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Home / Cloud computing may save Iowa $1 million a year
CEDAR RAPIDS - Shifting state email and calendar systems to the cloud may save Iowa up to $1 million a year, according to states that have made the jump.
Iowa officials, facing a lawsuit based on their choice of Google over Microsoft, estimate saving $1 million to $2 million over three years for email, but say there are other potential savings for services such as video conferencing.
'By moving to the cloud, the state can avoid those future costs and we expect significant gains in productivity, efficiency and a better use of state systems overall,” said Matt Behrens, Iowa's chief technology officer.
Iowa awarded the $7.5 million, three-year contract to Tempus Nova, a Denver-based company, in September. Tempus Nova specializes in moving government email systems to Google Apps for Government, a cloud-based system.
Despite the mental image evoked by cloud computing, data is stored in bricks-and-mortar buildings - several of which are in Iowa. Google, Microsoft and Facebook have each invested billions of dollars in recent years to build data centers in Council Bluffs, West Des Moines and Altoona, respectively.
Microsoft claimed in a March 19 lawsuit in Polk County the Redmond, Wash.-based company wasn't given a fair shot at the contract because Iowa waived core requirements for Tempus Nova, while booting Microsoft and other bidders for not meeting experience targets.
Heather Palmer, an administrative law judge with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, sided with the state Dec. 23.
Iowa may 'reject any or all bids at any time for any reason,” Palmer wrote. The state also 'reserves the right to waive minor deficiencies and informalities if, in the judgment of the department, the best interest of the state of Iowa will be served.”
The state of Wyoming has saved more than $1 million a year since hiring Tempus Nova to migrate email to Google Apps in 2011, said Flint Waters, that state's chief information officer. Wyoming was the first state in the country to move email to the cloud.
Iowa's CIO Bob von Wolffradt inked that deal when he held the same position in Wyoming. He moved to Iowa in 2012.
Wyoming reduced its biennial budget $1.5 million to $2 million by replacing an outdated video conferencing system with Google Hangouts, Waters added.
Colorado, which started moving to the cloud in 2012, saved about $2.4 million last year by ditching outside website vendors, hosting and maintenance agreements for previous email systems, said Tauna Lockhart, chief communications officer for the state's information technology office.
Iowa's initial Request for Proposals said the state wanted to move 23,500 email users to the cloud. Each state email box costs $165 now, Behrens said. He would not say how much less they would cost under the Google contract, but Wyoming's cost-per-box is about $120, Waters said.
'We will eliminate 50-plus servers and over 60 terabytes of storage across the state of Iowa including several separate email systems,” Behrens wrote in an email Friday.
Officials from Wyoming, Colorado and Utah said they have had no problems responding to open-records requests or protecting top-secret government emails on their cloud systems.
Kathleen Richardson, director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said outsourcing email doesn't change the state's obligation to Iowa Code Section 22, which states 'a governmental body shall not prevent the examination or copying of a public record by contracting with a non-governmental body to perform any of its duties or functions.”
Utah, Colorado and Wyoming all have added encryption to their cloud systems to protect secure information. Iowa also plans to take this step, Behrens said.