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Case study - Cloud for social media

The Procurer

We are a European National Library. The institution holds more than 4 million volumes and subscribes to 26,000 periodicals and journals. In addition, we provide a collection of Open Access documents on the internet with free access to 60,000 articles and working papers. A further portal we run is for students and researchers to search among nine million datasets. We employ a staff of 250. We are currently also involved in a research alliance of 37 partners (institutes, university-affiliated, and independent research institutions) investigating the impact of Science 2.0 (the use of modern internet technologies in all stages of research).

The Alliance brings together both stakeholder groups crucially affected by Science 2.0 – the library community and the scientific community. The procurement of ICT services is usually initiated by IT managers that are responsible for the services. The form of procurement varies depending on the nature, cost and complexity of the item(s) to be purchased. As a public funded body, we have to procure ICT goods and services ethically, fairly and transparently in line with the national and EU legislation. Generally, the higher the purchase costs are, the more formalized and extensive the procurement process is, e.g. direct procurement, formal asking for at least three quotes, public announcement and full EU tender process.

Why the cloud?

We are currently in the process of adopting cloud computing solutions for our social media department. This is the first experience of using cloud computing for the institute. The need matured mainly within the community management of the social media department and within the context of the Science 2.0 research alliance. The main drivers for us is having unlimited and flexible storage capacities and the possibility to share content easily and with external partners. Currently, our employees are using individual solutions whose storage is often located in the United States. However, this cannot continue as national and european data privacy law forbids us to put personal data in servers outside the EU. Setting up our in-house cloud solution would allow us to overcome this problem and also address the data constraints that we have for some datasets. Our main concerns for cloud adoption are related to data privacy and data security. For this reason we opted for a private cloud which lets us maintain a certain control over data and the full infrastructure.

How we procured cloud services

As this is the first time we have procured cloud services, we have decided to start small by running a pilot phase to test the cloud solution and understand the benefits (both performance and economics). The pilot phase will substitute the business case analysis as we currently do not have the necessary experience to carry out such an analysis for cloud solutions. Initially, the cloud solution will only be implemented and tested by the social media department. We carried out an internal consultation of the market, identifying solutions suitable to our needs.

We initially compared prices of different suppliers for external storages. No procurer or legal expert was consulted given the small and local size of the procurement action. However, this activity was difficult as we observed that suppliers have different approaches on storage. We then compared open-source solutions to set up an in house/private cloud storage. After having identified a pool of suppliers, we started testing different solutions. This was a difficult process, in particular testing functionalities of open source solutions which do not provide test environments. After testing, we adopted an open source cloud solution. The main reason for this was the competitive price that was available to us. One service we sought, a cloud-based collaborative tool to enable our users to work on a shared text document, was not found. Our plan now is to set up our in-house environment.

 

What we learned

Main benefits envisaged in adopting cloud

» More flexibility.

» Availability of additional resources.

Main barriers perceived in procuring cloud services

» Data Security.

» Data privacy management

Main challenges encountered so far

» Lack of internal experience of writing a business case for cloud solutions. Therefore, a small test case was carried out.

» Comparing different storage offerings was difficult because different cloud service providers have different storage approaches.

» Testing open source solutions was challenging due to a lack of test environments.

» A supplier that provides cloud-based collaborative tools to work on a text document was not identified.

Wish List:

» Sample templates and guiding graphs to make public tenders would help us to speed up the procurement process