Part of the ITWire Round table talks, the paper contains views from vendors and government agencies on cloud computing and its possible usage by government agencies.
The major factor keeping government agencies from using cloud computing services is the lack of standards and security which are fundamental for government records. There are also requirements for some Australian government data that are also yet to addressed (personal datat cannot be held offshore or not be controlled by Australians).
Though as stated in the paper, these issues should not apply to freely available data that is explicity made available for public use, such as that in data.gov.au.
A form of cloud computing is already in wide use by individuals (Google Docs, Microsoft SkyDrive) and of course your personal email account, Flickr photo’s etc. are all managed and stored elsewhere. Cloud computing elevates that so that an organisations entire IT infrastructure can be hosted elsewhere, but unlike personal use, it would not be free. Whether once cloud computing is standards based and secure there will be cost savings substantial enough to host all IT services there as opposed to maintaining it on an organisations site, is yet to be seen. The options have been likened to buying a house or renting a house, do you want to pay up front a large sum and be liable for ongoing maintenance etc or do you want to rent space and move to another platform whenever you wish. Both have costs, I suspect though that for many organisations the renting option will be preferred.
Larger organisations themselves who have capacity could of course offer cloud services to smaller organisations. Thus a large library could offer services to a number of smaller distributed libraries, thus saving costs all round.