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May 27, 2014

“Frustrated” G-Cloud buyers ‘searching Google’ to find services

Planned improvements to UK public sector CloudStore search won’t take place until the Autumn.

By Joe Curtis

G-Cloud buyers are searching Google for services because of the platform’s poor search functionality, according to a provider.

G-Cloud 5 went live last Friday (May 23) with 1,132 cloud suppliers – 133 more than were available on version four.

But CloudStore, the online marketplace where public sector organisations can find and buy services, only went live today after delays due to issues with search functionality.

Director of G-Cloud Tony Singleton said Friday: "Some final amendments on the site have caused a search issue. As such we are not able to bring the store up today. We apologise and are very disappointed to not have the store available. The team are working on this over the weekend and aim to have it back up first thing on Tuesday morning."

However, these are only the latest search problems to do with the service, which are unlikely to be fixed until version six is released in the autumn.

Peter Groucutt, MD of Databarracks, a backup-as-a-service provider listed on G-Cloud 5, claimed buyers were opting to use Google to find suitable services after no relevant results showed up on the CloudStore.

"We have heard a lot of feedback from G-Cloud buyers that in order to find services, they have to go outside the CloudStore to search for services in a search engine, then go back into the CloudStore and find the suppliers by name," he said.

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"If you search for "backup" for instance [in CloudStore], you would expect the first results you are presented with to be backup services. The results you actually receive might be an infrastructure or platform service, but one that includes ‘backup’ in the description."

Earlier this month, the Government acknowledged the need to improve the search function.

G-Cloud’s user researcher Katie Taylor wrote: "One of the main things we’ve learnt is that users are frustrated with the search results they get when they just use the search box. To get meaningful results, users need to make complex searches."

Changes to enable this are set to take place when CloudStore is replaced by Digital Marketplace, which will search product titles and descriptions and prioritise results based on title.

However, this is currently in testing, and won’t replace CloudStore until G-Cloud 6 is rolled out in the autumn.

Nevertheless, Groucutt welcomed the planned improvements: "The new search technology will make the whole process much more user-friendly, allowing users to search more quickly and easily, and most importantly provide them with the most relevant results," he said.

CBR has contacted the Cabinet Office but it declined to comment before CBR‘s deadline.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced last week that public sector organisations have now spent £175m on IT services through the G-Cloud framework, 60% going to SMBs.

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