The Guardian goes Google Apps

Case study: How online tech has changed the way the staff work...

Case study: How online tech has changed the way the staff work...

The Guardian News and Media group has moved around 2,300 staff onto Google Apps, benefiting from a reduced need for IT support and greater flexibility for its staff.

The organisation moved all of its users onto the internet-hosted software suite, Google Apps Premium Edition, towards the end of last year and is currently working on a Google Mail rollout.

Speaking to technology director of enterprise operations at the company, Andy Beale, explained the thinking behind the move.

He said: "The main driver was that we were primarily looking for a collaboration tool, first and foremost, [and] to coincide with our move to our new headquarters here in Kings Place and to match the modern physical working environment with a modern technological working environment."

Beale said the main applications being used are Google Chat, Google Docs and Google Sites. The organisation is also using Google's Postini-based security software.

Beale's team is now working on the pilot to roll out Google Mail across the business, which it aims to complete by the summer.

According to Beale, one of the main benefits is the flexibility Google Apps offers due to being browser-based. With around 300 staff working in other countries or away from the main London office, access to resources is now much easier.

Beale said: "We operate all around the world and we have lots of disparate users and a web-based solution makes a lot of sense."

The experience of The Guardian's reporters during the Beijing Olympics in August last year also showed the value of being able to access corporate applications away from the London office.

Referring to the benefits for the IT department, Beale said: "It means we can get on with more valuable stuff and less commodity things like running email services."

When the Google Mail implementation has been completed in the summer, the IT department will close 15 servers and will save around 4TB of storage. "Our storage requirements are under less pressure," explained Beale, and this will also lead to financial savings. "Once we've decommissioned our existing mail platform, we will be saving a significant sum compared to our old cost base," Beale added.

The Telegraph Media Group also moved onto Google Apps last year and Beale said the software is something that fits well with the demands of the media industry.

He said: "If you need a good tool for sharing knowledge and working collaboratively around words and numbers, this is a good fit."

Although the implementation went "extremely well", Beale said: "There were relatively minor challenges persuading people that the SaaS model is suitable for this kind of data. Moving from a central firewalled model to putting it out onto the internet is obviously quite a big leap for those involved in network security."

But he added: "I think mail migration will throw up a few more issues."

Beyond the implementation of Google Mail, The Guardian is experimenting with customised start pages using Google Sites and will look at how it can further exploit the communication capabilities of Google Mail voice and chat.