We examine the reasons why the cloud can be so useful to local government organisations.

Why local government needs the cloud

The roots of cloud computing can be traced all the way back to the early 1970s, but the technology has truly garnered mass-market support within the current decade.

Future growth is expected to be substantial; Goldman Sachs predicts that the cloud infrastructure and platform market will expand at a compound annual growth rate of 19.62 per cent from 2015 to 2018. Furthermore, Eurostat says 46 per cent of EU firms are already using cloud services related to finance and accounting, customer relationship management, or the use of computer power to run business applications.

Of course, cloud uptake hasn't been limited to the private sector. A recent report from Microsoft and Forbes Insight claims adoption among US government agencies is "fast approaching tipping point", highlighting the technology's value to public bodies. In this feature, we examine the reasons why the cloud can be so useful to local government organisations.

Greater flexibility is ideal for local government

Given the much-publicised need for UK local authorities to save money, it simply isn't practical for them to have vast and powerful IT systems in place just in case they are required at peak times.

The cloud offers the perfect solution by allowing organisations to bolster capacity and performance when needed. For instance, if a council wants to introduce a new service, it can be launched via the cloud. As this service grows in popularity and demand increases, additional computing resources can be created with ease. This eradicates the need to shell out for expensive new servers and hardware, and means that if the service fails to take off as expected, the additional resources can be scaled back.

The cloud makes for simpler systems

Storing high volumes of data and running multiple systems has traditionally meant operating a number of different servers, potentially spread over several sites. A setup of this nature brings with it many complexities, such as the challenge of maintaining servers located over a potentially sizeable geographic area.

Again, the cloud can help here. All equipment will be located offsite and different systems can be accessed from anywhere, meaning there is no need for staff to head to a specific office to retrieve a certain piece of information.

Removing barriers to adopting new technology

Once they have made the switch to cloud computing, it becomes far easier for councils to take advantage of other new technologies, as they are no longer restricted by the time available to their IT department or the limitations of their existing servers.

Even if a council lacks a dedicated IT specialist, or if its IT department has no available resources, the cloud provider in question can take care of all the necessary software, hardware and system upgrades.

Not only does this mean local authorities can take advantage of the latest technologies without the potentially prohibitive cost of carrying out upgrades themselves, but it also frees up staff time to focus on their primary goal – delivering services to the public.

Instant access to documents on the move

More than 14 million Brits want flexibility in their working hours or location, according to a recent study from Timewise. Given the growing popularity of remote and flexible working, the need to access documents from any location has become increasingly important – and this is just as true for councils as for any other organisation, public or private.

With the cloud, information can be instantly accessed at any time and from any location. As an added bonus, hosting documents and other data online makes it far easier to share with other people. Everything from spreadsheets and plans to drawings and artwork can be digitised – particularly helpful for local authorities that deal with large amounts of planning work.

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