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Scotland declares ‘cloud first’ for public sector

10/06/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

The Scottish Government has declared a ‘cloud first’ policy for the country’s public sector, along with publishing a range of guidance to support the policy.

Cumulus clouds in fair weather

In a move that reflects the established position of the Government Digital Service (GDS) in Whitehall, Scotland’s Digital Directorate has said that public cloud should be the default model as a platform for user services, with organisations considering this before other options.

Ross Lyon, cloud product manager in the directorate, said: “The disruption resulting from the Covid 19 pandemic has changed the behaviour of government organisations, businesses and consumers.

“Many more people are using cloud based applications and infrastructure that help them to work remotely. Indeed, all of the major public cloud providers have reported significant increases in use and expenditure on cloud.”

The directorate has outlined a number of expected benefits for public authorities in Scotland, including environmental sustainability, flexibility, cost-effectiveness, reduction in delivery time for new services, reduced risk, increased resilience and stronger cyber security.

But it has qualified the move with the statement: “We do not advocate a wholesale migration to cloud.  While public cloud services will be the appropriate choice in most cases, organisations should evaluate alternatives in exceptional circumstances.”

Standards and configuration

It has backed the declaration with a set of supporting principles that include designing for the cloud with a standards based approach, looking for services that can be configured rather than try to customise them, and following the GDS advice on avoiding vendor lock-in.

They also include security by design, taking a responsible approach to the use of data, building the relevant skills, being prepared to share, and aiming for an efficient management of the services.

Along with these is the need to continuously monitor cloud usage and be ready to amend it frequently to optimise the costs and performance.

Throughout the guidance the directorate refers to the Digital Scotland Service Standards as a touchpoint.

It has also produced a primer on the use of cloud services that covers different models, security, how the cloud can change things, payments for services and the skills required to design, build and operate them.

Lyon said the directorate is looking for feedback from the cloud community to help it iterate and add to the resources.

The move follows an increasing focus on the use of cloud in Scottish public services. Last year the Scottish Government launched a cloud procurement framework and the directorate set up a centre of excellence and cloud community.

Image by Michael Jastremski - legacy.openphoto.net, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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