The City of Evanston email currently runs on City servers using Microsoft Exchange 2003, a software package that “has reached the end of its supported life from the developer,” according to a staff memo. Lack of storage, difficulty with handling large attachments, an ancillary suite of products, and a familiar web interface all led the City to propose a shift from Microsoft to Google.
Council agreed on Aug. 15, passing the measure on the consent agenda.
Once the change is implemented, the City will no longer store its email communications on City servers, but instead shift storage to the Google cloud. Employees will then be able to log in and check their email from anywhere.
The staff memo said the shift to cloud storage is also part of the City’s emergency-preparedness program. If City servers were to become disabled, according to the memo, City employees would still be able to log in and send and receive email. “Email is a critical business function and staff needs 24/7 access to email with no interruption. Moving to the cloud will ensure that staff can access email at anytime from anywhere with no downtime,” staff wrote in the memo.
Administrative Services Director and Deputy City Manager Erika Storlie told Council she hoped the transition would be complete before the end of the year. Cost of the program is just over $100,000 per year. She said the City would conduct extensive training for those who needed it, but noted that more than half of City employees were already familiar with the Gmail interface, based upon personal usage. “The new Microsoft Outlook is also very different,” she added, and would have required training as well.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, who called herself a “Hillary Clinton alderman” because she uses her own email system and server “because I can’t stand [the City’s] email.”
“This will be a great win for the City,” said Ms. Storlie.
“It would be great if you could wait until April” to shift to Google,” said Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who announced she would not be seeking another term and will leave office in April.