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San Francisco Picks Microsoft for Hosted E-Mail Solution

Adding to Microsoft's string of public-sector cloud deals, the city of San Francisco announced plans to migrate 60 departments and agencies to Exchange Online over the next 12 months.

Of the city's 23,000 employees, 15,000 are currently using two Lotus Notes systems, while the remaining users are spread out across five Exchange servers, said San Francisco CIO Jon Walton. Moving to Exchange Online would consolidate the seven on-premises e-mail systems. The transition is already underway, with more than 300 employees using the cloud-based e-mail product.

The city has agreed to pay Microsoft $1.2 million a year to provide e-mail service to its employees. Walton said the fee represents a significant savings, which has helped the city's Department of Technology reach its 20 percent budget reduction target.

"There is some inherent cost in support, hardware, software and infrastructure to run multiple e-mail systems," Walton said.

In addition, the move to Exchange Online leapfrogs the city to a newer version of the technology, Walton said. Pushing e-mail to the cloud also boosts availability in the event of a disaster.

"It creates a disaster-resilient solution," Walton said, noting that e-mail messages and data would be protected in the event of a disaster in San Francisco.

However, cloud computing is subject to mishaps. Late last month, Amazon Web Services suffered a much-publicized multiple-day outage that resulted in some customers' data being lost. VMware followed suit when its newly launched Cloud Foundry offering experienced some downtime. And last week, customers of Microsoft's BPOS cloud service, which includes hosted e-mail, experienced an outage. Walton said he worked through the issue with Microsoft, which is providing service credits to the city in light of the outage.

Walton said the city considered three solutions for its e-mail upgrade: Google, Lotus Notes and Microsoft's offering. Walton said Exchange Online fit well with the city's IT strategy. He pointed out that San Francisco already uses such Microsoft products such as Office and SharePoint. The city also deploys applications on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform.

"We really see it as the best fit for where we are going over the next five years," Walton said of the Microsoft e-mail cloud.

Over time, San Francisco may bring additional applications to the cloud. Other elements of Microsoft's BPOS suite include SharePoint and Office Live Meeting for Web and video conferencing. Walton said the city's initial contract with Microsoft covers e-mail and archiving services, but he added that expansion from that core system may occur. The options include SharePoint, instant messaging, and video conferencing, he said.

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About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.

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