Google Apps Migration: City of Los Angeles Reality Check

Google Apps Migration: City of Los Angeles Reality Check

A City of Los Angeles memo suggests the municipality's much-hyped Google Apps migration might not be a Hollywood love story. Specifically,  users in the pilot program are reporting frustrations with the search giant’s SaaS suite, leading to talk of a a delay in the deployment timetable. Critics say it’s proof that the cloud isn’t ready for primetime. I say it’s proof that nothing generates FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) like the cloud. Here’s why.

Update, May 4, 2010: Google offers some perspectives in this blog entry.

I contacted SADA Systems Inc., the solutions provider facilitating Los Angeles’ cloud move, for comment, but they’re understandably under strict NDAs (non-disclosure agreements). But I think this line from the memo in question sums it up nicely:

“Some of the features that pilot participants have identified as lacking are actually present in the Google system, but are accessible in a different manner,” wrote City Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana.
To me, it sounds like the users in the pilot program were so used to Novell GroupWise (the city's outgoing email platform) that anything different threw them for a total loop. Drawing from my own personal experience, I’ve never had a problem with any GUI Google brought to the table, so I don’t exactly think they need a usability overhaul.

More legitimate concerns were brought up over Google Apps features missing entirely, according to the memo, as well as a drop in operational speed in areas with slower network connections. Obviously, there’s not much to be done about either unless both Google and Los Angeles improve matters on their end.

The memo concludes with a breakdown of the potential cost to the city if they miss their end-of-2010 Google Apps migration deadline and have to continue paying for their GroupWare licenses. Long story short? So much as a two-month delay can cost the city upwards of $500,000 -- and if they go longer than six months over, they’re looking at just under $1 million.

So here’s my take: I do believe that the City of Los Angeles is doing the right thing by moving to Google Apps -- those TCO numbers pretty much make the case for me, and I believe Google has a mature solution that seems to get better by the week.

It’s just that people are disinclined to trust the cloud, if only due to security and performance concerns both real and exaggerated. What’s really needed, more than anything, is real and thorough education on the benefits and dangers, for company executives all the way back to end-users.

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