More than two fifths (44 per cent) of the UK's biggest local councils do not have a cloud strategy in place, according to Eduserv, which claims the authorities are "missing a trick".
The public sector IT supplier received Freedom of Information (FOI) request responses from 100 of the country's biggest councils and conducted its own research at an event it recently held, both of which informed its findings.
Eduserv claims that 44 per cent of the councils do not have a strategy or IT policy in place about the use of cloud, and of those, only 15 per cent say they are considering developing one.
Although more than two fifths of councils have no plan in place about the use of cloud, the research found that 73 per cent of those councils are actually using cloud in some form, suggesting many are using cloud without a strategy to back it up.
Further, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of councils could not provide a breakdown of where their data was currently held, which Eduserv claims shows that information management maturity is still low in local government.
Jos Creese, Eduserv's principal analyst and former Hampshire County Council CIO, said the fact that so few councils have a cloud strategy in place is a significant problem for a number of reasons.
"The first is that cloud as a digital platform can offer a range of benefits that local councils desperately need around lower operating costs and all sorts of things like that," he told CRN.
"It is also symptomatic of a reluctance, or a resistance, to move to a more digital way of delivering IT. I know cloud has its challenges, but any council that doesn't have some mechanism of assessing where it can use cloud – or indeed, not use cloud – is, frankly, missing a bit of a trick.
"We've found that a significant portion just don't use cloud at all and I don't think it's a tenable policy to have. More to the point, we know when we talk to suppliers who supply cloud services that their services are in every council across the country. So it's also symptomatic that the IT departments don't know what's going on across the whole estate."
"It is also symptomatic of a reluctance, or a resistance, to move to a more digital way of delivering IT."
There are more than 400 local councils across the UK, meaning it is difficult to get an accurate reflection of how much cloud services are being used across local government. But the government does break down the split of customers for its G-Cloud framework, which show that uptake is mainly among central government departments rather than local authorities.
Richard Blandford, managing director of public sector supplier Fordway, said local councils face different pressures, which affect how they use IT.
"In broad and general terms, local authorities in the main are slower adopters of cloud than other areas, although the NHS is slower than that," he said. "Central government does it through mandate but local councils and the NHS are not strictly bound by that same mandate.
"Secondly, local authorities tend to be more complex. A government department is set up to do one thing – for example HMRC is set up to collect taxes – so they run a smaller number of big systems. But local councils run a large number of small systems, and that is much harder to migrate [to cloud] because they need their own migration plans which is more complex in IT terms."
Private sector parallels
Although the Eduserv figures show that 73 per cent of councils are using cloud, Ian Moyse, sales director at Axios, said that figure is probably much higher because some users don't necessarily recognise that an application is even cloud based.
He added that many organisations in the public and private sector are adopting the technology on an ad hoc basis, which is why the amount of councils with a specific cloud strategy could be so low.
"It is not a surprise to me," he said. "In the private sector, there's a lot of the same behaviours where they have adopted cloud on a tactical basis. Then it has come to refresh and they've said 'lets's look at cloud – it's faster, let's go with this'. It is not necessarily a strategic decision, but it is a tactical fix and the right decision to achieve their aims. It is happening across the board – it's the nature of cloud adoption."
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