I’m happy to announce that we have made our first sales to UK central government through the G-Cloud programme. This success has come from over a year of work attempting to break into the central government hosting market.

You can find our seller profile on the Cloud Store or view our G-Cloud Services page on the CatN website.

Regular readers of the blog will know about our experiences with various projects such as the Innovation Launchpad. Take a look at some of the links in the search results below if you wish to familiarise yourself.

What are we hosting?

We are currently hosting the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s news room. This will be the government’s press centre during the London 2012 Olympics when the rest of government goes quiet on the press release front during the competition. The site is running on WordPress and is hosted on a vCluster account. Lots of information about vCluster is available on the vCluster product pages our site. The site was created by our friends at CodeForThePeople, and you can read about the work they carried out on the PuffBox blog.

We will also shortly be hosting two projects for the Wales Office. They have purchased vClusters from us but the sites are not yet migrated across from their current hosting. Their multi-lingual user facing website and their internal intranet for use by London and Wales offices. Once again both of these are WordPress sites (with BuddyPress for the intranet), they are both being developed by the CodeForThePeople guys, and both are running on our PHP vCluster product!

How did we make a sale?

These sales have only been possible because we are part of the G-Cloud framework. Without completing the framework agreement the two departments would not have been able to purchase from us. Although this may seem strange to anyone working in the private sector, it is a massive improvement to the way central government procures. I agree, it is still not as agile and responsive as it could be, but it does seem to be the best compromise between a restrictive yet assured framework, and allowing government departments to procure services rapidly and easily without putting out an RFP.

Being on the Cloud Store certainly makes our hosting products more visible to government. Having said that I have not been contacted directly through the store, all our leads have come from word of mouth or from a recommendation by one of our partners CodeForThePeople (PuffBox). I put this down to the fact that we are yet to be assured on the framework. This is a conscious decision as our products are still officially in beta and I don’t want a beta or unfinished product to be assessed for assurance purposes. Naturally, I can’t expect organic leads when a product is listed as not assured!

The sales process following initial contact was remarkably simple. I think that this is where the G-Cloud framework has excelled. Issuing G-Cloud procurement credit / debit cards to civil servants, and removing the barriers preventing them from contacting suppliers directly is certainly increasing SME engagement from my experience. Following the usual product discussions you can expect with potential clients, officials from both departments followed our standard sign up process creating an account in under 10 minutes.

The whole sales process was about 2 days in both cases; remember account creation only takes 10 minutes. Over those two days about 4 or 5 emails were sent. It isn’t an organic sale, but this seems pretty fast to me for government and is certainly quicker than government procurement outside of the G-Cloud framework.

Where do we go from here?

I’m looking forward to launching version 2 of vCluster and going through the assurance process. If we are able to make sales without assurance then I’m confident that we will see greater successes with it.

Finally, I am working towards ISO 27001 accreditation for CatN with the goal of achieving IL3 rating for our web hosting products. IL3 hosting is a large market, and although I am very happy working on unrated projects, I would like to be able to put any concerns about security to rest by showing civil servants that we have been rated for data storage up to IL3. There is also the added benefit of showing our private sector clients that we are rated by the UK government for securely storing sensitive data.

Our work towards ISO 27001 accreditation is the subject of another article which I will be writing very soon. In the mean time I will be following up with a post explaining how to buy services from CatN if you are a civil servant; stay tuned!

Government vCluster

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