Austerity is here to stay, even as the economy grows councils are having to keep tight leash on spending, while proactively looking for efficiency improvements. At the same time, the digital by default agenda has thrown new pressure on local authority IT teams.
This has been one of the main drivers which has led to more local authorities opting for cloud-based managed service agreements - where they offload the day-to-day management of their IT to a partner.
Not only can this model help to reduce the costs associated with investing in and maintaining their own server equipment, but it can also free up the time of IT teams to concentrate on delivering and enhancing digital services for citizens.
However, before the economic downturn, many councils were less reluctant to invest in their own IT infrastructure – with some even going so far as to acquire their own datacentres. For those that did, the cost of maintaining equipment and up-time in a climate of austerity and service transformation presents a significant challenge.
Thankfully some fantastic examples of lateral thinking are emerging, which suggest that for some authorities, the investments they previously made could hold the key to new revenue streams.
Cloud computing is based around services like data back-up, disaster recovery or mobile working being securely hosted on an off-site server. Where councils already have datacentres in place they could market spare capacity to other public organisations, forming their own shared service agreements, or even small businesses based in the local area.
This is a model which we’ve helped Salford City Council to put in place. By assisting the council to structure its datacentre more efficiently, Salford has cut its back-office costs and been able to focus on freeing-up capacity and marketing it as a pay as you go service for local businesses – effectively acting like a micro version of a commercial cloud provider, like amazon or google. The end user SMEs have gained access to a level of flexible and secure cloud-based IT that may have been cost-prohibitive to invest in themselves, while the council has opened up a new source of revenue.
As authorities continue to embrace digital by default, IT equipment will be a necessary investment for many. Hopefully, projects like Salford City Council’s demonstrate that strategic spend and lateral thinking can mean that the delivery of better, digital public services does not need to come at a premium.
Paul Shannon is managed services MD at IT infrastructure specialist ANS