In an attempt to get away from paying for high-priced email administrators, the Pittsburgh city government is looking to save money and move to the cutting edge with a migration to Google Apps.
Pittsburgh CIO Howard Stern said the city is set to sign a contract with Google in mid-August and then begin the process of migrating to Gmail and Google Calendar in November. All of the city's 2,000 to 3,000 email accounts should be moved over to the new system by the end of the year, according to Stern.
"Going to the cloud seems like a great option for us," Stern said. "I'm optimistic.... I'm a little anxious about any change that will impact 2,000 to 3,000 users, but I think the disruption will be minimal and the impact will be huge."
The idea of migrating to the cloud seems to be gaining momentum not just among businesses but also among municipal governments. And the industry should expect more cloud migrations in the near future, said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. The Los Angeles city government replaced its Novell GroupWise collaboration system with hosted Google Apps software tools in 2010, and the San Francisco city and county governments moved multiple email systems to Microsoft's cloud-based email.
"Bigger users are moving past just dipping their toes into the cloud computing waters," said Olds. "Expect to hear about more of these deals as clouds start to move mainstream. It will be interesting to see how the actual experience matches the promise in terms of service quality, security and cost."
Working with a team of people from both inside and outside of city hall, Stern spent 13 months researching alternative email systems; he then got the city council's approval to move the project forward.
Pittsburgh has been using Microsoft Exchange 2003 for email. The system served city administrators, police and emergency responders. The city didn't have a problem with Exchange, but it did have trouble finding IT administrators to manage it.
"The problems had less to do with the Microsoft product and more to do with our internal resources," Stern said. "A couple years ago, we were looking for an Exchange administrator and we just couldn't find someone with the right skill set at our pay rate. We have a hard time paying our employees competitive salaries. Good administrators for Microsoft Exchange are fairly pricey."