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Friday, 11 September 2009

A win-win in the cloud for UK Public Sector?

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News that Portsmouth Uni has moved all of its students into the cloud with free, multi-lingual access to an advertising free version of Google Apps, including webmail with 7gb capacity, online documents, spreadsheets and calendars, chat and collaboration and site building functions.

They have around 30,000 students who will get addresses.

In a deal with Google - which runs a similar discount exception for academe in the US - they get it for free for four years with no ads (Google quoted a commercial price of $33 per annum per user at the #googlelocalgov event last month). They will also - for free - establish application programme interfaces allowing data to be exported if the university decides to move.

The Uni believes that despite recent brief downtime, Google will provide a better service than doing it in-house. Answering critics, they repeat that Google is signed up to the Safe Harbour Act which commits a US company to comply with European data protection standards, even when information is stored outside Europe.

One of the best received presentations at their recent local government event was about Google Enterprise Tools. Given that the Government's CIO, John Suffolk, is promoting the take up of cloud computing it would seem that Google is kicking at an open door and pushing apps will be a key task for them (disclosure: I am currently in talks with Google).

This task is one they are taking up. Their local government targeted website has a savings calculator which specifically compares Google Apps with Microsoft Exchange 2007. Socitm 2009 in Edinburgh in October has Adrian Joseph, Managing Director of Google Enterprise, as a key speaker.

However, furious debate over the take-up of Google cloud in US local government should flash some warning signs about their potential progress, and where a backlash might come from, in the UK.

The discussion over the pond on the cloud computing push by White House lead Vivek Kundra has generated heat and light over issues such as transparency and how the regulatory constraints and certification and authorization should be handled and managed. This shows the potential for the cloud's seemingly, cost-savingly, obvious UK local government advance to become bogged down.

Those with most to lose, such as Microsoft, will undoubtedly have their own strategy to throw mud and it will be fascinating to see how this plays out, including how the incoming agenda and policy setters in Whitehall react.

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