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Councils warned to plan before switching to cloud-based data

Local councils and other public sector organisations have been warned to do proper background research before switching to the cloud or internet data systems in a new report released this week.

Research conducted by Brunel University found that while moving to the cloud proved beneficial to authorities, the switch was often made too quickly, leading to the cloud being left vulnerable to cyber-attack.

Many authorities are being pushed to move from in-house IT services to using internet-based providers amidst pressure to cut costs. Two councils, Warwickshire CC and the London Borough of Hillingdon both announced plans to make the switch back in 2012.

In 2011, government strategists forecast that changing to a shared G-cloud, or government cloud, could yield savings of £3.2bn due to costs being spread among organisations in the shared server.

However, many council leaders say that the move could lead to a lack of data ownership and a loss of control and governance due to a “grey area” of who has access to the information.

The study looked at three councils who had made the change and discovered that when systems were altered too rapidly, data was left at risk of attack, as one authority was instantly targeted by hackers.

Dr Uthayasankar Sivarajah, from Brunel University London, a member of the research team, stated that the findings carried messages for both central and local government with regards to changing to cloud-based technology.

“One of the authorities faced an immediate security breach that caused chaos,” said the lecturer in operations and information systems management. “Data was accessed illegally by an unauthorised third party and the private sector cloud provider blamed human error.

“There are huge black holes between what the councils are trying to do and what they are achieving.

“The biggest lesson to councils is that the right person needs to drive and lead the implementation and sell it to workers.”

Dr Sivarajah added that at operational level, councils could see real benefits in cost savings, but also warned that it was only early days and was therefore difficult to know what the long-term impact of the change could be.

“That may take 10 years to find out. It might reduce the headcount in IT departments, but I can’t see it cutting out the need for them altogether,” he concluded.


Denis   25/04/2017 at 12:46

I am sorry, let me get this straight: “The biggest lesson to councils is that the right person needs to drive and lead the implementation and sell it to workers.” Is this the biggest lesson of the research paper? That the "Right Person" should do the transformation? As opposed to the "wrong person" suitable for all other council jobs, I presume... It remains hilarious in the detail as well - turns out Cloud can also be breached! Of course. The point is, that true IaaS cloud, when used correctly tends to offer more security that a perimeter based traditional on-premise approach, for lower costs, with much greater flexibility... Is it 100% secure by default out of the box for every use? No of course not. Nothing is. What kind of research was this, why is in 7 years late, and what will take 10 years to discover? Also, cutting out the need for IT departments? This was (nor is it now) ever the goal of using Cloud. The goal was to get IT departments to perform the essential function of connecting users with the right technology, architecting and helping the business to be more efficient, and to evolve. Cloud enables the IT department to focus on that, rather than building, repairing, patching and upgrading servers, with no time left to worry about what those servers are running...

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