Hillingdon Council has claimed to be the first local authority in the UK to embrace Google Apps for Business, despite previously shunning the online productivity suite on maturity grounds.
The west London council recently approved plans to start work on moving 3,500 of its staff onto Google Apps with the help of VAR Cloudreach.
The London-based firm bagged the four-year contract, which is estimated to be worth £540,000, after beating competition from suppliers across the EU, including several other Google Apps partners.
Previously, the council's staff have relied on Novell's Groupwise email and calendar tools and used Microsoft Office suite for other tasks.
Steve Palmer, deputy director of IT and business services at Hillingdon Council, said the decision to "go Google" is a sign of how much the search giant's products have moved on since it first entered the channel three years ago.
"We looked at it [Google Apps] three to four years ago, but it was not mature enough for our needs," he explained.
The deal is expected to save Hillingdon Council £2.98m over the course of the contract in "hard cash and cost avoidance", added Palmer.
"[Using cloud] means that we do not have to replace our desktop hardware, that the licensing costs for the software will be lower and that we should also save money on IT support costs," he said.
"The main driver for us was not cost, though. Yes, it had to be affordable, but most of all it had to work and support the way we want the council to operate."
The council is planning a controlled rollout of Google Apps, starting with 120 employees using its email and calendar tools.
"The staff have been incredibly supportive and the enthusiasm for Google has been huge," said Palmer.
"Part of the reason for that is that Gmail is a product that many of them use in their private life, so [they] are already fairly familiar with it."
James Monico, technical director at Cloudreach, which is a Google Apps Premier Enterprise Partner, added: "Out of the three Google partners that responded, I think Hillingdon Council chose us because we are professional, we have the experience, and we took their concerns over security and reliability very seriously."
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