A change in mindset is needed for local councils to adopt the cloud and abandon irrelevant concerns over data security, according to Peterborough City Council's IT manager.
In an interview with V3 at the Okta European Cloud Summit, Richard Godfrey ICT strategy, infrastructure and programme manager at the council, said many IT teams lack clear knowledge of the cloud and are too quick to dismiss it.
"There's a lot of IT staff who don't really understand cloud technology, so the easy answer is just to say no. I've had to work quite hard with my IT department to get them to start to look properly [at cloud]," said Godfrey.
Peterborough Council’s own cloud adoption has involved a major migration of its internal infrastructure to off-premise cloud services.
This included the use of Box for document management, Salesforce for customer relationship management, Chatter for enterprise-grade social networking, and Okta to manage secure identification and access to cloud services.
However, getting to this stage had not been easy having encountered opposition to the cloud at the council. Godfrey said IT teams need to be more open to cloud computing and need to bypass traditional and limited approaches to IT management.
"It's a mindset change. It's very difficult and it's hard for people who've worked anywhere really for a long period of time," he explained.
Godfrey went on to describe how some IT teams dismiss cloud out of hand due to the belief that keeping data on internal servers is the most secure option in their eyes, despite the investment in security made by major cloud service providers which outstrips that of any legacy internal infrastructures.
"Why do we have this kind of arrogance, that says, 'If I've got control of it I know my data is secure'?" he asked, adding, "Guys like Box and Salesforce – they spend millions every year on making sure they're secure, because if they didn't, big firms wouldn't be putting their information into [the cloud].
"Because a lot of what they hold is probably more valuable than what I hold, so why do we think that they can use it but we can't in local government," he said.
Godfrey detailed that to get local councils to adopt the cloud, strong leadership is needed: "[Cloud] really just takes someone with some get up and go to say 'we need to look at this properly'. We can't just keep saying, 'no let's keep it all on premise then we know it's secure,' because the most secure networks in the world can still be infiltrated."
He continued: "Until someone has sat down and gone through what the data is and what we've done to mitigate the risks, and work through that process, you [IT] can't say no."
Cloud security concerns aside, Godfrey also said councils are often reluctant to be the first to adopt cloud-based infrastructure because there are no examples to follow.
"It's also that whole argument of who else is doing it? You'll find that they [councils] don't want to be the leader, they are happy to follow," he said.
Listing some of the councils that have made the move to adopt cloud computing, including Windsor, Hounslow, Aylesbury and Bristol, Godfrey said: "There's one or two pockets now starting to be a bit more adventurous, and actually look into it, and I think what you'll then find, is some of the others will naturally follow behind."
However, Godfrey did add that there are some councils that will simply not shift their concerns or preconceptions over data security within a cloud environment.
"Some of the others will still say, 'We're not doing it,' and you can argue with them until you're blue in the face – they won't believe that their data could possibly be held more securely somewhere else," he concluded.
While some councils may be slow or simply refuse to consider cloud as an alternative to their existing IT systems, others have been keen to highlight the advantages cloud computing can bring to local government.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead recently shifted its IT infrastructure to the cloud and expects to net £2m in IT savings.
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