Nov 20 2017

Google Offers Omaha a Path to 21st Century IT Efficiency

The centralized IT department for Douglas County, home to Omaha, Neb., upped collaboration and cut infrastructure costs by adopting Google Cloud, Chrome and G Suite.

Just a few years ago, Omaha, Nebraska’s centralized IT department was overstretched and ready for a change.

The Douglas Omaha Technology Commission, or DOTComm, manages all IT needs for Douglas County, which comprises more than 70 departments and nearly 5,000 employees. It’s no easy feat, and with such demands on the centralized IT department — it supports more than 200 websites, 400 applications and legacy mainframe and financial systems — DOTComm’s Director of Application Services Vijay Vidal realized that the organization’s legacy IT systems just weren’t keeping up.

“The servers we were using required very extensive upkeep, upgrades and patches,” Vidal says of the previous system from 2003, which was end-of-life, unreliable and didn’t offer effective cybersecurity.

Along with constant headaches around malware and spam, DOTComm technicians went into the field daily to service the organization’s 120 servers.

“It was very hard for us to communicate with our folks in the field and it was difficult for them to access any technical documents or ticketing system online,” says Vidal.

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Google Improves Collaboration, Efficiency for County IT

To remedy these issues, the organization set out on a quest for a more stable, secure and effective platform. They landed on Google Cloud, which was available, provided great redundancy and — on top of it all — offered the agency cost savings.

“Previously we had a pretty large footprint just managing the legacy server — maintaining, upgrading, caching. We had cybersecurity issues and weekly outages,” says Vidal. “Going to Google took away a lot of those pain points and we could leverage those other resources for other purposes and infrastructure needs as opposed to focusing on just rebooting the server.”

Now, DOTComm employees have mobile access to necessary technical support documents and the ability to send information, sometimes in the form of video, back to the main office.

Security-wise, Google Cloud also offered a more robust spam filter that mitigated many of the issues the agency was having with malware and phishing emails.

“Our second largest security feature was to be able to have our emails encrypted to a TLS standard. That was definitely a need and it was not met in our old environment,” says Valerie Belles, the Google application administrator at DOTComm. “We welcomed that with open arms when we were able to go to Google.”

Moreover, DOTComm moved to Google Chrome to standardize its desktop and mobile devices and has adopted Google’s G Suite for email, which has cut hardware and software costs.

DOTComm reduced the number of employees managing the IT infrastructure from six to one, freeing up the others to work on other projects.

The change to Google has also reduced the number of tickets for IT support, from 30 per day to just “one or two,” according to a blog post by Vidal.

“Google has really opened doors for us, especially in our application space,” says Vidal.

How to Smooth the Rollout to the Cloud

To ensure a smooth rollout for employees, Belles set up training sessions with department and agency employees to teach them about the new systems and reduce cultural pushback.

“A lot of people hold on to that anger and frustration because they don’t realize that they can make new technology their own,” says Belles, who notes that DOTComm’s training aims to not only demonstrate how agency employees can use the new technology, but also to help them make the best use of it.

For other departments looking to move to the cloud from legacy servers, Vidal recommends that IT leaders get their feet wet first with small projects before making the move to larger and more complex projects.

Start with low-hanging fruit — move your backups to the cloud and then look to migrate email,” says Vidal. “That’s what we did. Google opened the door for us to the cloud and after that we invested in larger cloud projects.”

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