Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

A cloud with a real silver lining

  • 1 Comment

Six east-London boroughs are working on a way to halve the cost of email by using cloud computing.

Email might sound like a trivial item of expenditure, until you consider that Newham LBC has 5,000 active mailboxes that cost £32 a year each, because of the software, hardware, back-up systems and IT staff needed to run them.

That’s £160,000 a year, and the plan offers a potential annual saving of £80,000 just for Newham if it comes off.

This is only one example of the savings that could be achieved if cloud computing is successfully adopted by local government.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing simply means that someone else hosts your computer applications for you. The host, such as Microsoft or IBM, makes the applications available to the user over the internet.

The hosts would use their buying power to achieve the lowest prices for their clients, while the local authorities would need far fewer data centres and, ultimately, fewer IT staff.

A host must be able to guarantee that data will not be stored in a data centre outside the UK’s jurisdiction, as law requires that certain types of data cannot be held abroad

Mark Jansen

Working examples of cloud computing include the email and spreadsheet services offered by Google, or Salesforce.com, the sales management system used by private sector companies.

The East London Solutions consortium was formed to look at ways that the local boroughs could collaborate to save money.

Leading the way

Newham is leading the ICT work stream. Geoff Connell, acting divisional director for ICT, explains that the consortium is working with Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to see if they can come up with a cloud system that would deliver the 50% savings.

“I am sure they can do it: they are extremely interested,” he says.

“Although a commitment is some way off, Mr Connell adds that “most of the big IT providers see this as the way they’ll be delivering services in future”.

The consortium, whose other members are Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge,Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest LBCs, has looked at several providers.

However, a host must be able and willing to guarantee that data will not be stored in a data centre outside the UK’s jurisdiction, as the law requires that certain types of data cannot be held abroad. Microsoft is willing to guarantee that the data will be held here.

Mr Connell adds that Havering, where he is also interim head of business systems, is considering the transfer of its procurement, payroll and finance IT to a cloud, as it prepares to upgrade its Oracle on Demand Enterprise Resource Planning system over the next year.

“The question is, will it be at the right price, and will it offer the right level of flexibility?” Mr Connell says.

Pushing forward

Central government is pushing hard for local authorities to adopt cloud. Martin Bellamy, who joined the Cabinet Office in July to lead the drive towards cloud computing, and who holds the unwieldy title of director in the Office of the Chief Government Information Officer, put his plans to a conference of IT managers in January.

“The UK public sector could be a leader in the deployment of cloud computing. The capability benefits, as well as the cost benefits, are just too big to ignore.” Mr Bellamy even predicted that within 15 years “all computing and storage will be done within the cloud”.

Concerns

However, most councils seem less enthusiastic than those in east London.”I don’t know of any local authority that has committed itself completely,” says Chris Morton, a consultant at the Society of Information Technology Management.

If you work in IT and you expect the role to stay the same year after year, you are sadly deluded

Geoff Connell, acting divisional director for ICT, Newham Council

Security concerns and the fear of job losses are the two biggest obstacles, Mr Morton says. He emphasises that he is confident that the hosts can guarantee the safety of sensitive data. “It’s an objection people put forward so they don’t have to do it,” he says.

Yet Mr Morton has no doubt that cloud is a threat to local authority IT jobs. “For the head of IT in a local authority, with 30 or even 50 people reporting to them, it is like turkeys voting for Christmas because, ultimately, that’s what it’s about - people reducing expenses, and that includes getting rid of people. It’s brutal, but it’s true.”

But Mr Connell points out that standing still is not option. “If you work in IT and you expect the role to stay the same year after year, you are sadly deluded,” he says. “The role will change all the time, and we can add far more value if we are in the role of business analysis than if we’re just managing bits of tin.”

Mark Jansen, writer on IT

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • I was really interested to read Mark Jansen's piece A Cloud With a Real Silver Lining.

    After leaving Somerset County Council last August, I set up civicloud.com to advise local authorities and other public bodies on the huge opportunities to create efficiencies and make savings through cloud computing.

    Nine months ago, few of the local authorities we were talking to had even heard of the cloud. Now everyone thinks that they know what it is.

    Unfortunately some of the messages are now misleading.

    Most of the big system integrators have re-badged their hosting services as 'cloud' but they are still just hosting with a few new bells and lights.

    True, global cloud - such as that provided by Google - offers huge economies of scale and therefore much greater savings to the customer. It is also a greater force for organisational transformation."

    Alan Jones, CEO, civicloud.com

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.