The San Francisco city-county government will deploy a cloud-based e-mail platform from Microsoft over the next 12 months, officials announced Wednesday, May 18.

The multiyear contract, valued at $1.2 million annually, will migrate the city and county’s 23,000 municipal employees onto Exchange Online, a move San Francisco CIO Jon Walton said will consolidate IT resources and cut costs.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity, not just about e-mail but what it means for the future of the city,” Walton said.

The e-mail rollout is one of the key projects outlined in San Francisco’s first ever five-year strategic IT plan scheduled to be released Thursday, May 18. Walton said the new e-mail contract is helping the Department of Technology achieve its 20 percent budget reduction target for this fiscal year, which was directed from the mayor’s office.

Walton said San Francisco considered two other cloud e-mail platforms — Lotus Notes and Google — to replace its seven different e-mail systems currently in use across 60 departments, but a group of agency-level CIOs came to the unanimous decision that Microsoft’s platform best fit the city’s strategic vision.

Shawn McCarthy, a research director at IDC Government Insights who spoke at Wednesday’s announcement, said moving to cloud-based e-mail isn’t new, but it’s becoming more popular.

In October, New York City announced an agreement with Microsoft to deliver cloud computing services to 30,000 city employees and consolidating licensing agreements. Two years ago, Los Angeles partnered with Google for its cloud e-mail services.

Last year, Federal CIO Vivek Kundra ordered government agencies to use a “cloud first” policy when seeking new software and systems.

“Getting common, standardized solutions from a common platform in the cloud is definitely the way of the future, and certainly San Francisco going down this path is making a choice that is becoming more and more popular with government entities,” McCarthy said.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.