IT outages can affect all businesses, no matter their size or the sector in which they operate. For the public sector though, IT downtime poses significant problems. Bodies such as the NHS, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office are required to consistently provide an excellent service – so if systems go down, critical services for millions of people could be lost.
While upgrades to IT systems might need to be made, internal change in such public-facing organisations will always be subject to widespread scrutiny. The negative press around the deployment of Universal Credit, for example, highlights the potential backlash that organisations could face when systems fail.
But taking a risk-averse attitude can also stifle productive digital change. Anxieties around risk and security of sensitive information mean that many public sector departments are holding firm to legacy software and infrastructure, rather than embracing new technologies.
This goes some lengths to explaining why the UK Government’s Cloud First Policy has had very limited uptake. Introduced in 2013 as part of the Technology Code of Practice, the policy states that government organisations must consider public cloud first for data storage and software use. Government reports explain that using the cloud is cheaper, quicker and mitigates risk in comparison to building and running systems in-house.
Despite these advantages, only 30% of NHS trusts had adopted any level of public cloud in their organisation, according to a 2018 report. Over 5 years on from the policy’s introduction, these figures are disconcerting – particularly as senior industry figures, such as the head of NHS Digital, have emphasised the cloud’s potential to affect the immediacy of service-provision by reducing waiting times for patients and paperwork for doctors.
It is high time, therefore, for a closer consideration of cloud computing by public sector IT professionals. One such model that can help them take the next steps with confidence is Integration Capability as a Service (ICaaS), a cloud-based integration offering. ICaaS is a fantastic exemplar of the public cloud’s potential, as demonstrated by these 3 key benefits:
Many government systems will be dealing with a fair chunk of confidential information relating to the 66 million constituents that they work for. It is well-recognised that legacy systems have limited capacities though and are organised in a fragmented manner.
This undoubtedly means that updates cannot take place effectively and data risks being lost in a maze of programmes. Introducing further on-site software and hardware for integration purposes runs the risk of compounding issues already present in the system.
Rather than investing in a yet to be built, and thus unproven, platform, ICaaS is completed using tried and tested integration flows and adapters with the ability to manage all the necessary security and endpoint data protocols. During integration, sensitive information can be encrypted to maintain confidentiality.
One main reason cited for avoiding the cloud is concern around poor return on investment – with many already working on limited budgets, organisations are worried that they won’t see value for money.
In the case of cloud-based integration, this is far from the case, however. In contrast to the big lump sums charged at deployment by on-site vendors, ICaaS works on a subscription model basis, with a fee paid each month for rental of services.
The hassle and cost of on-site maintenance is removed too as developers complete updates remotely. All this circumvents the need to procure technology, hire consultants, pay developers’ salaries and annual software licensing fees. Money from limited budgets can therefore be re-directed to the digital front-end or other areas.
System downtime is a nightmare. Government departments sit within a huge inter-reliant network and pulling the plug on any system can have massive repercussions on individual departments and budgets.
ICaaS providers are aware of this and make a point to undertake deployment as rapidly as possible. Integration can take as little as 48 hours, minimising risks and producing results with immediacy. Furthermore, upgrades and security patches are applied continuously, preventing the need for any future offline periods.
These massive pros for the cloud highlight a fantastic yet untapped resource for the public sector. Digital transformation doesn’t need to be a daunting, risk-laden chore. Cloud-based integration demonstrates the ease with which government IT professionals can start their journey towards technological peace of mind.