Feds Can Learn From L.a.'s Google Deal

The GSA will need to tread carefully to avoid the difficulties faced by the city of Los Angeles when implementing Google's cloud-based e-mail system, an analyst says.

By Mitch Betts
Mon, December 20, 2010

Computerworld — The U.S. General Services Administration , which recently announced plans to move all employees to a cloud-based e-mail system, could learn a lot from the early experiences of the Los Angeles city government, an analyst said.

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Los Angeles was one of the first big government installations of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Google Apps for Government offering. "L.A. has had both positive and negative experiences with its transition," said Shawn McCarthy, an analyst at IDC Government Insights , in an online forum. "GSA will need to tread carefully in order to avoid some of the speed bumps experienced by the city."

Google and systems integrator Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) had a "tough summer" with the Los Angeles project, though many problems were worked out after a few months, McCarthy said. For example, the companies missed one deadline because the system couldn't fulfill all of the police department's security and archiving requirements. And a July report noted that some employees said they "consistently experienced delays in receiving e-mail, up to several hours," though by fall, delivery times had improved.

Google also needs to add other functions to the e-mail service, such as auto-generation of confirmation receipts, especially for messages about legal matters such as subpoenas, McCarthy said. Without that feature, some employees had to retain access to the older Novell (NOVL) GroupWise e-mail system, he said.

On a positive note, Google's cloud-based e-mail and applications should save the city $13.8 million over the life of the five-year contract, he said, and IT managers have given the system high marks for reliability and security.

The lesson for the GSA, McCarthy said, is to "proceed slowly, to give Google incentives to improve performance, and to carefully plan its transition away from any e-mail system [used for] special functions" such as the delivery and receipt of legal documents.

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