Government Cloud First policy

The government introduced a ‘Cloud First’ policy in 2013 for all technology decisions.

Consider cloud solutions before alternatives

When procuring new or existing services, public sector organisations should consider and fully evaluate potential cloud solutions first before considering any other option. This approach is mandatory for central government and strongly recommended to the wider public sector.

Departments remain free to choose an alternative to the cloud but will need to demonstrate that it offers better value for money. HM Treasury’s ‘Managing Public Money’ (annex 4.6) defines ‘value for money’ as ‘securing the best mix of quality and effectiveness for the least outlay over the period of the use of the goods or services bought’.

As part of the Spend Control process, GDS helps departments assure the mix of quality and effectiveness of cloud services across their whole life cost (this includes capital, maintenance, management, operating and exit costs). GDS bases its assurance on a number of factors - read more in How to assess a hosting business case.

Public cloud first

By Cloud First, we mean the public cloud rather than a community, hybrid or private deployment model. There are circumstances where the other deployment models are appropriate but the primary benefits for government come when we embrace the public cloud. Departments are encouraged to initially consider Software as a Service models, particularly for their enterprise IT and back office functions.

Where bespoke development is necessary, departments should make use of public cloud hosting. This is an evolving area, which started with ‘Infrastructure as a Service’, and is changing with the development of ‘Platform as a Service’ (PaaS) offerings.

Departments should always source a cloud provider that fits their needs, rather than selecting a provider based on recommendation.

Read more about how to host your service and how to manage technical lock-in.


We primarily use the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition of the cloud, with one of the cloud’s primary characteristics being an on-demand, self-service model. Consumers of cloud services should be able to unilaterally provision computing capabilities, like server time and network storage, as needed without requiring human interaction with each service provider. There is more information on choosing a cloud hosting provider in How to assess a hosting business case.

Published 3 February 2017
Last updated 21 July 2022 + show all updates
  1. Removed reference to GOV.UK PaaS as it has been announced that this service will be decommissioned.

  2. First published.