Trustmarque recently hosted a roundtable to discuss the issues facing public sector suppliers and their customers in the wake of government budget cuts.
Participants included the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Hampshire Health Informatics Service, HQ Land Forces and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, as well as Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), the British Computer Society and First Base Technologies.
Some of the key questions raised included: How will investments be funded if a department has no additional ICT budget to invest? How will resources be shared if security levels change in a non-linear fashion? Technology topics covered included the stalwart cloud computing, creating a modern IT infrastructure and the benefits of consolidation, virtualisation and hosted solutions.
Ian Osborne, director of digital systems at KTN, said: “While there is considerable appetite to consolidate, update, reduce costs and carbon emissions and so on, for many, migrating to a virtualised, commodity and modern infrastructure is simply not a practical option as there is limited budget available to invest in new technologies. This puts considerable stress on the need to update existing systems which will underpin the government programme to reduce the deficit.
“Organisations want to deliver more services online to reduce cost and energy usage, with almost 70 per cent of UK citizens online sharing resources and infrastructure that is required to achieve this. Most organisations only use about 10 per cent of their server capability. Something has got to give. The only way we can move forward in the ‘Big Society’ vision is to change our server usage.”
David Hardy, a representative from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, added that his challenge was to sweat existing assets, seek out software and systems with unnecessary functional duplication and utilise the additional benefits that are frequently tucked away out of sight.
Other cost-cutting and efficiency measures undertaken include server virtualisation, migration to VoIP for internal telephony, migrating from legacy WAN technologies and consolidating comms suppliers.
Lee McKenzie, a representative from HQ Land Forces, added: “It is all about making the most of reducing budgets and getting more out of the money that we have already spent by seeing how we can optimise our existing infrastructure.”
The roundtable also covered risk mitigation, data protection and security, and Peter Wood from the British Computer Society said he believed awareness of security in government had positively soared:
“Nowadays there are fines for councils and public sector organisations if computers are found to be unencrypted,” he said. “However, public sector funding for security investment and infrastructure is still tied. Where cloud is concerned many councils have to use a UK datacentre and there are some very sensitive areas such as Child Support and Social Services that would need robust security processes in place before outsourcing to the cloud.”
Trustmarque’s services and solutions director, David Marriott Lodge, added: “Cloud offers scalability within certain boundaries – we can definitely see the benefit of cloud but it has to start with understanding what you have and how you are using it before you can start outsourcing to a third-party provider.
"Plus it presents a cultural barrier which organisations need to overcome. The majority of software we sell is still on-premises, the uptake on change is slow – one of the main issues is that organisations want things to be simple and they want to keep everything in one place.”
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