Skip to main content

CIOs and CTOs are tasked with finding an operational sweet spot when it comes to meeting the IT demands of their organisations, and in the public sector, where limited funding, legacy processes and the requirement to support the entire population, a number of challenges exist.

Emerging as an opportunity to drive efficiencies are hybrid IT solutions and Cloud computing, which is on the agenda for public sector organisations to enable mobility for in-field operations, and turbocharge digital culture transformation programs to improve citizen engagement and experience.

While Cloud computing has existed in the private sector for many years now, and in many forms (private, hybrid and public) in the public space it is still a new concept, with many departments and agencies only now realising that current systems, processes and data centres are woefully inadequate for their needs.

With so many differences between organisations and new technology, there is most definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to instead look for a solution that will help your business to save costs and increase efficiency. Within the IT realm, the question of on-premise versus Cloud environments often comes up. But which type of computing solution will work best for you?

In part one of our Hybrid IT Blog Series we take a look at these two solutions side-by-side and explore opportunities and drawbacks of each. The aim here isn’t to make a decision for you – as noted each department has unique needs – but to equip you with information to approach your journey.

On-Prem vs. Cloud – What’s the Difference?

While there are different forms of cloud computing (such as public cloud, private cloud, and a hybrid cloud), the fundamental difference between a cloud and on-premise software remains the same and is pretty simple; it all comes down to where it is installed. Either locally on your department’s servers or hosted on a vendor’s server.

With software ownership, privacy, cost updates, access, flexibility and additional services all differing below we take a look at the pros and cons of each software solution.

Benefits of Staying On-Prem in the Public Sector

  • Ideal for long-term budgeting: Keeping things on-prem means you only pay for the licences you need. Couple these with the right skills and expertise and you’ll end up reducing costs long-term.
  • Greater control: Staying on-prem means you stay fully in control of your data (which can be a double-edged sword in certain circumstances) and in highly regulated sectors like government this is crucial
    for maintaining privacy and security.
  • Legacy Technologies: Almost all public sector agencies are limited by legacy systems and processes. A shift to the cloud may find data incompatibility gaps and restrict usage. By staying on-prem you build around your systems to suit your unique operating environment.
  • Increased Security: Organisations that have extra sensitive information – such as government – must have a certain level of security and privacy that an on-premises environment provides. Despite the promise of the cloud, security is the primary concern for many industries, so an on-premises environment, despite some if its drawbacks and price tag, makes more sense.

Cons

  • Larger Capital Expenditure: In an on-premises environment, resources are deployed in-house and within an enterprise’s IT infrastructure. On-premise systems often require upfront purchases leading to increased capital expenditure.
  • Maintenance Costs: Deploying on-premise software means your department is responsible for ongoing maintenance costs like server hardware, power consumption and space. Long-term this potentially becomes a problem, especially for smaller departments or local governments with limited budgets.
  • Security Complexities: Those eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that security is on both lists. Why? Because data security is a primary concern at the moment, especially following recent breaches in the Australian Federal Government. On-prem security requires dedicated resources. If not effectively managed with the right level of expertise your department risks significant exposure.

Benefits of Moving to the Cloud in the Public Sector

  • Cost Savings: Requiring almost no upfront costs the on-demand pay for only what you use model of cloud storage shifts capital costs to maintenance costs, giving agencies greater flexibility with their IT budgets.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: The ability to failover to a public cloud service provider in the event of an outage or breach in private systems enhances business continuity strategies. Off-site locations for disaster recovery help to mitigate single points of failure, which are seen as the bane of any disaster recovery plan.
  • Visibility & Accessibility: Cloud-based solutions offer unparalleled visibility through real-time capabilities. Real-time data access means better accuracy, a smart supply network and an advanced operating model. Accessibility similarly increases with applications available anywhere at anytime via any device or a web browser.
  • Maintenance: Since it is a hosted software, there is no need to worry or invest time in the maintenance of the software or the hardware it is installed on. Cloud service provider is responsible for compatibility and any upgrades.

Cons

  • Control: In a cloud computing environment, the question of ownership of data is one that many companies – and vendors for that matter, have struggled with. Data and encryption keys reside within your third-party provider, so if the unexpected happens and there is downtime, you maybe be unable to access that data.
  • Customisation: Clouds offer less flexibility. When working with legacy systems like most government departments are you’re left with the challenge of data and systems not aligning with more modern cloud-based platforms.
  • Security: Security is so integral it’s featured three times. Trusting another vendor to responsibly store your organisation’s data off-site leads to an entirely new set of security concerns. The cloud requires a leap of faith that the chosen vendor has a watertight security policy with integrated data protection mechanisms.

Which Solution is Right?

As noted earlier there is no right or wrong. It all comes down to your unique departmental needs along with budget and expertise.

One solution emerging though as a ‘have your cake and eat it too option’ is Hybrid Cloud which offers a balance between control, scalability and performance, or even more simply – especially for those with legacy systems – Hybrid IT which, as ZDNet explains takes existing, non-cloudy, corporate IT infrastructure alongside public cloud and gradually migrating those systems to the public cloud over time.

Check out the second part of our blog series to learn more about Hybrid IT and Cloud and explore use cases of this emerging solution.

For thousands of free government insights, whitepapers and exclusive interviews with public sector leaders register for the free Public Sector Network Content Portal.