Today our guest blogger is Ron Kaufman, Director of Information Services for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. We’ll hear from Ron on the benefits his department enjoys by migrating 420 users to Google Apps.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) oversees 26 state parks and a variety of wildlife areas, nature centers, and state fishing lakes with roughly 420 employees. The department supports multiple offices and remote employees such as natural resource officers, field biologists, various biological technicians and others that rely on mobile devices quite frequently to manage state lands and patrol state lakes, survey species and help improve habitats for wildlife. Because many of these employees work in the field, from their homes or vehicles, they are not always in areas where they can plug in a computer and access the Internet easily.

Having used Microsoft Exchange for many years, and then switched to an open source solution for five years, KDWP decided to test a cloud-based solution to improve collaboration and efficiency. We picked Google Apps for its broad capabilities and simplicity to deploy and use. The initial 45 test users were very pleased with the availability of the cloud tool suite. Being able to access files from any web browser and the additional calendaring and global directory functionalities played a big part in the department’s ultimate decision to go Google. Working with Google Apps Partner SADA Systems, KDWP was able to migrate 420 users to the production environment last summer in just two months.

We started to see immediate benefits, even while employees were still learning about Google Apps’ full capabilities. People working from different locations are now able to collaborate easily on the same document or spreadsheet online. We no longer need to mail copies of our budget spreadsheet back and forth by snail mail or as an attachment in email. Using Google Docs and video chat, employees 200 miles apart are able to collaborate as though they’re meeting in person. Since the applications now live in the cloud, meaning they are delivered over the Internet and accessed in a web browser, we worry much less about file size limitations, server downtime, technology upgrades or maintenance issues.

Before the migration, our network administrator was spending 20% of his time on maintaining email servers and clients. That has been cut down to roughly 5%, a considerable time savings. Our IT can now focus on more meaningful initiatives.