Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Denise Stephens, CIO and Information Management director of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). INL joins a growing number of government agencies that have made the switch to Google Apps for Government.

Located in southeastern Idaho on nearly 900 square miles of desert, the Idaho National Laboratory is the lead lab for nuclear research for the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). Employees at INL work on diverse projects that include making batteries used on United States space missions, developing new technologies for nuclear reactors, protecting critical infrastructure and operating the world’s 64th fastest supercomputer.

System integrator Unisys recently completed the migration of nearly 5,000 INL employees to Google Apps for Government from Lotus Notes. INL has not taken this transition lightly. We have spent the better part of a year developing requirements, engaging in internal pilots to mitigate risk and overcoming emerging challenges as a cross-organizational team to smooth our move to the cloud. Google Apps is the right investment to move the laboratory forward while meeting the lab’s important requirements.

Due to our remote location, having a reliable, redundant email system is paramount. Google Apps’ track record of 99.9% uptime gives INL employees’ confidence that their email will be there when they need it. Some INL employees work in facilities in the city of Idaho Falls, while many others work at our complex in the desert, some 30 miles away. In the past, this geographic separation made it harder for employees to share information. Google Apps is improving communications by allowing employees to work together in real-time with voice and video chat, calendar sharing and simultaneous document editing.

In this case, INL simply couldn’t afford not to go to the cloud. This move is less expensive, and allows the lab to take a flexible, nimble and cost effective approach to lab communications. Instead of managing infrastructure, INL has chosen to invest in capabilities that support the lab’s critical mission areas.