Klamath County, Oregon, faces information technology challenges typical in many local governments in the Western United States. They are home to an array of aging hardware and software infrastructure, face intense budget pressures, and must support an increasingly networked workforce for whom always-available computing resources are a mission necessity. The county’s mission is to continuously provide services, even in the face of snowstorms, earthquakes – or even terrorist events. This makes reliability and fault-tolerance a key requirement. The county implemented Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) messaging solution to address these challenges. The early results have been promising. In addition to increasing the reliability and responsiveness of the county’s IT infrastructure, the county is realizing administrative savings while delivering robust email services. 'Situation
Klamath, with 70,000 residents, is among Oregon’s geographically largest counties. Most of the county’s 600 or so employees regularly use e-mail in their duties. Rugged environmental conditions in Klamath County add to the challenges faced by the county’s IT department.
In addition to working across difficult terrain and over long distances, Klamath County must be on guard for earthquakes and severe winter weather. To adapt, several county agencies – particularly law enforcement and planning units – have relied on a patchwork of video conferencing services from a variety of vendors to provide communications and management across the county’s far-flung offices. The demands for the delivery of increasingly reliable messaging and connectivity services, however strained the county’s old IT messaging infrastructure.
“Our legacy e-mail server was not bad, all things considered,” explains Randy Paul, Klamath County’s Director of Information Technology. “But it was stretched to capacity and needed an upgrade.”
Among the shortcomings of the Klamath’s existing legacy environment was a tangible decrease in the messaging systems reliability.
“We were down to two nines of performance, which wasn’t acceptable,” says Paul. “We needed two servers, not just for e-mail, but also for the collaborative services that our agencies have been planning to start using in the next few years.”
Moreover, different county departments purchased teleconferencing services from a variety of vendors resulting in a hodgepodge of services, service quality, and business terms. This contributed to significant management complexity to the system administration workload of Paul’s IT team. Solution
Klamath County’s budget pinch drove Paul’s decision to implement a solution based on Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). BPOS is a set of Microsoft hosted messaging and collaboration solutions that include Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Office Live Meeting, and Microsoft Office Communications Online. These online services are designed to provide agencies with access to streamlined communication capabilities that feature high availability, comprehensive security, and simplified IT management.
Paul, a veteran IT manager with a significant small business background in the private sector, knew the advantages of a hosted solution like BPOS over running dedicated applications in-house. He was especially aware of how BPOS could free his staff’s time by reducing the administrative burdens and human resource requirements for managing a dedicated e-mail system.
“It was taking up a lot resources from our small IT team. E-mail alone was consuming 1.75 FTE (full time equivalent) workers under our old solution,” explains Paul.
Moreover, Paul felt that the intense administrative effort required to keep the old e-mail system up and running created a significant vulnerability for the county. For example, if one of Paul’s staff didn’t come to work because of illness – or because of one of those dreaded Southern Oregon snowstorms – then system performance would suffer.
While there were some concerns about ceding so much control over the county’s e-mail system to a hosted service, Paul made the case for the BPOS hosted solution on two fronts:
• Costs would be reduced significantly; and
• Performance and dependability would improve significantly.
He had noted from previous experience how a reputable hosting provider often has more domain expertise to address the details of things like spam and phishing – and for ensuring appropriate redundancy and back-up capacity.
In addition to the standard Microsoft BPOS suite, Klamath County’s installation includes an archiving module that helps to ensures that the county is compliant with federal and state record-keeping and retention mandates.
“Our new Microsoft archiving is far more elegant than what we have had in the past,” observes Paul. “And the BPOS system administration has allowed us to take the resources needed to manage e-mail down to about .25 FTE.”
Cutover from the old Exchange 2003-based e-mail to the new BPOS-based solution took a total of ten weeks. “We spent about two weeks or so in a testing and configuration phase,” explains Paul. “Then users were phased in over the following eight weeks.” Benefits
While there were some growing pains associated with the transition, the relationship with Microsoft was strong enough to quickly resolve outstanding issues and keep them from dampening enthusiasm for the hosted-approach to delivering messaging capabilities to county departments.
“We had some issues, for instance, with the fact that the BPOS did not initially support some of the auto fill functions of e-mail addresses in Outlook,” recalls Paul. “We also made some last-minute changes to password policy because of BPOS requirements,” continues Paul. Those were issues that required close cooperation with the Microsoft BPOS team to resolve quickly.
In essence, however, Paul believes these are in fact important lessons learned. He advises other public sector enterprises transitioning to BPOS to anticipate problems such as these, and make appropriate policy changes in advance.
“Setting realistic expectations can head off user frustration,” he says.
In the final analysis, Paul and his staff are bullish on their new system.
“BPOS has helped us achieve our goal of moving toward a highly managed IT service,” explains Paul. The BPOS deployment vastly simplified Klamath County’s internal management initiative to implement a fee-for-service scheme to better rationalize support services, including IT. The result has been a modest reduction in seats served by Paul’s staff, but more importantly, smarter allocation of scarce resources at a time of flat county revenues.
Progress in reducing and streamlining the administrative and management cost structure of Klamath County’s IT organization is prompting officials to expand the number of BPOS collaborative tools the county will deploy in the coming year, including: SharePoint group workspaces and Live Meeting teleconferencing.
County law enforcement and planning agencies that have already deployed and integrated video conferencing into their business processes from a variety of vendors will begin migrating toward BPOS-based solutions.
“Those legacy systems will be phased out by attrition. We will move those offices over to Live Meeting as their existing service agreements come up for renewal,” explains Paul.
Moreover, Paul plans to expand the presence of SharePoint throughout the county to enhance collaboration and effective information sharing within and between offices.
“We haven’t had the manpower to roll out SharePoint and train folks on it, but now that we have the messaging component taken care of, we’ll be focusing on it over the next year.” For More Information For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to: www.microsoft.com For more information about Klamath County products and services, call 1 800 377 6091 or visit the Web site at: www.co.klamath.or.us