Guidance

G-Cloud buyers' guide

How to buy cloud services on the Digital Marketplace.

Digital Marketplace overview

The Digital Marketplace helps you find cloud technology and specialist services for digital projects. You can buy through 3 frameworks (agreements between government and suppliers).

You can buy:

  • cloud services (for example content delivery networks or accounting software) through the G-Cloud framework
  • digital outcomes, specialists and user research services through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework
  • physical datacentre space through the Crown Hosting Data Centres framework

Buying services through these frameworks is faster and cheaper than entering into individual procurement contracts.

All public sector organisations, including agencies and arm’s length bodies, can use the Digital Marketplace. Check the customer unique reference number (URN) list to see if you’re eligible.

What you can buy on G-Cloud

You can use the Digital Marketplace to find and compare cloud hosting, software and support (for example content delivery networks or accounting software).

There are around 20,000 cloud services on the Digital Marketplace. These services are split into 3 categories or ‘lots’:

  • cloud hosting, for example content delivery networks or load balancing services
  • cloud software, for example accounting tools or customer service management software
  • cloud support, for example migration services or ongoing support

Who the suppliers are

All G-Cloud suppliers have:

  • confirmed information about their company and the way they work
  • added information about the services that they offer

The financial position of suppliers isn’t checked when they apply to the framework. Read about how suppliers have been evaluated.

View the list of G-Cloud suppliers.

Buying fairly

When you use the Digital Marketplace, you must buy fairly.

If you award a contract through the G-Cloud framework, you should be able to show a clear audit trail.

You can save a search on the Digital Marketplace, which automatically keeps a copy of:

  • the category, keywords and filters you used
  • the date you saved your search
  • the date your search ended

You should keep your own record of your communications with suppliers, including any early market engagement, clarification questions, emails and face to face conversations you have.

How to buy

Use the Digital Marketplace to search for cloud services, save details of your search and download your search results.

  1. Write a list of your requirements and get approval to buy what you need.
  2. Search for services and save your search.
  3. Refine your saved search using the filters.
  4. End your search.
  5. Download your search results, review and compare services.
  6. Choose your service, award and sign the contract (or ‘call-off’).
  7. Publish the contract on Contracts Finder.
  8. Complete the Customer Benefits Record form.

1. Write a list of your requirements and get approval to buy

Work with someone who will use the service, buying specialists and technical experts to prepare a list of ‘must-haves’ and ‘wants’. These requirements will help you decide which search category, keywords and filters to use. When writing your requirements you should consider the:

  • funds you have available to buy the service
  • technical and procurement requirements of the project
  • criteria on which your choice will be based

Read the government service manual guidance on choosing technology.

Help writing requirements

You can search for cloud hosting, software and support on the Digital Marketplace to learn more about the types of service that are available.

You can also talk to suppliers before you start to help you refine your requirements.

Understanding security standards

Use the government’s Cloud Security Principles to help you understand how secure suppliers’ services are.

You should also:

  • involve people with risk management and technical security expertise in the buying process

  • make sure a service meets your security requirements before you sign a contract


Approval to buy

If you’re buying for central government, you should check if you need approval to spend money on a service first.

Use the Digital Marketplace to search for cloud services that meet your needs. Choose a category, then search for services using keywords and filters.

You can save your search at any time. Sign in to your Digital Marketplace account to see a list of your saved searches.

  1. Try using different search terms to make sure you get the most complete set of results possible. For example, if you want to buy a content management system, try searching for ‘document management system’ as well as ‘content management system’.
  2. Add keywords to create a list of services that meet your wants as well as your must-haves. For example, a search for ‘content management system’ and ‘open standards’ could be further refined by adding ‘Firefox support’, ‘content rating’ and ‘link management’.
  3. If you want to exclude something, put a ‘-’ before the word you don’t want. For example, if you don’t need training, type: ‘hosted content management system -training’.
  4. If you’re looking for a specific set of terms, for example social media management, using double quotes will match the phrase exactly in the returned services. For example, searching for “social media management” returns only the services that include that exact phrase. If you don’t use double quotes the results will show everything that contains all 3 of those words.

3. Refine your search

If you need to, add filters to refine the results of your search. The filters you add should be based on your requirements.

Save your search again to record any changes you make. When you update a search it will only keep the most recent category, keywords and filters you used.

End your search to create a spreadsheet of the services you’ve found. You should only complete this step when you’ve finished searching for cloud services.

