Buckinghamshire County Council aims to move to cloud infrastructure

Buckinghamshire County Council has said it plans to move as much of its IT infrastructure as possible to the cloud to help cut costs and improve services.

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Buckinghamshire County Council has reduced its number of server rooms from five to two as part of an ambitious project to move all of its infrastructure to the cloud, according to technical architect James Mansfield-Sturgess. 

In 2011 Buckinghamshire said it aimed to be 'infrastructure free' by the end of 2015. While Mansfield-Sturgess admitted it may take longer than initially hoped, he said the authority was still committed to move as much of its ICT estate as possible to the cloud.

“We will see as contracts come up for renewal. But we are committed to move as much as we can to the cloud,” he told ComputerworldUK.

Buckinghamshire joins other pioneering local authorities such as Bristol City Council, which announced plans to migrate its IT infrastructure to the cloud last August, and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which CIO Rocco Leballarte claimed to be the first UK local authority to move to a fully cloud-based infrastructure in May this year.

Rather than retire its two datacentres, Buckinghamshire could become a service provider to other public sector bodies, Mansfield-Sturgess suggested.

“We don't necessarily want it to zero [datacentres] as we could become a provider of services. If the datacentre is still fit for purpose and we can generate income from it, we could keep a small amount running in there. We could, for example, use 10 percent and rent out the remaining 90 percent,” he said.

The authority is responsible for 505,300 residents and a £333 million annual revenue budget. The IT department manages 4,500 user accounts, 3,800 PCs and over 1,000 applications, Mansfield-Sturgess explained.

The council has already reduced the number of applications by about 500, but it hopes to go further and eventually “wants the browser to be the main application our staff use”.

Buckinghamshire is using Salesforce Platform as a Service for three applications including its contract management platform and adult social care system for Prevention Matters.

Other cloud services it has adopted include SaaS project management tool Clarizen, an intranet from System Associates, an adult social care application from Northgate and a managed Lync solution from Updata.

The authority is also using software management application Snow from Civica to help understand usage levels for its various systems and applications so it can reduce the overall number, Mansfield-Sturgess said.

The council has not published savings figures but before embarking on the programme it estimated it could save 30 percent year-on-year across it ICT estate and cut spending on certain applications by as much as 80 percent.

The council is among the top 20 biggest local government spenders through G-Cloud, according to the latest figures. It is the 'preferred route' for ICT spending wherever possible, Mansfield-Sturgess said.

The council is planning to set up a new digital contact centre this summer, which will run on SaaS-based telephony, Mansfield-Sturgess added.

Offering advice to other councils, Mansfield-Sturgess said: “Be prepared to pay more to achieve overall savings, use G-Cloud if appropriate, challenge your suppliers, align corporate strategies, and don't be afraid to pause for thought.

“Finally the strategy needs to be flexible and able to adapt to changing budgets and structures.”