The last two years have been defined by great strides in digital transformation strategies as public sector businesses are moving away from legacy and not fit-for-purpose systems in favour of embracing the cloud and all its benefits.
Updating IT infrastructures and adopting new technologies should go in hand in hand with the implementation of better cybersecurity measures to ensure networks and sensitive data are protected from eager cybercriminals. Yet, this is a challenge for public sector organisations as they were not built or developed from the outset with security in mind. On top of that, the effectiveness of security depends on multiple variables, including how efficiently suppliers provide updates and how frequently councils and other bodies apply them.
While public sector organisations continue on their digital transformation journeys, cyberattacks are getting more sophisticated and more frequent. Thus, strengthening cybersecurity strategies can no longer be put on the backburner. With businesses moving their infrastructures to public and private cloud, adopting cloud-first approaches and worrying about stringent data privacy regulations, our blog offers best practices for successful and secure digitalisation and cloud adoption.
Creating a cloud-first approach
What is a cloud-first approach?
The term ‘cloud-first’ has been floating around for quite some time, but what do we mean by that?
In its simplest terms, it means to consider cloud-based technology before all other options.
In 2013 the UK government specified that all central government departments take a cloud-first approach on any new technology purchases unless they could demonstrate that a different approach was more economical or provided a better value proposition.
Slow uptake of cloud in public sector
Gartner predicts that more than 85% of organisations will embrace a cloud-first approach by 2025 and will not be able to fully execute their digital strategies without the use of cloud-native architectures and technologies. However, despite the prediction and mandatory government policy, the cloud uptake has been fairly slow amongst some councils. The overall adoption rates are indeed increasing year-on-year but they’re not quite there when compared to their private-sector counterparts.
The core issues around full cloud adoption are common ones and linked to the broader digital transformation plans. The main reason for the slow uptake and the one often heard, is gaining the buy-in of senior leadership to see and understand the vision of how digital can transform outcomes and achieve savings for the council. In addition, it is challenging to overcome the skills and capability barriers in how councils buy technology. With local governments holding vast amounts of data (that is only said to increase in the coming years), perceived security concerns about the cloud continue to remain a major restraining factor.
Benefits of cloud-first strategy
Adopting a cloud-first strategy might feel like a big jump from traditional set-ups, however, it offers many tangible benefits to public sector organisations:
- Scalability – As public sector businesses grow and their data volumes increase, there is a greater need to scale the resources. The cloud presents businesses with a unique opportunity to scale as needed, without the stress or the need for any infrastructure redesign.
- Always-on availability – Major cloud service providers have service level agreements (SLAs) of at least 99.9% availability, meaning the possibility of downtime is slim to none. This is important as the average cost of network downtime could be as high as $5,600 per minute, as evidenced by Gartner, from lost productivity, revenue and brand reputation.
- Accessibility – With today’s businesses embracing remote and hybrid working models, cloud-first strategies ensure every employee can access and share files when they’re away from the office. This improves work-life balance and subsequently employee satisfaction who value more flexibility post-pandemic.
- Cost savings – Cloud computing comes at a much cheaper cost than renting or owning physical server spaces, especially during today’s record-high inflation and energy prices. Cloud costs are transparent and hidden costs are rare. Companies can make further savings by not having to buy or repair servers, decommission or dispose of outdated hardware.
- Quick and easy to get up and running – With a cloud migration strategy in mind and a trusted partner to assist you, public sector organisations can start seeing the benefits of the cloud quickly.
- Reduce human error created by manual data management and backups. It’s easy to forget to schedule a backup of your data, delete a file you wish you could bring back, or make an accidental file change you can’t go back in time and undo. With cloud backup, you can prevent each of these scenarios, keeping your data close at hand and always available.
- Improved recovery abilities - Using the cloud to store and back up your files means that your data can always be recovered. Whether there’s a computer failure, hardware failure, natural disaster, theft, computer virus, or other data loss event, having your data saved in the cloud will allow you to recover it, whereas physical device storage will not.
How secure is the cloud?
For years, public sector organisations have been hesitant to make the jump to the cloud because of security. Yet, security has moved on leaps and bounds since cloud-first arose.
In fact, the data saved with cloud service providers may likely be safer than the information stored in a computer's hard drive. The security measures undertaken by large providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are more robust and powerful. Unlike in-house IT teams who have to juggle a myriad of concerns and tasks, the sole role of cloud hosts is to carefully monitor security, making it much safer. Also, the servers are usually located in warehouses that most workers don’t have access to, with several layers of controls, the files stored on cloud servers are encrypted, therefore far harder for cybercriminals to access.
Additionally, cloud providers conduct regular and consistent security updates. This means that public sector organisations and their security teams don’t have to worry about forgetting to run an update or employing an IT expert to constantly maintain your servers.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the growing usage of artificial intelligence tools by cloud service providers, the purpose of which is to help better protect the data. Today’s advanced AI capabilities can run the first level of security analysis, with reliable algorithms being now able to identify possible system vulnerabilities and alert the team before the hacker causes any damage.
Finally, it’s redundancy. Unfortunately, power outages do occasionally happen, but the biggest cloud providers are prepared for such eventualities. If one of the servers goes down, you can still access your files from a backup one, ensuring business continuity.
The bottom line is, that if you host yourself, the problem is in your hands. But if you work with a cloud solution provider, they’re there to take care of the laborious task of keeping your system up and running, freeing up your time to concentrate on more business-critical tasks.
Understanding SaaS security
What is Software as a Service?
Software as a Service, or SaaS for short, is a way of delivering applications over the internet – as a service. So, instead of installing software on your desktop, you simply access it online.
SaaS business models are ideal for organisations that want a platform that will grow with them, provide strong security measures and easy access no matter where they are – as long as there is an internet connection. Below we’ve listed more benefits.
Software as a Service benefits
- Scalability – As SaaS solutions reside in cloud environments, they offer the ability to scale up and down as and when the needs of the business change.
- Seamless integrations – SaaS solutions can be easily integrated with other SaaS offerings to improve operational efficiency and customer experiences.
- Flexible pricing - Businesses can choose to pay for the service on a monthly subscription basis or through a pay-as-you-go model, which could make it cheaper as you’d only use services you need. Maintenance costs are reduced as well.
- Always up-to-date – SaaS providers take care of the updates for you, on a regular basis, which positively impacts security.
- Operational management – No installation, equipment updates or traditional licensing management so that organisations can be up and running quickly, without any issues that could possibly get in the way of deployment.
Modernising IT infrastructure and adopting the cloud is only one crucial part of digitalisation journeys that public sector businesses embark on. Updating tools is another one, hence more are turning to SaaS tools that live in the cloud for more efficient data sharing, greater data visibility and management, and security. Organisations switching to SaaS can outsource the operations and the continuous upgrade of applications to the applications provider, relieving them of the burden of IT security in its entirety.
Keeping cybersecurity central to digital transformations
For public sector organisations accelerating their digital transformation plans, embracing cloud and adopting cloud-first strategies can help them gain greater resilience and operational efficiencies that ultimately improves the bottom line. Such benefits would be much appreciated across local governments in all parts of the country, especially with the current IT and data skills shortages.
With the security advancements made to the cloud over the years, organisations can be better protected against more sophisticated cyber threats whilst ensuring compliance with appropriate data regulations. That significantly relieves pressure on IT professionals, especially if they partner with a trusted and reliable provider like Yotta who works as a true extension of their team. Then, they can confidently move forward with their digitalisation strategies, with cybersecurity as the backbone that will help them succeed.
Andy Peart, Marketing Director, Yotta