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GDS stands by ‘cloud first’ policy


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Government Digital Service (GDS) has decided to stand by the policy of government making cloud the first lead option for government in refreshing data storage and digital services.

Its head of technology policy Rhiannon Lawson and lead technology advisor Tom March have said that ‘cloud first’ will remain a flagship policy following the completion of a recent round of user research.

It reviewed departments’ experiences of looking at the use of public cloud under the policy that has stood since 2013. This prompted speculation that it could lead to a significant change in the policy, but now Lawson and March have effectively scotched the idea.

“Our plan, as informed by user research, is to keep the policy as it stands,” they said. “It’s not being revised, reissued or renamed.

“Instead, we’re looking at ways to better meet users' needs around cloud, predominantly by providing more detailed guidance and support.”

The GDS research on the issue involved conversations with civil servants in relevant roles from 14 organisations.

Important role

“A lot of user research participants told us how important following the cloud first policy has been to helping them build modern services and transform their organisations,” Lawson and March said.

“And we’ve heard how moving to the cloud has helped organisations to achieve significant efficiencies over their previous hosting arrangements.”

They added that the policy aligns with guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre.

Some organisations, such as the Foods Standards Agency, have fully moved to the public cloud while others, including the Ministry of Defence, have adopted a hybrid, multi-cloud strategy.

Lawson and March said that all the people contributing to the research understood that the policy allowed scope to develop a strategy right for their organisations, and acknowledged there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there is plenty of recognition of cloud first across government.

Need for help

They added that organisations need more help when considering different approaches to the cloud, and that GDS and the Crown Commercial Service have set up a working group to help users balance technical and commercial requirements during procurement.

They also pointed to the need for help in avoiding vendor lock-in and the benefits from hybrid or multi-cloud, and said they have started work on the relevant guidance. It should be published in the coming months.

March recently said that research had shown government organisations in favour of a centralised cloud strategy but that they were often unsure how to assess how many suppliers they should use.

Image by Jenny Jimenez, CC BY 2.0 through flickr


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