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CORRECTION APPENDED: Because of an editing error, the original article said it would cost the city $980,000 to implement the Microsoft system. That figure was for the Google system.

The City of Raleigh is considering a proposal to make Google its e-mail provider instead of its current Microsoft-based system. But the city will still use the “” email addresses.

At the Budget and Economic Development Committee meeting Tuesday, members listened to the proposal from City Manager Russell Allen, who said Google Apps for Government would save the city $480,000 during the next three years.

“That’s the equivalent of three staff positions,” said Allen.

Among other benefits, moving to Google would include increasing mailbox size 70-fold, an intranet platform, internal video streaming and video chat, a higher level of security, a platform that would make it more efficient for staff to respond to public records requests and a disaster recovery system.

The Google cloud system, as it’s called, would keep all of the city’s information in Google’s data centers using its servers. This would enable the city to remove 12 servers from its own data center.

The Microsoft Exchange email system would cost the city $1.4 million during the next three years. It would cost the city $980,320 to implement the new version of Google’s system in the same period.

Kimberly Nelson, Microsoft’s egovernment executive director, challenged the numbers in the city’s proposal. She said they are misleading and reflect the costs in a second bid that was submitted after the city asked them to include more capabilities than the current system provides.

“What you’re looking at there is really comparing apples to oranges,” she said.

Nelson said since the city already owns Microsoft software, it could transition to the latest version of Microsoft Exchange for $90,000.

“Is it wise to spend money on something that you already own?” Nelson said.

She also said she didn’t believe the city had the proper planning in place to implement a new system. Nelson went on to say that the transition costs always far exceed what is expected.

Gail Roper, the city’s chief information officer, defended their research and the proposal stating that they factored in all possible issues, including enough bandwith to run the system. She said the Microsoft figures also include costs that are unrelated to Microsoft, such as hardware upgrades.

“I brought the cloud solution [to Raleigh] after discussions with chief information officers around the country,” she said.

Roper maintained that Google’s proposal gave the city the best offer and that she stands by the proposal.

“I am so confused by these numbers that I couldn’t even begin to make a decision today,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said of the proposal.

Committee members agreed to revisit the issue in a couple of weeks and requested more comprehensive information about what each program requires and the costs associated with it. Baldwin also asked that they provide estimates for further costs down the line.

Members also requested that someone from North Carolina State University come talk to the committee. N.C. State implemented a Google-based e-mail system and continues to expand on it. The city of Winston-Salem also implemented a Google-based system; councilors asked city staff to find someone from that city’s information technology department to field questions.

4 thoughts on “

  1. I’m sure the number is correct. And once again, the cloud slowly eliminates the jobs of local IT people.

    The question to debate is whether you trust your sensitive data on Google servers. In the case of government, it’s public record anyway right? So it shouldn’t worry them *too* much that google is probably indexing it all for future reference.

  2. Considering the computer security issues worldwide, HOW SECURE IS THE CLOUD?

    Local servers can at least be physically disconnected from the web to protect the information.

    As much as I appreciate saving money, I’m really not sure about this one.

  3. Some public records are confidential, such as some personnel matters, health info, etc. I’d be more worried whether or not Google and this information will still be around in 20 years.

  4. “Nelson said since the city already owns Microsoft software, it could transition to the latest version of Microsoft Exchange for $90,000.” = could pay more in license fees to upgrade the software.

    Now wonder Councilor Baldwin and others are confused, MicroSoft is spreading on the FUD thick. “‘Is it wise to spend money on something that you already own?’ Nelson said.” – No Ms. Nelson, it’s not. Not when MicroSoft “owns” you with outrageous license fees.

    I hope that Google is given enough consideration because it’s a platform that is more collaborative to users. I think it would be a game changer in the way departments collaborate with each other.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with moving a service like this to the cloud. It relieves the city staff from maintaining Exchange servers and allows them to focus on other things, like opening up data and creating API’s so that developers can access city data to create better applications.

    The City finally has a reasonable choice to take a path that’s more open source friendly, and again, some of our officials are not educated enough to make an informed decision.

    Jason Hibbets