City Mum about Troubled Google Talks

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City negotiations with Google to use Google Apps for Government as the city’s email provider have hit a snag — but it’s unclear yet exactly what is causing the problems.

Last year, the Raleigh City Council voted to allow City Manager Russell Allen to negotiate a contract with SADA Systems to implement Google Apps for Government as the city’s email provider. The move is expected to save the city $480,000 during the next three years.

In a Technology Committee meeting last week, the IT Department’s Chief Information Officer, Gail Roper, said negotiations with Google are ongoing, but sticking points remain.

Meanwhile, a deadline has now passed. In last week’s meeting, one city staffer said the end of January was the “go, no-go point.”

Roper said that deadline is based on a “major network upgrade that would have to happen if we don’t move the network into the clouds. [That’s] cost savings related to not having to upgrade that equipment.”

Storing items in the “cloud,” means the city would not store the data on its own local servers, but instead will upload the data through the Internet to servers they do not control.

Roper later told the Record stipulations in North Carolina law require the city to have a direct contract. That may mean the city cannot use SADA Systems, but she did not give any other details on the issue and referred the Record to the City Attorney’s office.

Attorney Tom McCormick refused to comment on the issue, saying he does not comment on ongoing negotiations. Attorney Brandon Poole said the issues are all “legal related,” but offered no further comment.

Google representatives also said they could not comment on a specific contract.

Other entities in North Carolina use Google Apps for Government, including North Carolina State University. Marc Hoit, a member of NC State’s IT department, said a university has different provisions for contracts.

“We did not run into a snag with that,” he said. “But I understand that provision … my understanding is if they can show a cost savings … then that is a way to move forward.”

Roper told the Technology Committee other North Carolina users “just signed on the dotted line,” something Raleigh cannot do.

“The variances are who they are contracting for, so it’s not a cookie-cutter solution,” Roper told the Record.

Google officials refused to confirm which North Carolina entities or municipalities are using the program.

NC State launched the program in stages starting in 2010. Hoit said it has “been phenomenally good.”

“It saved us a very large amount of expenditures, which was good because the budget was cut last year,” he said.

The full City Council will discuss the issue at a technology retreat Monday.

If the city makes the switch, Gmail will provide the city’s email system, but all email addresses will still have the same ending. Employees who are unfamiliar with Gmail will still be able to use Microsoft Outlook to maintain their email, contacts and calendars.

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