The United Kingdom’s “Cloud First” policy began in 2013. Under it, the Government Digital Service (GDS) mandated that all central government departments consider public cloud (off-site data storage managed by a public service provider) as the first option for data storage and digital services. It encouraged the rest of the public sector to do the same.
Given the many technological innovations since 2013, organizations now realize that an all public-cloud-one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the only, or even best, way to obtain maximum benefits. That’s why regulators are re-evaluating the policy to determine if a hybrid or “Cloud Smart” option makes more sense. Such an approach could also include assistance from external developers (see https://www.bairesdev.com/technologies/java-development-company/).
Here we explore what a switch from Cloud First to Cloud Smart actually means.
The initial Cloud First policy made government organizations more aware of the benefits of moving to the cloud. In fact, the initial push resulted in more than 6 billion dollars in cloud purchases via the G-Cloud (primary public cloud option) procurement framework from 2013 through the fall of 2019, 81% of which came from the central government.
These numbers aren’t surprising, given the many benefits of utilizing the cloud for accessing, managing, and storing data. Cloud use reduces the need for computer hardware, enabling organizations to shift this expense from CAPEX to more predictable OPEX. Cloud is designed as a flexible service, allowing organizations to make adjustments as needs and options change, as opposed to committing to a fixed long-term capital asset that may become outdated.
Cloud services allow teams to quickly bring new applications online at a lower cost than on-premise development. Plus, with a pay-as-you-go subscription model, teams can purchase only what they need. Public cloud use is more cost-effective for “cold” data that doesn’t need to be accessed frequently.
However, to maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides, managers should take some necessary steps with any cloud service, such as changing procurement processes. To obtain the best value from the cloud, users must employ skilled and careful management of all subscriptions and licenses. Each IT team should include an individual who takes responsibility for understanding and overseeing the licensing and usage of software systems and cloud services.
Another strategy is to avoid long-term contracts. Being locked into multi-year cloud service contracts may not be cost-effective despite any lower up-front pricing, as it restrains the ability to respond quickly to organizational changes. Cloud services and innovations are developing so rapidly that companies and government departments must be able to take advantage of new offerings as they become available.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is cost-effective if only used when a team actively needs it and turns it on or off as appropriate. As with licenses, each IT team should include someone who has the authority to turn SaaS on and off, based on changing usage needs.
Some specific downsides are associated with only using the public cloud:
- Unexpected costs. A company could end up with unexpected high costs for the “hot” data that’s accessed often, as some public providers charge according to frequency of access and usage volume.
- Security concerns. Within the public cloud, users have less control over who has access to sensitive data. This situation is set against the backdrop of stringent government data regulations creating the need to maintain more control over data for government records.
- No one-size-fits-all. Within a single company or organization, public cloud solutions may not meet the needs of all users, as different departments can have varying approaches to data use and storage.
Cloud Smart Alternative
The recent trend is toward a hybrid or Cloud Smart alternative, balancing a mix of on-premise, outsourcing, and public and private cloud. This approach allows users to change the mix and shift between public and private as demands evolve or innovations emerge. With a “cloud-appropriate” outlook, users can choose cloud services not just because they’re in the cloud, but because they offer the best solution for a specific set of digital requirements.
A hybrid approach also offers:
- Flexibility to transfer data and services between public and private clouds as needed
- Scalability to accommodate a growing number of users
- The ability to have greater control over sensitive data, either on-premise or with a private cloud provider
- Ability to take advantage of new cloud and non-cloud technologies that may be a better fit for the organization
- No unexpected charges for hot data that requires frequent access
- Cost efficiencies from moving only cold data to the public cloud
Cloud-First provided a sound foundation for recognizing the benefits of cloud computing and shifting government departments over to cloud use. But a Cloud Smart approach can offer more flexibility, allowing users to consider the full spectrum of options and innovations to achieve the best value and security based on their organization’s specific needs.