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Poll: Was The City’s Switch To Gmail A Good Or Bad Decision?

July 1, 2012 Featured, Sunday Poll 14 Comments

Last month the City of St. Louis changed their email accounts so they’re now hosted by Google’s Gmail service at a cost of $275,000.  Why?

This spring, a city department head admitted he sent an email from his work account urging acquaintances to attend a $500-a-head golf tournament benefiting the campaign of his boss, Mayor Francis Slay. (St. Louis goes Google, ends ‘archaic’ email system)

In short the system the city had used for years had virtually no tracking information. When the above email was sent the holes in the city’s 20th century email system became apparent. Also:

Employees complained that their old service did not work well with mobile devices and computers outside of the network. Now, in an effort to fix the system and cut costs they have switched to Google’s cloud based service. (St. Louis City Switches To GMail)

What do you think? Good decision? Bad decision? Comment below and vote in the poll (right sidebar) now until Sunday July 8, 2012. Final results to be published Wednesday July 11, 2012.

— Steve Patterson

  • Woodsba

    My thinking is that any improvement on better communications within a company, organization and yes, government is a good thing. In light of the fundraising email, if the new system puts a stop to this sort of thing then great.

  • Pauleisen

    I’ve used Gmail for business. It is intuitive, good for mobile, and extremely easy to manage. Will save the city in long term tech support costs, I have no doubt.

  • If you can’t check email from your home computer or mobile device, that would be a big problem. However, I would think the system would have to be extremely old for that to be true. I have not seen an email address I could not set up on an iphone, for example. Of course, tracking is an important issue too. If the system was that old, it needed to go.

  • Guest

    Steve – I love you, but you’re trying to tie together a cause and effect without enough data. Unless you know what the city spent on IT cost to manage and maintain its email servers as opposed to these cost, anyone that answers “Bad” is doing so with a major lack of information. What if by making this switch the city saved money on their IT budget and thus that money can be used other places, such as what you police/fire (now who would complain about that)? If you have that information it would be beneficial.

  • RyleyinSTL

    My impression is that the city made a good move here. Running your own Exchange server (or similar) is less and less worth it these days.  You need to worry about security updates, service packs, active directory nightmares, SPAM, viruses and a pile of other issues. All good reasons to have email hosted externally.  Additionally, if the city was in the position where they needed to update an outdated setup (which it sounds as if they were), this would have presented even greater value.  

    • RyleyinSTL

      Just finished reading some more on this. Sounds like they had an old Groupwise setup….yikes!

  • David O’Leary

    The price seems awfully steep considering Google lets small-ish companies do it for free. But in the end, moving email to the cloud makes a lot of sense.

    • RyleyinSTL

      Google has trimmed back the free service from 50 to 10 users. The price/month is competitive for the number of users and features the city is using (based on the new piece). It’s possible that the migration could have been done for less with existing IT personal but that would depend on many factors, of which, the city would know best.

  • Jeff Abernathy

    The largest cost of this contract is the data retention. I think perhaps we could have saved money by doing a lower retention, perhaps of 2 years instead of 10

  • Crosslina

    I remember participating in a survey of city administration services performed by FOCUS STL back when Harmon was mayor. They were virtually uncomputerized in even the biggest departments like permits. And they still printed their own business cards and letterhead in the basement of city hall! So I am all for bringing city government out of the dark ages and into the modern world. The name of the game today is quick communication and accurate data. City government needs it as well and initial costs can be at least partially ameliorated by saved people hours.

  • Crosslina

    Jeff, since I frequently work with federal funds I can say that many documents including types of correspondence need to be retained for at least 7 years. Then there is the case of needing to develop a case for a “pattern” of behavior that is erroneous, discriminaory etc and that can take place over a period of years. So I say that in this case it is better to be safe than sorry. – Anna

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