge and skills are a challenge. So, too, is resource availability.”

CirrusHQ can support such bodies to secure skills and knowledge and, often crucially, access to specialist funding.

“We provide the means that will allow them to test and deploy at no cost to the public purse. So, we break through those three big road blocks by giving them the skills, people and time, and accessing specialist funding to get projects off the ground.”

Companies can build in the cloud, test systems and applications and gain an insight not only into how the cloud works but appreciate the user experience.

Stephen notes: “We want them to say: ‘Oh, that was easier than we thought it would be. That was cheaper. The outcome was better.’

“From the start our job is to augment their skills, give more time and provide funding budgets that help them do things right, test, build and run proof of concept in the cloud.”

Historically, technology has been built on silos that don’t talk to one another.

“The cloud sets all the data at the bottom where access is controlled but not limiting in what you can do with your data; it doesn’t matter what the applications are, as they can be configured to go through one layer to access one data pool, if you have the right credentials and the right authentication.”

Despite the acknowledged advantages, Stephen admits some organisations initially express concerns about the cloud because they believe it’s not secure.

“The fact is Amazon, for example, have more compliancy measures and accreditations in place than many public sector organisations put together from the year they started until now.

“The Scottish Government makes sure everybody who’s in the cloud is connected to the Scottish Government security platforms and services, so what’s included is multi-factor authentication, conditional access, firewalls and DDOS protection and access to a cloud security operations centre to share log files along with supporting data classified up to ‘OFFICIAL’.

“So, they’ve done all the legwork that otherwise would be really painful for public sector organisations. You can see the direction of travel.”

While the Scottish Government is keen to clearly signal that direction, until recently through its Cloud First policy, migrating to the cloud is not mandatory . . . not yet.

“Just now, we’re seeing a gradual uptake,” says Stephen. “Eventually, however, it will become the norm. What the Scottish Government is saying to the public sector is it has designed and built its cloud platform for Government and public sector organisations to provide simplified access to cloud technologies.

“It’s still up to the organisation what to do and when but a queue is forming, and organisations are joining it. So now is the right time to seize the opportunity of assistance and funding to help you start planning and budgeting for what you might do in the future.”

This article was sponsored by CirrusHQ.

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