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The
U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has become the first federal
government agency to shifts its more than 17,000 employees and contractors to
the cloud by adopting the Google Apps for Government platform.

The
federal agency migrated its employees and contractors to Google Apps in a
six-month period, and it just announced the completion of that migration, with
the help of partners Unisys and Tempus Nova.

When the GSA made the decision to switch to Google Apps six months ago, it was
clear the government agency had truly embraced the cloud, with GSA
Administrator Martha Johnson being quoted as saying “work is what you do, not
where you” (so very true in this increasingly virtual world).

With
an eye towards improving customer service and communication (both internal and
external), the GSA is using Google Apps in a collaborative fashion. Basically,
employees are able to collaborate faster with each other, customers and
industry partners to find solutions to problems faster. Of course, putting
everything in the cloud also means that employees can work remotely much more
easily.

According
to a post at the Official Google Enterprise Blog by Dan
Israel
of the Google Apps for Government team, “GSA expects the introduction of
Google Apps to help the agency transform its business and provide better
results for its customers by promoting clearer communication and better team
collaboration. What’s more, GSA projects that moving to Google Apps will lower
email costs by 50 percent, a savings of $15 million over five years.”

Johnson’s
own blog post on the topic of the migration to the cloud noted that
Google Apps will save taxpayers millions of dollars just in email operations
savings. Much of the reason for these savings comes from “a decrease in the number of costly data centers requiring
hardware, software licenses, maintenance, and contractor support,” Johnson
wrote.

Cloud-based calendaring is also playing a role in the new GSA work
environment, but considering the migration only based on Google’s email and
calendaring systems is really only the beginning, according to the Google blog
post. Migrating to the cloud enables a new way for GSA employees to work.
Hundreds of GSA employees that volunteered to be early adopters used a Google
Site to educate others about Google Apps using Google-hosted recorded training
videos. They’ve been using Google Docs for timely collaboration. Additionally,
the GSA employees also adopted Google Chrome for Business for faster and more
secure access to Google Apps.

The GSA is the first federal agency to successfully migrate to the
cloud, but it’s far from the only one with its eyes on the cloud. The Obama
Administration’s “cloud first” strategy has challenged federal agencies to
identify and migrate three IT capabilities to the cloud within 18 months (an
initiative originally announced in November 2010, so the clock has been running
for awhile).

According to Johnson’s post, 15 agencies have already identified
950,000 email boxes over 100 email systems to migrate to the cloud.
Unsurprisingly, the first IT system to be targeted for migration to the cloud
is email. Seeing as the GSA has already completed its transition, it plans to
help others shift their email systems to the cloud.