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Google scores big federal government contract

General Services Administration becomes the first federal agency to move all its e-mail to the cloud, awarding a $6.7 million contract to pay for Google Apps for Government.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read


Google has won a major contract to provide Google Apps for an entire federal government agency.

Teaming up with Unisys and two other companies, Google will deploy Google Apps for Government to all 17,000 employees and contractors at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The GSA handles business for the entire federal government by providing real estate and building management services along with buying assistance to other agencies, according to a Google blog post.

Awarding the $6.7 million contract to Google and its partners, the GSA becomes the first federal agency to migrate all its e-mail to the cloud, a move expected to help it cut costs by 50 percent over the next five years.

"Cloud computing has a demonstrated track record of cost savings and efficiencies," said GSA spokesman Casey Coleman in a statement. "With this award, GSA employees will have a modern, robust e-mail and collaboration platform that better supports our mission and our mobile work force, and costs half as much."

To fulfill the contract, Google will work with Unisys, Tempus Nova, and Acumen Solutions. Unisys will create the actual e-mail and collaboration platform based on Google Apps for Government and provide data migration and training for the new system. Tempus Nova offers tools to migrate data to Google Apps from Lotus Notes, which is currently used by the GSA, while Acumen Solutions has its own cloud-computing practice dedicated to the public sector.

The competition to win the lucrative GSA contract stretched out over six months, according to Google, as the agency considered several different proposals. One key competitor was Microsoft, which expressed surprise over losing the bid in a Microsoft blog post by Tom Rizzo, senior director of Microsoft Online Services.

"Today, the General Services Administration made the decision to replace several different versions of IBM's Lotus Notes and Domino software with Google for its own e-mail," Rizzo wrote. "While we are disappointed we will not have the opportunity to meet the GSA's internal messaging needs, we will continue to serve its productivity needs through the familiar experience of Microsoft Office and we look forward to understanding more about GSA's selection criteria--especially around security and architecture."

In his post, Rizzo also took a few jabs at Google. He acknowledged that businesses have been talking to Google but claimed that the company often can't meet basic requirements. Citing "inadequate product support, failure to provide a road map, poor interoperability with other line of business applications, and limited functionality," Rizzo said that these constraints are reasons why other public sector organizations have not chosen Google for their needs.

In October, Google filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department, claiming that the agency had failed to evaluate Google Apps properly in its search for a new Web-based document system. The company alleged that the Interior Department's specification that the system be part of Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite left Google without a chance to win the bid despite attempts by the company to explain its Google Apps product.

Launched this past July, Google Apps for Government offers the same cloud-based Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and other services found in Google Apps for Business. But the government edition carries with it a higher level of security as dictated by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification, which requires regular audits and reviews of information systems used by federal agencies. The Google Apps for Government suite costs $50 per user per year.

The migration to Google Apps for all GSA employees and contractors across the agency's 17 locations is scheduled to occur next year, according to Google.