Located at the heart of Northwest Georgia, the City of Rome is located at the center of a triangle formed by the cities of Atlanta, Chattanooga and Birmingham. In January 2012, the City rolled out a new email solution based on Microsoft Office
365 to complement its existing on-premise Microsoft Exchange environment. As a result, the City was able to deliver email service to a community of employees based in the field – including fire fighters and police officers – which until that point had not
been able to use city-based email. Additionally, using Microsoft Office 365 presented a number of benefits, including a familiar interface for new users; a straightforward and timely implementation; integration with existing Microsoft infrastructure; a lower
administrative burden for IT staff; and enhanced support for mobile-device users.
With a population of more than 30,000 residents, the City of Rome's incorporated limits cover 22 square miles within Georgia’s Floyd County. The City government employs approximately 600 workers and maintains a computing environment with more than 350 PCs.
City-wide. Email has traditionally operated on a premise-based application platform running on the city’s servers, which are serviced by Rome’s own IT staff.
However, for a variety of technical, operational and financial reasons, a small group of employees – mostly firefighters and police – still did not have email service within the City’s domain, recalls Johnny Bunch, Director of Information Technology for
“We had maxed out our license count, so we were looking at either increasing our count or trying a hosted option,” he says.
Rome’s IT group began implementing its new cloud-based email accounts in December 2011. The City rolled out the new accounts for approximately 40 users within its Fire and Police Departments on January 1, 2012. These accounts replaced many unmanaged, ad-hoc
email services that employees were using for both personal and work communications, such as free consumer versions of Web-based email.
“Except for a couple of password resets, it’s been a real low profile migration. We haven’t had any issues with it,” Bunch reports. “It gives our users something they didn’t have before.”
Bunch points out that deploying Microsoft Office 365 for a small subset of users allows the City to evaluate and gain experience on cloud-based services without fully committing its entire enterprise.
“Because of our concerns about user skills, data leakage, and other legal issues, we’ve been very cautious in our approach,” he says. “We [wanted] to see what issues would crop up [in a cloud environment] and see how we would handle those issues in case
we decided to roll [a cloud-based system] out city-wide. We wanted to have an idea of what we were getting into.”
The City’s IT group determined that deploying a hosted service such as Microsoft Office 365 to field users would be simpler than constructing new network connections. Additionally, the hosted solution’s Web-based interface permits field staff to use different
mobile devices to check their email accounts.
“The firefighters have just one city-supported email terminal [a kiosk] at each fire station. But since we have wireless network at each station, firefighters are able to bring in their personal laptops and other devices to access their email,” he says.
“It’s just easier for them to log into Office 365 to check email, than for us to set up accounts [on the on-premise system], establish VPNs [virtual private networks] and jump through hoops just to get them on our network.”
The new remote users are primarily using their new cloud-based city-supported email to replace paper memos that were circulated to convey scheduling, assignment and other basic operational information.
The City of Rome is unusual in that it is choosing to pursue a hybrid approach for its enterprise email strategy. It will use a hosted service alongside its existing on-premise Microsoft Exchange system.
“During our research, we did see that other organizations [typically] pick one form of delivery over the other. But Exchange [on-premise] has worked very well for us,” he says. “Microsoft has really taken steps to support and integrate a hybrid solution
using Exchange and hosted services,” he adds.
By implementing Microsoft Office 365, the City of Rome extended the services and functionality to field users who can now avail themselves of many key productivity tools.
Additionally, deploying the hosted solution was straightforward enough that the City’s own IT group was able to execute a rapid and successful roll out without the need for third-party consulting support.
“We did this one by ourselves. It saved the taxpayers some money,” he says. “It transitioned pretty easily, and I didn’t have any major hiccups. I created the accounts, sent an email out with the passwords to the department heads, and they logged in using
Internet Explorer. It was a done deal within a couple of days.”
From an economic perspective, the ability to run a hybrid environment allows the City to bring email service to its field users while continuing to derive value from its existing investments.
“Until we get our total ROI out of our current infrastructure, it really doesn’t pay for us to completely transition [to a cloud environment],” he says.
Furthermore, the city’s users were already familiar with Microsoft applications. As a result, adopting Office 365 was a smooth transition for them.
“We’ve had absolutely no issues with the transition,” he says.
Finally, with a cloud-based solution, the City has gained the ability to provision new email accounts with ease and agility. This has made it possible for him to discourage employees more effectively from using their own ad-hoc email services for city business.
“When you have a vacuum where individuals need email accounts, they’re going to find ways to fill it,” Bunch observes. “And those ways are [often] unmanaged. It can create even bigger issues. This hybrid solution was perfect because it fit right into our
environment. Adopting Office 365 allows us to align field users with the way the City wants to function and present itself. It is working very well.”
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For more information about the City of Rome, call (706) 236-4400 or visit the Web site at: www.romefloyd.com
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