Much fanfare and anticipation has accompanied the city of Los Angeles' decision to migrate its 30,000-plus city employees to Google Apps, the Web-based productivity suite that includes Gmail. The project is scheduled for a full rollout this summer.

For a sneak peek at what the end result might be, one can look to Orlando, Fla., where city CIO Conrad Cross got approval from the City Council to move the city's 3,000 mailboxes to Gmail -- a migration completed in February.

Because of the implementation, Orlando has realized a 60 percent savings on e-mail, reducing its annual per-user cost from $113 for Lotus Notes to $50 with Gmail, according to Cross.

In the following Q&A with Government Technology, Cross said that even though cost savings was a driver for the move -- like many municipalities, Orlando has slashed its IT budget -- the emergence of cloud computing has forced the city to rethink all its service delivery: "Even if money was no object, I think I would have to evaluate -- is cloud computing not the best way to go?"

What were the business drivers for choosing the cloud for Orlando's e-mail?

Staff cuts and because our Lotus Notes platform was getting old -- 10 years old in one case, and they needed to be changed.

People were still complaining that they needed more storage, and we found that as the years went by, with all these digital cameras and multimedia work, that the attachments were getting larger and the amount of storage was increasing. We gave our users 100 MB [on the old system] and depending on their ranking or title, sometimes we would give them up to 500 MB. Still not a lot.

Time was really of the essence for us, especially so because we didn't have any administration on the Lotus Notes in-house, and I wasn't that comfortable with a contractor situation. Not that they can't do it, but we were thinking the sooner we move to a situation where somebody was in total control, the better off we would be.

Was it becoming problematic to find qualified support staff for the Lotus Notes platform?

Yeah, that was part of it. We brought in our Lotus Notes administrator, and it was one person when we started off, then we added another person to back him up -- that person came in and he was maybe in his 50s. When he retired last year, he was in his 60s. We paid him at a premium because Lotus administrators weren't very easy to find. When he left the city last year, he was making good money. And the person who backs him up -- the second person who used to administer software -- also decided to leave because we were going to have to make [staff] cuts, and he was one of the junior employees. He figured he would be one of the first to go, so he left also.

That kind of put us in a bind, and we were running Lotus Notes without that administration for a period of time. We did have somebody on contract, but that wasn't the ideal scenario for us. And the licenses were [set to expire].

How did you achieve buy-in from the city's leadership?

There was a lot of convincing to do, but our organization may be one-tenth the size of Los Angeles, and the politics of our organization was much less than L.A.'s situation. We had concerns from the different quarters, but one thing we did early on when we decided that Google may be an alternative for us is that we got some user test accounts set up and we brought in key users from across the city -- from

Matt Williams  |  Associate Editor