You can’t edit your search once it has ended.

If you end your search too early, you’ll need to start a new search.

5. Download your search results, review and compare services

Download a spreadsheet of your search results to help you track and record your decision-making.

The spreadsheet includes:

  • service names, descriptions and prices
  • links to detailed service description pages on the Digital Marketplace
  • supplier names and contact details

Review and compare services

Spend some time going through the service descriptions to find the services that best meet your needs based on both requirements and budget.

Each service description includes a:

  • terms and conditions document
  • pricing document

They may also include a service definition document.

The price shown on the service description page is the cost of the most common configuration of the service. Pricing is normally volume-based, so you should always look at the supplier’s pricing document to work out the actual price of what you’re going to buy.

What to do if you have a question for the suppliers

You can speak to suppliers to ask them to explain their service description, terms and conditions, pricing or service definition documents.

You must not negotiate with suppliers about the details of their service. If it isn’t in their service description, you can’t ask a question about it.

You should keep a record of any conversations you have with suppliers.

6. Choose your service and award a contract

Single supplier

If only one supplier meets your requirements, you can award the contract to them without doing anything else.

Multiple suppliers

There will usually be a number of services on your shortlist. You must choose the service with the most economically advantageous tender (MEAT).

For a MEAT-based assessment, you must use the criteria in the following table, but you can decide what detailed characteristics you use and how you weight them.

The MEAT option will normally be obvious, but you might need to:

  • look at combinations of different suppliers
  • get specific information about volumes

Your assessment of suppliers should always be as fair and as transparent as possible. The final choice should be based on best fit rather than ruling out suppliers that don’t meet either your current contract or an ideal set of terms. You shouldn’t unfairly exclude any services without referring back to your project requirements.

You can use the spreadsheet of your search results to help record your decisions.

Criteria number Award criteria
1 Whole life cost: cost effectiveness, price and running costs
2 Technical merit and functional fit: coverage, network capacity and performance as specified in relevant service levels
3 After-sales service management: helpdesk, account management function and assurance of supply of a range of services
4 Non-functional characteristics

Contract

The buyer and supplier must both sign a copy of the contract before the service can be used. The maximum length of a G-Cloud contract is normally 24 months. You can extend a contract by 1 year and then a further year but the digital and IT spend controls team will have to approve it first.

If there’s any contradiction between the contract terms and conditions and the framework terms and conditions, the framework terms will take precedence. In a contract, the terms and conditions and prices are all agreed when you sign the framework agreement. A copy of the contract must be signed by all interested parties (the buyer and supplier) before the service can be used.

Read:

7. Publish the contract on Contracts Finder

You must publish details of all completed contracts on Contracts Finder.

You’ll need to sign in to your account first. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to register as a buyer on Contracts Finder.

8. Complete the Customer Benefits Record form

CCS works with departments and organisations across the public sector to improve service delivery quality and ensure every commercial relationship provides value for money. That means it has to record savings and monitor the ongoing performance of the G-Cloud frameworks.

You must fill in the CCS G-Cloud Customer Benefits Record form every time you enter into a contract. Email a copy to gcloud-benefits@crowncommercial.gov.uk.

The latest iteration of the G-Cloud framework is G-Cloud 9. That means you need to use the G-Cloud 9 templates and legal documents.

The latest G-Cloud legal documents are the:

Some previous G-Cloud legal documents include the:

Extending your G-Cloud contract

Contract awards on G-Cloud normally last for up to 24 months. After this, you’ll need to re-evaluate your needs and the services on offer on the Digital Marketplace. If your requirements haven’t changed, you can repeat your search and check that no other services are available.

If you’re a central government organisation, you can only extend your contract if the:

  • spend controls team says you can
  • supplier gives you an ‘additional exit plan’ to approve at least 8 months before the contract ends

You can read more about additional exit plans in the G-Cloud 9 contract.

After your contract expires

If your project scope and needs remain exactly the same, you can go back to the Digital Marketplace and use the same searches you used before. That way, you can check that no new services are offered that may be better value for money. You can then enter into a new contract but must keep records to prove that your assessment has been fair.

If you have any questions about the G-Cloud framework or the buying process, email enquiries@digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk.

Published 24 September 2013
Last updated 27 November 2017 + show all updates
  1. You can now save details of your search for cloud services, edit saved searches and download a spreadsheet of your search results.
  2. Updated to reflect changes to the new G-Cloud 9 framework, for example new 'lot' structure.
  3. First published.