With a single IT department to provide support for more than 3,000 employees and 4,000 email accounts throughout multiple agencies, Montgomery County was struggling with an aging messaging infrastructure. The county wanted to develop a more stable
email environment with more advanced archiving and reliable data security, while reducing infrastructure and maintenance costs. After evaluating Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Government, 75 percent of the county’s business-user focus group preferred
the subscription-based cloud offering from Microsoft. By adopting Office 365, Montgomery County streamlined service delivery, reduced costs, and built a stable, high-performance messaging and collaboration environment.
With more than 800,000 residents, Montgomery County is the third largest county in Pennsylvania, located just outside Philadelphia. The county delivers a range of citizen services, from public health, property assessment, and road maintenance to law
enforcement, courts, and corrections.
A single IT department provides support for more than 3,000 employees and 4,000 email accounts in 60 locations representing every county agency. One-third of county employees work in the field, including health inspectors, building inspectors, road crews,
and social-service caseworkers. The 43-person department manages a full-service help desk as well as all infrastructure and network services.
||By a margin of three to one, our business users found Office 365 to be far more secure, less disruptive, and
a better fit for
| Anthony Olivieri
Director of IT, Montgomery County
With all that responsibility, the IT department also had to manage email with an aging messaging infrastructure that did not interoperate easily with mobile technology and had become prone to outages. “If an email outage lasted more than a couple hours, some
county agencies would have to literally shut down,” says Anthony Olivieri, Director of IT for Montgomery County. “The cost could be in the tens of thousands of dollars for just a few hours, and that doesn’t begin to calculate the costs to constituents who
may have services delayed.”
Like many public entities, Montgomery County faces budget constraints and pressures to streamline operations, but repeated email outages increased costs and reduced efficiency in the IT department. “It wasn’t just the immediate outage,” says Olivieri. “Instead
of one administrator managing the messaging environment, I could wind up with three engineers spending a week to restore the database and clean up odds and ends.”
Montgomery County had to update its messaging environment, but it had to decide first whether to build a new on-premises infrastructure or adopt a cloud solution. Montgomery County aspires to be a technology leader among local governments in Pennsylvania,
and Olivieri knew that cloud technology would provide opportunities to prepare the county for the future.
He also knew that the county couldn’t just replace its aging email solution. Based on its current and projected business needs, it had to expand its messaging and collaboration capabilities. “We needed 24-hour nearly-never-fail email with a higher level
of redundancy,” says Olivieri. “We needed a new backup strategy, more advanced archiving, seamless remote access, and 100 percent confidence in the integrity of our data. All those requirements introduced a higher level of complexity and costs.”
The county estimated that it would cost up to US$350,000 in hardware and licensing costs just to replace its existing on-premises email environment. Olivieri says that with deployment costs and new backup and archiving systems, the price would be closer
to $1 million and the upgrade would take 8 to 10 months. “We quickly recognized that cloud technology would give us an opportunity to shrink our overall IT infrastructure, decrease costs, and reduce the maintenance and support burden on the IT team,” says
In 2012, Montgomery County released a request for proposal (RFP) for cloud-based messaging and collaboration services. After scoring all the proposals, Olivieri’s team narrowed the choice to Google Apps for Government and Microsoft Office 365, a subscription-based
cloud offering that includes Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online, with Yammer social networking available for purchase with Office 365.
||We quickly recognized that cloud technology would give us an opportunity to shrink our overall IT infrastructure, decrease costs, and reduce the maintenance and support burden on the IT team.
| Anthony Olivieri
Director of IT, Montgomery County
To help determine the best course from a user perspective, the IT department put together a focus group with members from every county agency to attend full-day presentations from IT partners representing Google and Microsoft. The presentations focused on the
day-to-day user experience with Google Apps and Office 365, from sending email messages, attaching documents, and organizing meetings to file storage and videoconferencing.
In online surveys taken at the end of the presentations, 75 percent of the group chose Office 365 over Google Apps. “By a margin of three to one, our business users found Office 365 to be far more secure, less disruptive, and a better fit for their average
workday than Google Apps,” says Olivieri. “We determined that Office 365 would provide the reliability, scalability, interoperability, uptime, and data security that we needed.”
