Editor's Note: We're pleased to welcome guest blogger Andrew Murrey, Vice President of IT Infrastructure Cinram North America. Cinram specializes in optical disc manufacturing, packaging, distribution and demand planning solutions for the home entertainment, telecommunications, and retail industries. Learn more about other organizations that have gone Google on our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google Cloud Calculator.

For more than 40 years, Cinram has worked with some of the biggest names in home entertainment and retail to produce and distribute movies, music, and video games. We have grown organically and through acquisition to more than 10,000 employees and 20 facilities in North America and Europe; many locations still operate independently – including selecting their own technologies. Everything was very decentralized, and this made it difficult to collaborate and communicate. Even scheduling meetings was a challenge; we’d have to hunt to find contact information, and email back and forth multiple times just to find availability and rooms.

Decentralization meant we also had a combination of email and collaboration solutions, with 80% of our offices on Microsoft® Exchange 5.5 – 15 year old technology with no support or future updates planned – and the others using Exchange 2003 and 2007. With inbox quotas ranging from 50-500MB, many of our users were storing their mail in .PST files on their computers, making backups and restoration of critical data almost impossible, and creating a giant risk in the case of corrupt or stolen machines. Running a mail system from the mid-1990’s also meant that we had all kinds of limits on attachments, and a ton of other frustrating issues. Between server failures, incompatibilities and corrupted PSTs, we were running close to $220 per mail user per year just to keep the old system running.

Our goal was to have everyone at Cinram using the same technology for email and daily collaboration, so we explored three different options: (a) upgrading all of our internal systems to Exchange 2007, (b) migrating to hosted Exchange, (c) Google Apps. Staying on-premise and adding quite a bit of storage would require a heavy capital investment, and we would still be paying for backup agents, tapes, vaulting, patching, and still have all of the other headaches of managing a mail system. Hosted Exchange didn’t really fit our needs because we wanted to move away from paying for an Outlook client, and Gmail’s web interface was just as powerful.

However, when we looked at Google Apps, we calculated that we could be saving 60% on email alone by moving to Google Apps for Business – a clear winner when it came to price per user – but we also knew we’d save serious time on IT management, freeing my team up to do more strategic work. In addition, we would have superior disaster recovery options and best of all, our employees would be more productive. We chose to go Google.

In just four months, Google Apps is 100 percent deployed in North America and Europe – about 3,000 people so far. The positive changes we expected are now being revealed, and we’re even uncovering some unexpected benefits as well. For starters, my IT team is happier as we previously had 16 full-time people managing our messaging systems, spending about 8,000 hours per year backing up email, fixing file storage problems, or managing server issues. If one of our servers at our Toronto headquarters went down, the entire company lost email access – it seemed like we had a company-wide email delay or outage every couple of months. Google Apps provides us with disaster recovery capabilities that we could have never dreamed of. In addition, we now need only two folks to look after messaging and the other 14 are now more focused on business-critical projects. They’re so happy they wear Google t-shirts about once a week!

Our employees are also adjusting well, and are more productive. We’re working closely with our Google Partner, Onix, to provide an end-user support site using Google Video for Business for training videos and webinars. One of the biggest benefits we’ve seen is that, since all employees have one user interface with easy processes, they can collaborate more efficiently. Scheduling meetings for example is infinitely easier, we just click on Google Talk video chat, and we can easily view employee calendars to facilitate scheduling. That’s something we didn’t calculate – all the time we spent trying to do these small, day-to-day tasks across all of our employees.

We’re also really pleased and excited to see employees adopt tools like Google Docs – we’re at a growing rate of about 150 new, shared documents each day. The HR and compliance teams in particular have been using Google Docs to store their different policies and procedures. We can give them exactly what they need in Google Docs or Google Sites, whereas before we had three or four different Microsoft SharePoint sites, and we’d have to spend money on auditors to track everything down. Now that’s all moving to a central repository, and we’re already seeing significant cost savings and productivity gains there.

We have only begun scratching the surface of capabilities that Google Apps brings to us. We have an open door to bring Google Apps to all 10,000 Cinram employees in the future, from the current user employees in our distribution and manufacturing facilities, to the folks who have never had a Cinram account before, so everyone can see the benefits. With the flexibility of Google Apps, the sky is the limit. We’ve gone Google, and we’ll never go back.