City to make e-mail change

Rather than replace an outdated and overworked server that threatens to bring e-mails at City Hall to a sudden halt, La Cañada Flintridge officials are looking to a very 21st-century solution: cloud computing.

The cloud-computing strategy will replace the city's need for an on-site server by using massive remote servers to process and store information in real time through a high-speed Internet connection.

Council members on Monday approved plans to switch from a city-owned server to the Google Apps e-mail and calendar system, the first step in a long-view vision to eventually also employ Google Apps software over Microsoft Office programs for word processing, spreadsheets and even presentations.

The decision and its $15,000 price tag, which includes new high-speed Internet service, came before the council as an urgency procurement due to the instability of the current e-mail server, which is seven years old and operates on Windows 2000 — a platform no longer supported by Microsoft.

The cost of the transition will be met by readjusting previously planned technology-related expenditures.

"For one thing, we have problems doing backups on that server. It's breaking down, just not able to handle the work. We get stalls. We get messages on the screen that it's trying to search for and send information back to the server," explained Senior Planner Fred Buss, part of a workgroup at City Hall that worked with Internet technology firm SADA Systems Inc.

If the server is left unchanged, "There's a reasonable possibility we're going to lose the whole thing," Buss said. "If we lost it, it would probably be on the order of a couple weeks that we wouldn't be receiving any e-mail."

As part of the deal, City Hall will switch from its current residential-speed Charter Internet service to a $500-per-month high-speed account from vendor Towerstream.

SADA Systems customers who've already made the switch to Google Apps Cloud include Virgin Mobile USA, the Los Angeles Community College District, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Kent State and Northwestern universities.

Advantages of switching to the Google server include increased information security and accessibility.

"We could have replaced the server with something similar or tried something different," said Administrative Services Director Kevin Chun, "and the Cloud is a better solution in many respects."

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