Warwickshire County Council is to complete a full roll-out of Google Gmail across its 4,500 users next month, in a move that will deliver £250,000 in savings.
The services also include Google Docs and instant messenger, spam filtering, video conferencing and more archiving space than the council was previously able to offer, said Tonino Ciuffini, CIO at Warwickshire County Council.
Warwickshire has spent over a year getting from pilot to a full-roll out and had been holding out for the services being available through the G-cloud, its preferred route. However, the services were not available on the second version of the framework, said Ciuffini.
“It prompted negotiations with lawyers, which we wouldn’t have had to do with the G-Cloud. And we had to take the accreditation further ourselves. If we’d been able to go off the back of G-Cloud that would have been much better,” he said.
But he said the G-Cloud team provided the council with support. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
The council looked at three private and public cloud options, including Microsoft Office 365, Google and IBM, Cable and Wireless with Exchange, SCC with Exchange, and open source offering Zimbra via supplier Savvis. But the council chose Google because it was the most cost-effective option.
The services have been accredited up to impact level two (IL2), which Cuiffini said was an appropriate classification for protecting the vast majority of information used within local government.
Sensitive information such as social care records wouldn’t be communicated via email, anyway, he said. He added that cloud providers actually have better security expertise than providing the services in-house.
“The real benefit has been instant availability of services. It reduces the time for delivery,” he said. Cuiffini has been a champion of the cloud model for some time, with the council one of the six original foundation delivery partners for the G-Cloud programme. “If you want to try something, you can try it quickly and at low costs because the services are pay-as-you-go,” he said.
He said the council is actively exploring other G-Cloud options and expects a major procurement to happen through the CloudStore in the next 12 months.
“We will be looking at the cloud for most things, it is a very real option – although it may not always be the answer,” he said. “If [refreshing systems] we will look at the cloud, but you need to manage the cost of change.”
“Cloud solutions offer modern, web-enabled applications that can be used on a variety of devices.
“The beauty of G-Cloud is that it gives you a chance to try on a small scale first.”
The council will also pilot areas such as remote device management. It is due to release its policy on bring your own device in June. “We have held off on things like BYOD until we completed Gmail,” he said.