- Google Apps Migration
- North America
Founded in 1897, Greenwood County is located near the northeastern corner of South Carolina. The county is home to the town of Greenwood, the 16th largest city in the state, which is 70 miles from the state capitol of Columbia. Also calling the county home is Lake Greenwood, which with 212 miles of shoreline and 11,400 acres of space for boating and fishing, is one of the top destinations for outdoorsmen in the state.
Greenwood County’s IT Team consists of five IT professionals who manage all software, hardware and related initiatives and issues for the entire Greenwood County government workforce. The IT team supports a diverse range of offices, from the sheriff to the solicitor to the tax assessor, and thus the team must understand and support different sets of needs of different people in different jobs.
Greenwood County was using a combination of Microsoft Exchange and a open-source solution called SquirrelMail for messaging, but the platform was becoming less dependable every day, requiring more maintenance time and effort from IT Director Brad Barnell’s team. Barnell estimated that his team spent 16-20 hours a month simply maintaining the messaging system.
In addition, the users that the team supports were wading through waves of spam in their inboxes, which was impacting their productivity. Greenwood County needed messaging and spam-fighting solutions that would free up significant time for both the general user population and the IT team itself.
Greenwood County’s first priority was to find a messaging system that would be more reliable and also require less maintenance attention from the IT staff. Freeing up this valuable time for their IT staff would allow the team to spend their time on more strategic initiatives and forward-thinking solutions. Additionally, the Disaster Recovery (DR) system was only backing up email for the Exchange users; SquirrelMail users were storing email on their own machines. Greenwood clearly needed a better storage and backup solution for messaging as well.
Reducing spam was also a major objective for the county. As Barnell put it, “Our users were seeing a lot of spam, so much that they voiced complaints to my team frequently. Preventing spam from reaching our employees’ inboxes would make them more productive, and preventing it from even reaching our email servers would be one less headache for my team.”
Greenwood was using an on-premise spam-fighting solution, but it was complicated and Barnell’s staff never had the time to learn how to properly tune it, so spam flowed through the system fairly easily. Finding a better spam-fighting solution that required less work for the IT staff was a significant objective for Greenwood.
For many government entities, spam is closely related to other security concerns. A major goal of any IT staff is to have a foolproof disaster recovery (DR) and continuity system in place. For a small staff, however, this can be difficult to maintain. While Greenwood had a DR system in place, it was not replicated anywhere else, and was not backing up every user’s email. Any messaging solution that could easily integrate with a better alternative to Greenwood’s current DR system would provide significant added benefit.
Lastly, Greenwood was interested in finding a new mobile solution for their workforce. The county was using a third-party vendor to support their employee’s mobile devices. Finding a solution that could be easily maintained by the IT staff or even better, the owner of the mobile device, would save the county a few extra dollars.
Greenwood chose to move to Google Apps, and Cloud Sherpas assisted Barnell and his team with the migration. Having been personal Gmail users themselves for quite some time, the IT staff was confident that Google Apps could handle Greenwood’s needs. Greenwood was confident that Google Apps would save them significant amounts of money and time compared to the old system, as they found positive reviews not only within their own staff but also through general research.
After the migration, Barnell confirmed that Google Apps has liberated his staff: “We’re now able to work on projects that help propel our county forward in a variety of ways, rather than simply keeping everything running. Off-loading email maintenance, spam fighting and disaster recovery was a big win for my small staff of five.” Users are also enjoying the much greater uptime that Google Apps provides.
Greenwood County’s workforce were quick learners, as they became comfortable with the platform with the help of e-learning courses from Cloud Sherpas. Barnell stated that the vast majority of Greenwood’s employees were very happy with the new solution, which almost always indicates that a workforce has become proficient in performing all of their old tasks in the new system. The county is currently using some of the basic Google Apps features such as Calendar and Chat, and is beginning to use Docs and Sites on a limited basis. Every user benefits from the collaboration made possible by their Google Apps migration.
Barnell considers the greatest benefits for his team to be the time they now have to spend on other, more exciting projects. For the end-users that his team supports, the ability to access email anywhere in the same format was a big improvement. Additionally, both groups are happy with the Google Apps mobile platform. Employees are able to use the device of their choice, and setup, updating and syncing are done for them when they sign in to their Google accounts on their mobile devices.
For many governments that have made the switch, the bottom-line savings often have the greatest influence on the decision. Considering the total cost of ownership, most governments can’t find a better solution than Google Apps. Just ask Greenwood.