Wyoming has rolled out Google Apps for Government for all state workers, the first state-wide implementation of the cloud platform in the U.S.
Officials marked the completion of the migration of about 10,000 users Wednesday with a "ribbon cutting" that had Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead cutting a networking cable instead of a ribbon.
Flint Waters, Wyoming's CIO, said he expects to save more than $1 million a year in costs associated with running at least 13 separate email systems, including Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise. The entire transition, from the time the state signed the deal, took about eight months, he said.
The move to Google allows state agencies to function more as a unified enterprise around a single domain instead of disparate IT islands, said Waters. Accomplishing that required changes in how people thought about IT in state government, he said.
"You're talking about changing a mindset about operating at a department level to operating at an enterprise level," said Waters.
Key to the project's success was support from top management -- in this case, the governor -- for the migration, said Waters. "You need that type of support, that type of buy-in, when you are shifting that dramatically," he said.
State governments, as well as federal agencies, are gradually moving email services to the cloud. The City of Los Angeles has moved to Google, and Colorado has a statewide effort under way, although sign-up is voluntary.
Microsoft is also gaining some big contracts . Last December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was moving 120,000 users to Microsoft Online Services, which includes messaging and collaboration.
A major gain with the new system in Wyoming is collaboration, said Waters. That includes the use of text chats and video for face-to-face discussions, as well as shared work on documents. "There is not the travel, there is not the scheduling challenge," said Waters.
Shawn McCarthy, an analyst at IDC, said it may be easier for the smaller states, such as Wyoming, to move to cloud platforms because they may have less integration issues.
There is a lot of potential to a cloud move, said McCarthy, though for some states the migration and integration challenges may be too costly to justify the expense.
Google Apps for Government is a version of Google's app offering that includes Federal Information Security Management Act ( FISMA ) certification. It also includes 25GB of storage per user, Google Docs, Calendar and Web page development, called Google Sites.
Waters said that Google's uptime record exceeds his state agencies.
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.