Nov 01, 2012 (11:11 AM EDT)
EPA Chooses Cloud For Email

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In what has become a regular occurrence, another federal agency is moving its email and collaboration to a cloud computing platform. The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it has signed a deal to move to Microsoft Office 365.

The EPA expects that the move will save it about $12 million over four years by moving approximately 25,000 employees from the agency’s current on-premises email system to Office 365 over the next several months. The agency will complete its migration by early next year, according to Microsoft.

The new email deal will cost the EPA $9.8 million. As part of the deal, Lockheed Martin -- a long-time contractor for the EPA -- will handle systems integrator duties by managing the move and providing engineering and integration services. Lockheed has provided cloud services to federal agencies for several years.

According to a recent survey of federal IT pros by InformationWeek Government, more than half of federal agencies have identified use cases for cloud services.

[ Read Amazon's Share Of Government Cloud Computing 'Accelerating'. ]

Other federal agencies and state and local governments using Microsoft's cloud email services include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Federal Aviation Administration, California, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the cities of San Francisco, Chicago, and Virginia Beach, Va.

Google, meanwhile, has been just as successful in snatching up government customers for Google Apps. Among those customers are the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the General Services Administration, the Department of the Interior, the state of Wyoming, and the city of Los Angeles.

The fight for government customers has been so intense that competition has been strained at times. For example, that competition spilled over into a court battle that stretched throughout 2010 and 2011, though the case was eventually settled.

Office 365 for Government delivers productivity and collaboration services such as Exchange Online, Lync Online, SharePoint Online, and Office Professional Plus. Google Apps for Government includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sites. IBM and Zimbra also offer cloud email and collaboration services to government.

Agencies no longer even have to get their email through the private sector. In August, the General Services Administration announced contracts with 17 tech companies and federal contractors through which federal, state, local, and tribal agencies can receive cloud-based email services from Google, Microsoft, IBM, and the open-source Zimbra.

More than half of federal agencies are saving money with cloud computing, but security, compatibility, and skills present huge problems, according to our survey. Also in the Cloud Business Case issue of InformationWeek Government: President Obama's record on IT strategy is long on vision but short on results. (Free registration required.)