Security Win Helps U.K. SMB Compete With Microsoft

Collaboration software maker Kahootz gets U.K. government IL2 clearance, putting it on par with Microsoft Office 365 and other big players for government contract work.
Office 2013: 10 Questions To Ask
Office 2013: 10 Questions To Ask
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The U.K.'s Coalition government has been trying to encourage more small and midsize business (SMB) tech firm participation in the country's estimated £16 billion ($24.5 billion) public sector tech marketplace. As part of that process, it has also promoted a government cloud (G-Cloud) purchasing site, the CloudStore, designed to tempt civil servants away from only working with the biggest system integrators for all their IT needs.

Often, such attempts founder when central bureaucrats say they can only work with the highest level of tech security standards. But at least one small British company says it's started to reverse that trend: Newbury, Berkshire-based online collaboration software provider Kahootz has been awarded Impact Level 2 (IL2) accreditation -- an achievement that means it can finally compete with the likes of Microsoft Office 365 and Huddle in the CloudStore.

Specifically, the firm has won Pan Government Accreditation (PGA) that certifies it can offer IL2 security guarantees to its services. The IL2 security accreditation applies to its Kahootz cloud collaboration service (INOVEM Collaborate) as well as its Free Kahootz G-Cloud Starter App. Impact levels reflect the confidentiality of information managed in any government service; they are defined by the Cabinet Office and CESG, the U.K. government's national technical authority for information assurance.

"The CloudStore provides a level playing field for smaller companies to bid for work," Peter Jackson, chief technology officer at Kahootz, told InformationWeek.

[ Want to know more about the CloudStore? U.K. Pushes Govt. IT To Use SMB Suppliers. ]

"Historically, government has tended to rely on big suppliers as they see that as minimizing their risk. But things like this change that situation and help prove to them smaller companies can deliver great service, regardless of size. We've won business through the CloudStore from people we've never met face-to-face -- so we are convinced it's starting to work," Jackson said.

Jackson added that although Kahootz's software had been independently tested to the satisfaction of a variety of government departments over the last decade, the level of additional scrutiny required for wider Pan Government Accreditation has helped it to "improve and officially substantiate" the quality of the service it can offer public sector prospects.

Kahootz claims to offer cloud-based support for a wide range of public sector team activities including gateway reviews, shared services, project extranets, service commissioning, policy development and enterprise intranets. As Jackson said, it already had a number of CloudStore sales prior to the IL2 stamp of approval, including Her Majesty's Prison Service, London Cancer Alliance, Devon County, Havant Borough and East Hampshire District Councils. It also works with candy company Mars U.K. The company's management previously led a British dotcom called to a successful sale in the late 1990s.

Speaking for the government, Denise McDonagh, G-Cloud director, said: "We want to make it easier for all cloud service providers, irrespective of their size, to gain security certification and compete for U.K. public sector business. The Cloud PGA process has been designed to specifically do this, and already [SMBs] account for two-thirds of sales through CloudStore. As more providers are accredited, the resulting increase in competition will only help improve the quality, value and innovation of solutions on offer to the public sector."

Jackson said he is also impressed with the way, for his team at least, the government is working to help small companies like his get regarded as serious contenders by bureaucrats.

"The G-Cloud program has really helped to transform our company and has put us into a much better position to compete for new business, in the U.K. and overseas," Jackson said. "We were really impressed by the depth and scope of the independent IT Health Check that was performed. I hope that other [smaller tech suppliers] take encouragement from our accreditation and seek to have their cloud services and business procedures evaluated."

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