Editor’s note: Today, our guest blogger is Andy Paratore, CIO of Larimer County in Colorado. Home to nearly 300,000 residents in north-central Colorado, the county’s offices are in the city of Fort Collins. Larimer County shares a border with the State of Wyoming, and both will soon have a common email system, as well.

Please join Andy for a live webcast about making a rapid transition to the cloud this Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. PDT / 6:00 p.m. GMT. Register today.

While most people watched fireworks over the July 4th weekend, the Larimer County government used the holiday to switch all our employees to Google Apps. With this “big bang” approach, it took just three days for us to migrate our 1,800 employees and over four million email messages to Google’s web-based email and collaboration applications. As a result of this rapid switch, the county saved implementation costs, improved mobile access to information, and provided employees with new and innovative applications to help us do our jobs.

Of course, careful planning and preparation were key to making this fast move to the cloud. We did a detailed comparison of Google Apps and several on-premise solutions and found Google delivered the best value and features. We had 100 county employees pilot the applications for six weeks, which allowed us to identify and resolve issues in advance of the big migration. And we took advantage of the contract put in place by the Colorado Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) and Denver-based Google Apps partner Tempus Nova.

By switching to Google from our prior on-premise Novell Groupwise system, Larimer County benefits in many ways. We initially expect to save $50,000-$75,000 annually in server and support costs, and hope to save even more in the future as we take advantage of more capabilities of Google Apps; these are important savings for a county facing challenging budget circumstances. Perhaps more importantly, we’re enabling county employees to be more productive: offering additional collaboration capabilities like chat, real-time document sharing, and easy-to-build websites; allowing access to information from work, home or on the road with the same user interface; and making them less dependent on IT with an extensive set of online training and help tools that allow them to resolve questions themselves.

I look forward to sharing our experience with other organizations that are looking to make a rapid move to the cloud, please join me on Wednesday’s webinar to learn more.

By Andy Paratore, CIO, Larimer County

Do you have an informative and fun Google Apps story to share? Please submit it here.