Why We Chose Exchange Online, Not Google Apps

How did Microsoft win over the City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina for an Office 365 migration? Better license packaging on a bigger ecosystem of apps at an affordable price — an advantage Microsoft can often wield over cloud rival Google.

Fri, May 20, 2011

CIO — The City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina has never owned an Exchange server, but starting on Memorial Day it will roll out Exchange and Outlook e-mail for 2,700 of its workers.

Winston-Salem — population 230,000 — is yet another in a recent spate of city governments that have chosen to move to a cloud service for e-mail and collaboration. With tighter budgets than most corporations, government agencies have been the first wave of cloud adopters, setting off a war for Uncle Sam's business between Google (GOOG) (Google Apps) and Microsoft (MSFT) (Office 365).

Phase one of Winston-Salem's cloud strategy: Move to Exchange/Outlook Online after many years of using Novell (NOVL) Groupwise for e-mail and collaboration and Novell ZENworks for desktop management.

"Groupwise is a good e-mail platform, but there have been support issues and Groupwise only works with BlackBerry smartphones, which is a limitation," says Winston-Salem CIO Dennis Newman.

"Outlook is well-accepted. Most of our employees have used Outlook before."

Of the 2,700 seats that Winston-Salem is deploying, 2,100 are fully-functional desktops and 600 are "deskless" workers — labor positions like sanitation pickup and landfill workers — who don't have desks but still need occasional e-mail and network access.

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Winston-Salem tested out Google Apps and Gmail on these deskless workers as a way to evaluate Google's cloud service without having to make the full commitment.

"Nothing was wrong with Google Apps," says Newman. "Gmail is a rich environment, and customer support was good. But we were not willing to replace Office with Google Docs, and the cost of having Google Apps and Office client was too much for us."

The fact that Microsoft packages Office client and Office 365 in an enterprise agreement in a more affordable way was a differentiator for Newman.

"To fully invest in Google Apps meant we would have to uninvest in Microsoft Office licensing," he says, "To take away Office from our users would not be well received unless it was saving us money."

In related news this week, the City of San Francisco announced on Wednesday that will upgrade its citywide e-mail systems for 23,000 employees across 60 departments and agencies to Exchange Online for e-mail, calendaring and hosted archiving. The service will cost $1.2 million and will achieve a reported 20 percent budget reduction.

San Francisco's CIO Jon Walton said in a press conference yesterday that after considering Google Apps the city went with Microsoft because Exchange Online complements the other Microsoft apps that the city already uses.

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