If you work in the public sector, you will know that it comes with its own processes, requirements and priorities. That extends to public sector web hosting, which we will discuss in this article.Posted on 10 November 2017 -
In technical terms, the range of web hosting options available to public sector organisations is not particularly different from those available to a business or any other organisation. But public sector web hosting does have its unique requirements, so it is important that buyers in those organisations find a web host that caters to those requirements.
Here are some of the factors that make for successful public sector web hosting.
Public sector web hosting is inevitably paid for with public funds, which means a high degree of accountability is needed for the choice of hosting supplier and the fee paid. One way to achieve that cheaply and easily is to use the Government’s G-Cloud hosting platform on its Digital Marketplace. That way you will know you are working with a hosting company that has already been vetted and approved to serve public sector organisations.
You will also be able to see approximate prices for the services you need, which will help you to avoid unscrupulous suppliers. It will also help you to dramatically speed up procurement for your organisation, with no need to undertake a laborious, time-consuming and, therefore, costly, tendering.
IT contracts have traditionally resulted in something of a menagerie for public sector organisations, with an albatross around the neck, a monkey on the back and white elephants among the most popular exhibits. Costly, long-term fixed deals don’t work in the economic and technological situation in which the public sector is currently operating. Today’s public sector web hosting needs to be flexible; scaling up to meet demand and scaling down to control costs. Learn more about flexible web hosting.
The public demand reliability from public sector bodies. Whether they are looking for important information, paying a bill or making an appointment, they expect to be able to do this online promptly and at a time of their choosing. They don’t expect a public sector website to be unavailable during busy periods or due to maintenance. Learn more about high availability hosting.
In the situations mentioned above, members of the public often entrust public sector websites with personal data or sensitive information. For those and a host of other reasons, public sector web hosting must achieve the highest levels of cybersecurity. A good rule of thumb for checking how seriously your web host takes security is to find out whether they operate to ISO 27001 standards. Learn more about ISO 27001.
If you work for a public sector body, your organisation probably strives towards and prides itself on a reputation for trustworthiness. Indeed, gaining the trust of the public is essential to the workings of the public sector. With that in mind, you don’t want to be working with a web host that undermines that. How do you measure trustworthiness in a web host? In truth, it’s probably a combination of many of the points combined with a record of delivering projects in the past and dealing with similar projects with the care and sensitivity required. For instance, here’s some information on how we helped to deliver the highly sensitive report following The Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
This will vary considerably depending on the size and aims of the organisation in question. Nonetheless, we will aim use some broad brush strokes to paint a picture of the sort of hosting infrastructure needed by a public sector body.
First and foremost, no public sector organisation should be dependent on a single server. Using multiple servers guards against hardware or software failure that impacts any one server, and also avoids interruptions in service when maintenance is required on a server. It also increases the capacity and helps the performance of websites and database. Sharing traffic between two or more servers reduces the load on any single server, which has benefits for page load speed and site performance. All of this contributes to a sense of reliability and trustworthiness we mentioned above. Learn more about multi-server hosting.
Two of the requirements we previously discussed were flexibility and security. Cloud hosting is associated with flexibility (plus cost-effectiveness), but not so much with security. The way to circumvent this situation is to opt for a private cloud hosting setup, which replicates the scalability of the cloud but offers the security of a dedicated server. This usually takes the form of a multi-server infrastructure, as outlined previously.
A private cloud solution keeps sensitive data safer by making sure it is not sharing a physical server with other clients of the hosting company. It also allows you to retain control over the location of the server and access to it. Learn more about private cloud hosting.
If you’ve done your due diligence and found a public sector web hosting company worthy of the name, we would suggest having them manage the service. Your in-house IT people probably have a million and one other things to be getting on with. Far better to have dedicated experts contractually obliged to oversee all the key aspects of your hosting service. Learn more about managed hosting.
A daily or even twice-daily backup is something we would recommend to any public sector organisation. The cost of operating a backup is minuscule compared to the costs when something goes wrong. Take the NHS ransomware attack as an example. A simple backup system would have allowed the affected Trusts to rollback to the day before the attack and continue working at a fraction of the eventual cost. As ever, prevention is better than cure, but this is a good cure to have at your disposal. It will work equally well in the case of human error and hardware failure. Learn more about backup and disaster recovery.