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Pittsburgh Finishes Google Apps; CIO Howard Stern Leaves

Pittsburgh CIO says he is confident in Google’s security despite L.A. City Council’s decision to cancel email for law enforcement.

by / January 4, 2012
Pittsburgh riverfront image from planning report Image from Pittsburg Website

Pittsburgh has finished migrating its 3,000 city employees to Google Apps in a move that officials said Wednesday will reduce costs and give users 500 times more storage capacity than before.

The four-month-long project was finished on time and on budget, said Pittsburgh CIO Howard A. Stern.

The city will pay approximately $170,000 annually in user and support costs for the company’s email and productivity suite, in addition to $200,000 in one-time implementation costs. The city said it expects to save 25 percent annually compared to Pittsburgh’s previous email solution, Microsoft Exchange.

Other benefits, officials said, are users will have 25 gigabytes of storage and access to integrated instant messaging. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s IT department will no longer have to maintain two physical servers for email, which will allow personnel to be repurposed for other tasks.

The enterprise e-mail migration covers approximately 1,500 law enforcement users, including the Pittsburgh Police Department. Stern said he is comfortable in Google’s security but that Pittsburgh officials will continue to watch developments in Los Angeles, where last month the City Council decided to cancel a contract that would have moved 13,000 law enforcement personnel to Google’s platform. L.A. councilmembers believed that the security requirements needed by law enforcement were not met in full by Google’s cloud technology.

Stern said he had no such reservations, citing the product’s Federal Information Security Management Act certification and the fact that it’s already used by some agencies in the federal government, including the General Services Administration. And Google’s security capability far exceeds what the city can do internally, Stern said.

“But we are watching [the Los Angeles situation] closely, and we will continue to watch it closely,” Stern said.

Stern won’t be the one doing the watching. He’s starting a new position on Thursday, Jan. 5, at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. Stern, who has a Ph.D., will teach part time and work in administration for the school’s digital learning environment. Teaching has always been a long-time goal, he said. He had been Pittsburgh’s CIO since 2004 worked for the city for more than 30 years. Stern’s swan song was a press conference Wednesday celebrating the Google Apps completion, attended by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Google Vice President Michael Lock.

Stern said it’s his understanding the city’s Google Apps contract allows some flexibility, so if his successor had to move law enforcement users off of Gmail or the rest of the company’s solution, the city would simply purchase fewer user “seats.”

The city only moved forward with the email switch after getting backing from the city’s law enforcement, Stern said. According to a press statement from Ravenstahl’s office, Google Apps was picked through a competitive RFP issued in 2010, and bids were examined by a working group of governmental and nonprofit leaders.


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Matt Williams Contributing Writer

Matt Williams was previously the news editor of, and is now a contributor to Government Technology and Public CIO magazines. He also previously served as the managing editor of TechWire, a sister publication to Government Technology.2

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