Cloud computing questioned by utilities firm

The head of IT at United Utilities (UU) has expressed his doubts as to the power of cloud computing for providing integral applications and services for large firms in an interview with Computing.

The budget allocated to the IT department within UU is set at 125 million, which comes from an organisation-wide budget totalling over 3.6 billion annually. In comparison to Network Rail’s 1 billion annual IT spend, this amount appears fairly modest.

It might be assumed that with a carefully controlled budget, cloud computing would offer the perfect cost-cutting opportunities required by UU, but IT controller Kevin Power is not convinced that the cloud platform is right for his business.

Mr Power said that keeping the control of IT systems within the boundaries of a single firm meant that there was a better centralised grasp over security and application support. He also said that the financial benefits of switching essential systems to the cloud did not outweigh the positive aspects of internal operation in his opinion.

Despite his scepticism towards the cloud platform, Mr Power did concede that cloud-based services could be incredibly useful in alternative areas of IT management.

UU will be using the cloud in order to liaise with clients and partners when working on cooperative projects that require a unified system for sharing data and exchanging ideas. Mr Power also spoke in favour of cloud services which could be trialled before a commitment was made, praising their flexibility in this area.

Mr Power said that cloud services could be integrated with ever greater speed as industry practices and technology evolve, serving as temporary measure to deal with change until the funds were available to provide in-house support of a similar type.

Cloud expert Neil Ward-Dutton said that Mr Power was not alone in his current reluctance to commit fully to the cloud and explained that for many, testing what cloud computing can offer is the best way in which to convince them as to its worthiness and security.

Mr Ward-Dutton added that it would be at least 3 years until large organisations could realistically transmute all of their IT services over to cloud computing.

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