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Police Digital Service – moving data to where it matters

The public need to know that the police are holding data securely and safely

Sponsored Post The UK Government's Cloud First policy was launched in 2013, designed to put pressure on public sector organisations to evaluate potential cloud solutions ahead of other IT options during the procurement process. This forced march towards digital transformation met with resistance in some circles where cloud was seen as somehow incompatible with the very ethos of public sector services.

Wayne Parkes, former Chief Digital Data and Technology Officer for the Police Digital Service (PDS), and former Chair of the National Police Technology Council, remembers the moment well in this video: "When the Cloud First policy was introduced, many policing leaders were quick to dismiss it," he recalls. "They felt it wasn't applicable to policing, and that police information would never be migrated to the public cloud."

Parkes believes that the objections were rooted in a transformational challenge faced across the public sector, that of legacy culture: "Policing has an issue not only with legacy technology, but with legacy thinking, legacy processes, legacy skills," he says.

The problem of outmoded attitudes and values has ramifications throughout the technology procurement process. The public sector, for example, is still wedded to three or four-year budget cycles which doesn't play well with strategic technology choices that aren't designed to pay dividends until seven to ten years down the line. But with modernisation still seen as a technology challenge rather than an organisational one, the issue is firmly rooted.

Compromise is sometimes the best way forward in the face of such headwinds. When Parkes implemented cloud-based Microsoft 365 software across policing, his aim was to exploit new and better ways of working, improving collaboration and standardisation and enabling interoperability and re-use of resources. It seemed to him that the best option was not pure cloud but a hybrid strategy, with each force retaining some on-premise infrastructure within their own datacentres.

"There is still some operational nervousness around migrating the more complex and sensitive applications and workloads into a cloud environment," he reports.

There were related challenges to be tackled too, such as the handling of data. Data interoperability remains a challenge for police forces with up to 90 percent of crime now having some kind of digital footprint, again demanding balance between local and national priorities.

Not only is it often desirable for data to be close to where services are centred, the security of that data must be paramount. Doubts around public cloud surface here too. Getting this right was vital to such a high-profile public service.

"The public need to know that the police are holding data securely and safely. If we got it wrong, it could cause a huge drop in public confidence and trust in the entire service." says Parkes.

It has never been more important for police forces, and indeed other public sector bodies, to move away from a piecemeal approach to IT procurement, drifting by default towards a jumble of solutions, driven by legacy priorities rather than a coherent modern vision. A conscious, considered approach to hybrid cloud adoption offers the control and security required to modernise critical national infrastructure and ensure that data is kept safely where it belongs.

Anything less coherent risks frustration, significant cost increases and failed migrations. Hence the determination of Parkes to use public cloud where it makes sense for a particular workload, but ultimately be flexible, in a planned way, about whether data is on-premise or in the public cloud.

That's what makes HPE GreenLake a good bet for public sector organisations looking to orchestrate all the elements of a hybrid cloud transformation. See this link for further detail.

Sponsored by HPE.

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