Google to Live or Die in LA?

The City of Los Angeles chose Google over Microsoft for e-mail, but an internal letter reveals regrets about "Going Google".

The cash-strapped City of Los Angeles government may have shunned Microsoft for Google's cloud-based apps, but an April 13 inter-departmental letter indicates that performance issues with Google Apps have consistently frustrated pilot users.

The letter made its rounds on Twitter today and documents that pilot users from several City departments are worried about the performance and functionality of Google Apps.

From the letter:

"On April 5, 2010 ... the working group acted to expand the duration of, and number of participants in, the pilot for this system because current pilot users have experienced issues and problems that have negatively affected their productivity and department operations. This expansion may result in the delay of the citywide implementation of the Google system."

The Google Apps pilot users have been testing the Web-based productivity suite since February. With the battle between Google Apps and Microsoft Office reaching a fever pitch, the City of LA chose Google Apps over Office because of a massive city budget deficit, a reduction in IT staff and general frustration with current e-mail platfom, GroupWise from Novell. There are currently 2,405 participants in 32 departments and nine elected officials in the pilot program, according to the letter.

In late March, pilot participants met to discuss their experiences with Google Apps.

"At the meeting many of the departments expressed concerns about both the performance and the functionality of the new system. Performance concerns focused on the slowness with which e-mails were sent, received and accessed in the new system. Functionality concerns focused on features currently available in GroupWise that are unavailable, or significantly different, in Google's system. Further, the Los Angeles Police Department indicated that several security issues have yet to be resolved, and that a pilot of its technical support staff must be successfully completed before it can be expanded to the rest of the LAPD. Some pilot participants also identified new capabilities that were not available to City staff using GroupWise, including collaboration tools, chat, and compatibility with a wider range of mobile devices."

The letter concedes that the lackluster performance of Google Apps can partially be blamed on "shortcomings in the configuration of the City's data networks", which, the letter states, is being addressed. Two other reasons hampering Google Apps' performance in LA are the requirement to keep both GroupWise and Google Apps running concurrently and also the fact that Google Apps works best using the Chrome browser but most City staff use Internet Explorer or Firefox.

The City of LA's ITA (Information Technology Agency) has addressed some of the slowness issues, but Google Apps are still not as quick as what it is replacing.

"At several locations around the City with slower network connections, however, the new system [Google] still appears to operate more slowly than GroupWise did. ITA will continue testing those locations."

A working group consisting of representatives from the Los Angeles Office of the Mayor, the police department, the Office of City Attorney and other city departments, has instructed the ITA to expand the pilot period and the number of participants and departments in the pilot to "more fully assess whether Google's system will adequately serve the City's e-mail needs."

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