Peterborough City Council (PCC) is deploying Box cloud content sharing services as part of an “aggressive” cloud strategy to enable staff to work anywhere they want.
The local authority is in the process of signing off a council-wide cloud strategy, which it hopes will help staff work more flexibly and efficiently as the council faces central government funding cuts. It signed a deal with CityFibre in November to install a pure fibre network connecting up 106 council and school sites to support this.
“A key part [of the cloud strategy] is no member of staff has to be in a building because of technology. They should be able to work anywhere in the city,” said Richard Godfrey, ICT strategy, infrastructure and programme manager at PCC.
The council has bought 1,400 licences for Box’s cloud content sharing and collaboration services, which covers all its staff.
As well as the flexible working, one of the drivers for the move to Box was that the council had a server room based on site at the town hall that was reaching end of life.
“We got a quote from our IT supplier, Serco, to move to a data centre. But we’ve got a huge budget challenge and a lift and shift wasn’t giving us the flexibility to make that shift,” Godfrey said.
The main aim of Box was therefore to move out of the data centre.
“Our EMC SAN starts to expire from February 2015. We want a much smaller SAN going forward and eventually no SAN at all,” said Godfrey.
As well as the Box deal, other cloud deployments PCC is considering includes moving to a cloud CRM in its customer services function and building an FoI (Freedom of Information) application on the Force.com platform. It will then look at moving apps on its estate to the cloud.
“It’s very early days,” Godfrey said. “We’re moving bit by bit [to the cloud].”
Being able to share data in the cloud also makes it easier for the council to work collaboratively with its outsourcer partners, Godfrey said. PCC outsources its back office to Serco, its waste and parks services to Amey and highways maintenance services to Skanska.
Godfrey said: “At the moment, Amey, for example, they’ve got their own IT estate. There’s no connection between Amey and the council. We have to share information by email attachments.
“Now, Amey and the council can share information by dropping it into Box.”
In an initial phase, PCC has started moving around eight terabytes of what Godfrey referred to as “easy” data to the Box cloud. This figure is likely to increase once the security concerns around sensitive data is addressed.
“I won’t say security is a concern. It’s something we are aware of,” said Godfrey. “We are currently working with Box and consultancies to decide what we do with our IL3 data.”
“Ultimately we’d like to do everything [in the cloud],” he added. “If you take data security seriously and sensibly and do that risk analysis, there’s no reason why you can’t move data to the cloud.”
According to the government’s security classifications, information with business Impact Level 3 (IL3) requires a higher level of security than IL2, which is often the minimum requirement for providers bidding for government contracts.
However, earlier this year, the Cabinet Office announced an encryption service that will allow the secure exchange of information at IL3 to be shared over the public services network (PSN), which Godfrey said might help address Peterborough’s concerns.
“We’ll see what the PSN will allow,” he said.
PCC bought the licences from Box in February, and plans to have staff using them - although not data being fully moved across to Box - within the next six months.
Meanwhile, the server room will be shrunk to the smallest size possible, to give the council space to put in more desks, to help with the local authority’s property rationalisation strategy.
In addition, like the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Peterborough is evaluating the deployment of Google Chromebooks for staff. Godfrey plans to get in touch with Barking and Dagenham, and also the London Borough of Hounslow, to learn from their cloud strategies.
“There’s quite a lot that the councils can learn from each other. We need to stop doing things in isolation and do things together a bit more,” he said.