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City looks to go to Google with employee email system


Legislation has been submitted to Pittsburgh City Council by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl calling for the city to adopt Google's cloud-based email system, called Google Apps for Government.

The intuitive email application would replace the city's current Microsoft Exchange system, boosting city employees' e-mail capacity by up to 500 times, and creating operational efficiencies by freeing up personnel time spent on server management and maintenance.

The city plans to migrate its approximately 3,000 employees' e-mails to the new cloud platform by this winter. Employees will get shorter, more customer-friendly e-mail addresses that maintain government identification.

"Many of our employees are familiar with Gmail and will be ecstatic to know that this system provides the same intuitive and user-friendly functionality," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "By adopting this technology, employees will have more time to focus on our core technology initiatives and provide better IT support services to city departments."

The city issued a competitive request for proposals in June of 2010 for an improved e-mail and archiving system. A working group of governmental and non-profit technology leaders evaluated the proposals utilizing best practice models in technology. Of the seven bids, Google offered the most competitive price when factoring the costs of integration, implementation, training, and data archival.

The cost of the new service will be approximately $400,000 for the first year, which includes implementation costs, and $180,000 per year for the next two years of the three year contract. In addition to 25 gigs of capacity and improved functionality, Google's service will provide disaster recovery and ten years of archival capability.

The city pays more than $200,000 annually for the current service, but incurs many other in-house costs.

Google Apps is the first cloud application certified by the federal government for security, availability, and best practices in government community clouds. Google has created a "government only" data center, called a data cloud, which is monitored by National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST), the federal technology agency that works with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards.

"We feel very confident that this technology will ensure the safety and security of our e-mail system," said City Information Systems Director, Dr. Howard Stern.

Pending City Council approval, Pittsburgh will be the first major city in Pennsylvania to utilize the service, following other big cities such as Los Angeles.


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