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Boston moves 76,000 city employees, police, teachers and students to the cloud with Google Apps


Editor’s word: These days’s visitor blogger is Invoice Oates, Chief Knowledge Officer of the Metropolis of Boston. See what different companies which have long gone Google have to say.

In November, the City of Boston was named the #1 Digital City in America by the Center for Digital Government. While this recognition is based on a variety of measures, a key element is the city’s efforts to engage and connect with constituents using mobile technology and social media. As a tech-savvy city, we’re always looking for the best IT tools to help our government run smarter, innovate more effectively and provide better services for our citizens. Our most recent innovation was the successful migration of 76,000 email accounts from a collection of our premise based systems, mostly Microsoft Exchange, to Google Apps. Not only are all city departments, including the Boston Police Department, now on Google Apps, but every teacher and more than 50,000 public school students each has an individual Google Apps account.

Our new unified, cloud-based communication system is pretty big change from our old set-up. Our agencies worked together to manage their mail environments, with resources focused on mail administration and working across the group structures. Our largest department, the public school district, operated on a very separate environment that was in need of a major technical upgrade.

As the city evaluated an upgrade to communication and collaboration infrastructure, we clearly saw cloud services as the most cost effective, supportable platform to address our future needs. In 2013, following an extensive review of the market, the city initiated a rigorous RFP process that attracted an wide array of bids, including multiple Microsoft and Google cloud offerings. A selection committee composed of members from our City IT organization, Boston Police, and Boston Public Schools evaluated 10 proposals based on both cost and technical capabilities. The committee unanimously chose Google Apps based on its ability to meet the needs of a fast moving city while providing a secure cloud environment.

Going Google on such a large scale has many benefits. We gained reliability and security compared to our prior configuration of Microsoft Exchange servers, which required extensive upkeep, upgrades and patches. The Boston Police department, for example, now has a reliable, scalable system that supports its 24/7 operation with Gmail’s 99.9% uptime guarantee. More than 3,000 police employees, including 2,100 sworn officers, use Google Apps to communicate with one another as well as to streamline reporting processes.

All in all, we’ve securely moved more than twenty million email messages to the cloud. Every city employee — from police, to education, public works, transportation and beyond — has a Google account and a boston.gov email address accessible from any device, anywhere. We are confident Google’s secure, FISMA-compliant cloud environment ensures that city data is safe and private.

The Google Apps platform now sits at the center of our drive to infuse innovation in every aspect of city government and enhance collaboration. After 20 years in office, Mayor Thomas Menino is departing – making way for incoming Mayor Marty Walsh, and we’re proud to hand the new administration the country’s most advanced, fully-functioning, cloud-based communications system to keep our city at the forefront of technology innovation.