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Google Takes NOAA as Battle for E-Mail Market Continues

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the largest federal agency to choose Google for hosted e-mail services.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be moving its 25,000 employees to Google Apps for enterprise cloud-based e-mail and other services by the end of the year.

The NOAA’s CIO Joseph Klimavicz made the announcement recently at Google’s Innovation for the Nation in Washington, D.C., a conference made up of more than 100 government IT leaders.

According to Google’s enterprise blog, the NOAA is the largest federal agency to date to choose Google for hosted e-mail services. To comply with the Barack Obama administration’s Cloud First policy, the NOAA issued an RFP at the beginning of the year in search of cloud-based e-mail and other features best suited for the agency.

“Google Apps will enable staff to access their e-mail, documents and data from anywhere, on any Internet-connected device — a valuable asset for the agency,” the blog said.

Klimavicz said the agency took an open approach to the procurement, and didn’t specify any technology that needed to be implemented within the proposal.

Since 2009, the NOAA has had 500 users in a Google Apps pilot and has been reviewing Google security documentation with the U.S. General Services Administration, Klimavicz said.

“We’re also not the first agency to go to Google Apps, so we can learn from others,” he said. “But I think our experience with Google Apps, the security and the fact that we’re clearly not the first — all those lead us to believe that we will be very comfortable with this selection.”

The agency is tentatively planning to create another pilot group of nearly 60 users to move to the cloud — most likely those in IT — followed by a group of around 800 early adopters to move to Google in September. Depending on the early adopters’ user experience, the NOAA will then decide on how to complete the rollout that will consolidate the agency’s original 19 different e-mail systems — whether in phases or all at once.

But should all federal agencies rush to the cloud? Klimavicz said that depends on a federal agency’s circumstances.

“If you have a fairly robust capability and you’re happy with it, and it’s not costing a lot to maintain, then you don’t have as compelling of a need to go to the cloud,” Klimavicz said. “But in our case, our e-mail and countering systems are on their last legs, so we really needed to take some action. To me, this was the fastest way to get there.”

Aside from the NOAA, six more non-federal government agencies announced they are moving to Google’s productivity tools, including:

the Department of Health and Environmental Control, S.C.;
Rockingham County, N.C.;
Washington County, N.Y.;
city of Des Moines, Iowa;
Village of Westmont, Ill.; and
Amador County, Calif.

Some cities including Los Angeles and New York City have already hopped into the cloud. Los Angeles selected Google as its cloud e-mail provider back in 2009. More recently, San Francisco and New York City selected Microsoft for cloud services.

Lauren Katims previously served as a staff writer and contributing writer for Government Technology magazine.