Independently from the presentations and survey, some county agencies were concerned about reported security problems at Google. For agencies such as public health, the district attorney’s office, and the sheriff’s department, the integrity of confidential
data is extremely important. They liked that with Office 365 the county’s data would be encrypted, would be stored in data centers within the continental United States, and would not share storage with other enterprises. Every agency wanted to encrypt email
messages, which was easy to do with Office 365.
A member of the Microsoft Partner Network delivered the Office 365 presentation and in early 2013 helped Montgomery County adopt an Office 365 E2 subscription for Exchange Online with archiving of 4,000 email accounts. With Exchange Online archiving, the
IT department no longer has to manually back up mailboxes. The county solicitor’s office uses the litigation hold feature in Exchange Online to place a mailbox or mail items on hold indefinitely or for a specified period. Historically, requested email messages
would often have to be recovered with a difficult, time-consuming process that required IT support. With litigation hold, a county solicitor with appropriate permissions can search the entire Exchange Online archive for keywords to find the requested data.
After completing the migration to Exchange Online, the county began to adopt Lync Online for instant messaging and web conferencing and Yammer for social networking. “Integrating Yammer into our Office 365 environment will enhance collaboration across county
agencies and help Montgomery County maintain its role as a technology leader,” says Olivieri.
Olivieri attributes much of the success of Montgomery County’s Office 365 adoption to the support from Microsoft. “Support from Google was not what I wanted it to be,” he says. “With Microsoft and its partner network, I can be confident that we’ll get consistent,
responsive support from people who are familiar with the environment and requirements at Montgomery County.”
By adopting Office 365, Montgomery County streamlined service delivery, reduced costs, and got a stable, high-performance messaging and collaboration environment.
Faster Service Delivery
With its new messaging and collaboration solution in the cloud, Montgomery County enhanced its ability to respond quickly to requests and deliver services to its constituents. For example, by deploying more IT services to mobile devices, the county has
enabled sheriff’s deputies to serve warrants without having to come back to the office to retrieve paperwork, and many other county agencies use Office 365 to enhance service delivery.
||Our Community Connections division is able to better service constituents by being able to access email and collaborate with other County agencies from the field. This is just one more example of how Office 365 has increased our productivity
| Josh Shapiro
Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners
”Our Community Connections division is able to better service constituents by being able to access email and collaborate with other County agencies from the field,” says Josh Shapiro, Chairman of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “This is just one
more example of how Office 365 has increased our productivity and efficiency.”
The county can use Exchange Online archiving and litigation hold to help significantly streamline responses to public information requests. “Before we had litigation hold, it could take weeks to fully respond to an information request,” says Olivieri. “Now
county employees can find the requested information in literally a few seconds.”
In addition to avoiding up to $1 million in new infrastructure costs, Olivieri estimates that by using Office 365 the IT department is saving at least 30 percent of an administrator’s time because he no longer has to manually back up email files. “We
are already seeing a return on investment just from eliminating manual backups and other maintenance,” he says. “We create and remove accounts and can manage the messaging environment internally, but if something goes wrong we call Microsoft. With the staff
time we’re saving, I can dedicate resources to strategic initiatives that will help move the county forward.”
By using Exchange Online with automatic archiving and litigation hold, Montgomery County can save a significant amount of money. If the county had chosen Google Apps instead of Office 365, it would have had to purchase a third-party archiving solution that
Olivieri estimates would have cost more than $500,000.
More Stability, Better Performance
According to Olivieri, Montgomery County has completely resolved the issues that it had with email outages. “Reliability is probably the number one benefit from adopting Office 365,” he says. “People can do their jobs without interruption because Microsoft
guarantees us 99.9 percent availability.”
Because Office 365 operates easily with mobile technologies, Montgomery County employees in any department can access their email and calendars from anywhere on any device and with a consistent, familiar interface. Human-services employees can more easily
comply with the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule by sending encrypted email messages.
By adopting Office 365, Montgomery County is helping meet its goal of technology leadership. “If we had simply updated our on-premises messaging infrastructure, we would have a more stable environment,” says Olivieri, “but we wouldn’t have gotten the enhancements,
scalability, and new capabilities that we got with Office 365.”
Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, video conferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:
For More Information
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