Colorado Goes Google, Moves to Google Apps for Government



Updated: 3/9/12 4:01pm MT - Added comments from telephone interview with Kelley Eich.

Yet another battle has taken place in the ongoing war between Microsoft and Google over cloud-based office applications, with this latest round going decisively to Google. The State of Colorado announced yesterday that it was moving all 26,000 state employees to Google Apps for Government. This move consolidates employee email and calendaring into one system from 15 separate mail systems, a move that the Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) said will save the state approximately $2 million per year.

Colorado now joins Maryland, Utah, and Wyoming as states that have switched to Google Apps for Government, and Google has made it abundantly clear that it intends to keep pursuing the business of state and local governments. Case in point: A few months ago Google created a site called Government Transformers that highlights people that have adopted Google Apps for Government. On the site Google states that "With Google Apps for Government, we're pleased to provide some of the tools that help these 'Government Transformers.'"

In a statement announcing the switch to Google, Colorado Secretary of Technology and Chief Information Officer Kristin Russell touted the cost savings of making the switch. "We based this decision on the evaluation of cost, security and functionality, as well as an alignment to the Administration’s overarching goals and our technology roadmap,” Russell said. "Using Google Apps for Government will enable more than 26,000 state employees to leverage the latest technology at a reduced cost and burden to the state while enhancing productivity, efficiency and collaboration between departments."

In a phone interview, Kelley Eich, director of service operations for the Colorado Governor's Office of Information Technology, said that the move to Google Apps from the aforementioned 15 different email systems involved moving state employees off multiple versions and installations of Novell GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange. Eich also said that their selection process was a long and thorough one, and involved choosing primarily between Microsoft's Office 365 and Google Apps.

"We evaluated both Office 365 and Google Apps, and both products were feature-rich market leaders," Eich said. "We also networked extensively with other states to get input from them on their decisions...some of them went with Office 365, and others went with Google Apps. There's no one right solution for every organization, but we felt Google Apps was the best choice for us."

We've written about the battle Microsoft and Google have been waging over the hearts and minds of IT managers and business decision makers for more than a year, ranging from the rumored (and still unconfirmed) migration of General Motors to Google Apps to getting the perspective of smaller businesses who have made the switch to Google, like my chat with IT professional Matt James and his company's move to Google Apps. Microsoft has had some high-profile wins of its own, like Jet Blue, Patagonia, and the American Heart Association opting for Office 365 earlier this year.

We're covering Colorado's move to Google Apps from several additional angles: Our colleagues at Talkin' Cloud have more details about Tempus Nova, the Google Reseller Partner that helped land the State of Colorado for Google, while The VAR Guy puts the deal in context of a recent spate of positive developments for Google Apps and the Google partner community.

More than a few Windows IT Pro editors are struck by the irony of having a publication that exhaustively covers Microsoft residing in a state that has opted for Google Apps, but it's a clear indication that Google is serious about winning business from Microsoft. 

At the RSA security conference I attended in San Francisco last week, former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike McConnell told the assembled crowd of IT security experts that the "Economics of the [public] cloud are too compelling to resist." While security, auditing, compliance, and data portability concerns still darken some of the discussion about the public cloud, it's also clear that Google is continuing to win business with their approach.

So is your organization currently considering a move to either Google Apps or Office365? Feel free to add a comment to this blog post or contribute to the discussion on Twitter.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Mar 10, 2012
Like many decisions made by cash-strapped government bodies, I suspect that the cost of going with Google Apps versus Office 365 might have played a leading role in the final choice. Does anyone have any insight into what the two bidders put on the table to help Colorado make its decision? I can easily imagine how consolidating from 15 different email systems to one will save $2million/annually, but how much will the state pay for Google Apps?
on Mar 13, 2012
Does Google Apps cost $50 / user for government? ($1.3 million for 26,000 users.) One point I think has become increasingly important in the Google Apps vs. Office 365 is the number of excellent Web apps that have been integrating with Google Apps over the last two years or so. Our organization beta tested Office 365, but it didn't connect with any of the other Web apps we are using, so any minor improvement in document formatting was outweighed by a major setback in interoperability. Colorado may be using other services not integrated with Office 365.
on Mar 9, 2012
Wait until they start realizing how many things Google Apps doesn't do. A state that size, good luck with that kiddie spreadsheet app, functional to calculate you allowance for the month, that's about it. We all know what a reputable company Google is; no they'd never circumvent that privacy contract they signed with you. Time to start punishing these companies that are intentionally violating privacy, not reward them.

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B. K. Winstead

B. K. Winstead is a former editor for Windows IT Pro specializing in Exchange Server, messaging, mobility, unified communications, and cloud computing.

Jeff James

Jeff James is a former editor for Windows IT Pro.
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