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Peterborough City Council goes for Google Apps over Microsoft in cloud push

Peterborough City Council’s assistant director of Digital Peterborough, Richard Godfrey, has told Computing that the council shifted from Microsoft to Google Apps and Chromebooks because it needs to become more mobile and flexible. 

The shift marks the next step in the council’s digital transformation. 

Speaking to Computing ahead of the V3 Cloud and Infrastructure Live summit, Godfrey said that the move was prompted by the impending expiration of the organisation’s enterprise-wide licence agreement with Microsoft.

“It was the ideal time to review what we were doing as an office suite of products, and with the way the council is moving to wanting staff to be more efficient,” he said. “We want them be able to work remotely, work from various locations.”

Rather than opt for Microsoft’s cloud-powered Office 365 suite, Godfrey said that Google Apps was chosen owing to its compatibility with Google’s Chromebooks that are being rolled out across the council.

“Using applications that are native to the Chromebook through Google Apps just makes [more] sense than using any other provider,” he said.

Effectively, the council has mixed cloud-powered hardware and software to give workers lightweight machines that have easy access to all the applications that enable remote working and easy project collaboration, and are more cost effective that traditional laptops.

Godfrey also highlighted that Google’s Chromebooks and Apps suite reduce the need for the IT department to set up laptops with employee profiles, passwords, encryption and antivirus as all the data, services and security can be delivered directly from the cloud.

Setting up traditional laptops for a workforce takes months, said Godfrey, but with the Chromebooks workers can simply collect them from the IT department and log-in to Google Apps.

This approach frees up the IT department from the normal administrative burden of setting up new devices with locally hosted software. 

Transforming traditional IT

Moving from an on-premise software suite to Google’s cloud-hosted apps is a natural evolution of Peterborough Council’s strategy to adopt digital and cutting-edge technology to drive efficiency and flexibility across its services and workforce.

“It was the next logical step in the overall programme. We’ve been looking at software-as-a-service [SaaS] and public cloud quite heavily, with Salesforce and Box and various other work we’ve had going on,” said Godfrey.

This has seen the council move much of its IT infrastructure onto the Amazon Web Services cloud platform, roll out a gigabit-speed fibre broadband network and adopt Box’s cloud-based storage and collaboration services.

Cloud services are often touted as a way to reduce costly infrastructure, but in some cases using a host of cloud services at scale can be equally expensive. But Godfrey pointed out that the council’s adoption of cloud platforms and SaaS is less about cost savings.

Rather, he said, it is about finding ways to use technology to benefit the services of various council departments.

“For us, moving to that whole ‘as-a-service’ model means that the IT staff can stop doing what I call the fire fighting tasks – patching servers, building laptops, maintaining things – and be more dynamic and useful in departments and take them on that next step of what those tools can do for them,” said Godfrey.

“I think sometimes IT is guilty of overcomplicating things, whereas we want IT to be as slick and efficient as possible where they are almost commissioning services in.”

Peterborough Council has been a flag bearer for digital transformation in local councils, rather than allowing Whitehall to steal all the glory.

But some councils appear to be reticent to follow suit. Godfrey said that many are too quick to dismiss it owing to security concerns, something he believes to be overstated.

V3 Cloud  Infrastructure Live logoComputing’s sister site V3 is hosting the Cloud and Infrastructure Live summit on 20 and 21 April, where we will be joined by Godfrey and others to discuss numerous aspects of the cloud and how to best use it at your organisation. To find out more, sign up now for free.

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