Public sector organisations, particularly at the local council level, are being increasingly squeezed for funds, and citizen watchdogs are taking a closer look at expenditures on a regular basis. At the same time, these organisations are being called upon to provide more services without increasing tax levies. This Catch-22 need not be an unsolvable problem. Reliable services delivered via the cloud have been delivered, proven and tested at all levels of government, with the end result being increased access, improved services and reduced costs. Such was the case with the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS), which improved its essential communications platform using Microsoft Lync, a communications platform that allowed WYFRS to overcome communications challenges, expand access and reduce costs relating to mobile phone usage and travel expense.
Government agencies do tend to be ahead of the curve as far as remote access, often building in liberal telecommuting policies and incorporating (as should all of us in the private sector) disaster recovery plans that include details on how to re-establish communications in case headquarters is unavailable. For emergency services organisations, this type of access is not only essential; it can be life-saving. WYFRS’ goal was to establish a communications platform that allowed staff members to communicate and accomplish tasks from any location, as needed. In addition, on-demand training (again from any location) was part of the desired goal, with that training being delivered in conjunction with external agencies that would participate in drills.
WYFRS, in using Microsoft Lync Server
2010, was able to accomplish all of these goals. One of the most immediate results was to cut mobile phone and travel costs. Easy communication and mobile data access has always been an essential part of disaster response, and WYFRS reports that while at an incident site, they are able to leverage MS Lync’s features to download information from fire safety databases, from any location. Integration with Active Directory further facilitates easy connectivity, and the ability to view presence and thereby establish communication at any time in the most effective medium. The agency can also now connect across multiple public IM networks and social media, allowing them to take full advantage of the latest innovations and collaboration tools.
Naturally, governmental organisations must be concerned about security and compliance and often have a public mandate to do so, and may even be held to a higher standard of security than organisations in the private sector. While using a standard Internet connection, they are able to incorporate security features, including two-factor authentication, encryption, and archiving.
Finally, integration with other back office applications such as Microsoft Office, Exchange Server, and SharePoint Server allows for greater collaboration, which again in a first responder environment is essential.
Today, smaller public sector organisations that take advantage of cloud technology and unified communications
really are able to do more with less.