July 4th will bring a Google Apps migration to Colorado county

Google's pricing fits Larimer County's 'times are tough' need

The appeal of Google Apps is being tested in Colorado under a program that will enable any state agency or local government entity to migrate to the service as part of a blanket contract.

Google Inc. will have a potential pool of some 300,000 accounts in that state as a result of a contract signed earlier this year by Colorado's Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) with Denver-based integrator Tempus Nova Inc.

So far, the largest single migration will be in Larimer County, which will switch over about 1,800 users during the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.

The process of migrating data has been under way for a few weeks. When employees return to work on Tuesday after the long weekend, their e-mail and calendaring will no longer be on a Novell GroupWise client, but on Google Apps.

It will be up to various government entities to decide whether they want to use SIPA's umbrella contract to migrate to Google. As many as 5,000 e-mail accounts will switch over to Google by year's end. In 2011, the state expects another 15,000 accounts to migrate to Google Apps, according to John Conley, executive director of the portal authority. In two or three years, there may be as many as 45,000 Google App users.

For its part, Larimer County expects to save $50,000 in annual server and support costs by switching to the cloud environment, said Andy Paratore, the CIO of the Larimer County government.

Paratore also hopes to cut the county's number of Microsoft Office licenses in half over the next several years -- a move that would save as much as $300,000 in licensing costs.

"There is nothing wrong with Microsoft products," Paratore said, "but times are tough."

Most of the migration work will be automated, although the IT staff will be on call over the holiday, Paratore said. A pilot test included 100 users, he said.

Didi Dellanno, director of business development at Tempus Nova, said Larimer users have been trained on the Google system. A number of county employees have been identified as "super users," and they will wear Google shirts during the launch so it will be easy for other employees to spot them. Google will also have someone on hand during the launch, Dellanno said.

Dellanno said she isn't expecting many calls for tech support, and based on prior experience, she said those that do come in will likely involve password questions.

The state contract for Google Apps sets pricing that increases over a five-year period from $42 per user in the first year to $48 in the fifth year. Google advertises its Apps offering at $50 per user per year. An additional e-discovery and archiving tool from Postini, a vendor of e-mail archiving systems that Google acquired in 2007, also has pricing options, including 10 years of archiving at a cost of $30 per user.

The SIPA considered proposals from 10 vendors, and Conley didn't rule out the possibility that the authority could offer blanket contracts for two providers instead of just one.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies; data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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