Government to collaborate in secure cloud using Huddle

UK start-up Huddle has become one of the world’s first providers of cloud-based collaboration software for classified documents.

The company, in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Services (FCO Services), will provide its SaaS application to allow government departments to work on projects and documents across departmental boundaries, something that was previously only possible via email.

The partnership with FCO Services allows the Huddle software to be hosted on the Government Secure Application Environment (GSAE), allowing those working in government to share content up to the security level known as Impact Level 3 (IL3), known as restricted content. Huddle will be handling information at a similar security level to the diplomatic cables that Wikileaks released last year.

Huddle will also be the first SaaS offering on GSAE, and will not operate the hosting environment itself, as some reports have suggested.

The company already provides a collaboration platform for 70% of government at the lower IL2 security level, according to CEO Alastair Mitchell, and the FCO Services deal will expand its presence across departments.

David Williams, director of operations at FCO Services, told Information Age that there was a very clear demand across government for a collaboration platform that could handle IL3 material.

"Many government departments already use the IL2 version [of Huddle], and quite a significant proportion of them would very much welcome the addition of the IL3 version for the sort of things they work on," he said.

Williams said that this sort of collaboration platform fitted in well with the government’s "cloud agenda".

"The work that the government does doesn’t all fit neatly within organisational blocks. [Huddle] allows them to work across boundaries on sensitive issues, and that’s quite a benefit to departments working on complex things," he said.

Huddle was chosen by FCO Services because the software is easily set up on any hosting space, Williams explained. "It’s a government-owned data centre that we’re operating [Huddle] from, and that’s connected to the government secure intranet (GSI), so we can distribute Huddle over that network,” he said.

“That creates a large private cloud, in effect. You have to be on the GSI to plug into Huddle IL3, but eventually the Public Sector Network (PSN) will extend the access. That’s how IL3 is achieved, by creating a secure environment with a trusted network."

CEO Mitchell emphasised that Huddle IL3 would be entirely cut off from the rest of the web. "You can’t see anything from the public internet – it’s completely invisible, in the sense that there are no hard wire connections," he said.

Williams said that the Huddle model was something that FCO Services is looking to follow in the provision of future services, and that the organisation is looking for other partners with products that are worth moving into the IL3 environment.

"We’re talking to quite a few people at the moment, and obviously we want to do things that are complementary with Huddle itself, having gone into partnership with them. It’s about leveraging the environment, and having got a cloud environment up and running, we’re keen to maximise the use of it," Williams said.

Huddle IL3 will be rolled out through government departments from Q4 this year.

Beatrice Bartlay

Beatrice Bartlay founded 2B Interface, a temporary and permanent staffing agency in 2005 and has since been serving the UK recruitment sector with specialised services. With more than ten years’ experience...

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