According to a recent news release, the GSA has become the first Federal Agency to move e-mail to the Google Cloud agency wide. The subheading on this news release reads "Cloud-based e-mail to save $15 million over five years." This is an amazing bit of news on several levels.
First of all, the GSA has identified that cloud based solutions save a ton of money. This isn't news to the commercial world, but we all know things move a little slower in the government space. As a U.S. tax payer, I'm elated to see that the GSA will be cutting cost (e.g. waste.) and streamlining their operations with a cloud based offering. It's also great to see that they went to Google instead of flushing more money down the proverbial toilet with Microsoft. “Cloud computing has a demonstrated track record of cost savings and efficiencies,” said Casey Coleman, GSA Chief Information Officer. “With this award, GSA employees will have a modern, robust e-mail and collaboration platform that better supports our mission and our mobile work force, and costs half as much.”
Second, at some level, the fears about cloud security have been allayed. I won't speculate on how they were allayed or even if they were allayed totally, but someone decided that the cloud was safe enough for a government agency's email. I'm sure a security officer did due diligence and ensured that the data was safely segregated from any other tenants in the cloud and encrypted in some form. I really hope that there were requirements that all data must reside within the continental U.S. and not be accessed by anyone outside the U.S. other than GSA employees who may be traveling on business. (This is something that I think all companies should absolutely demand from a cloud provider: all data and services should be 100% U.S. based and not be accessible to any foreign entity.)
“GSA’s cloud e-mail award is in step with the Administration’s ‘cloud first’ strategy and demonstrates that agile, secure, reliable, and cost effective cloud options exist to rapidly improve agency operations and services,” said Dave McClure, GSA Associate Administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
I assume that over time the agency will train users on the use of Google Docs (Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Form & Drawing) so that they can also drop the licensing costs for Microsoft Office on the Desktop. I'm sure that Docs covers 99% of the usage cases within the agency and that 1% can be met with a single license for the person who may use something Docs doesn't offer. I would also venture to say that if the agency put in a feature request, Google would be glad to oblige. Couple this with the ability of agency workers to chat and collaborate in real time on documents and you have a powerful platform to drive operational efficiency. I would also be willing to venture a large sum on the fact that the younger 'tech savvy' workers will be very happy to work in this modern environment as opposed to the archaic way of doing things on the desktop.
I applaud the decision by the GSA to move to the cloud, especially to Google's Cloud, and wish them the best of luck as they transition over. I would also be glad to offer my services if needed to ease the transition or help leverage their new platform.