Microsoft's Windows 8 might be struggling, but Office 365 is a cloud juggernaut. Its latest customer: New York State, which will move 120,000 employees to the popular cloud office suite by the end of the year.
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Office 365 continues to rake in business from companies and government agencies, bolstering Microsoft's goal to become the enterprise cloud market's key player. Last week, Microsoft announced that New York State has become the latest government entity to sign up. The deal is also, according to the state's CIO, a testament to the simplicity and savings that cloud services can bring to large organizations.
More than 120,000 employees across New York's executive agencies are scheduled to move to Office 365 by the end of the year. Currently, the state employs more than 27 systems for email, word and data processing. The move to a standardized platform is expected to save approximately $3 million in annual license, hardware, maintenance, energy and personnel costs.
But these savings are just the immediate benefits, said Brian Digman, New York State CIO, in an interview.
"It saves us money but it's also a big step into the cloud," he said, adding, "It signals that the best solution might not always be homegrown."
Maintaining dozens of systems internally ties up taxpayer dollars that might otherwise go to worthy but underfunded projects. By ceding many of the administrative duties to Microsoft's cloud, New York will immediately gain the flexibility to reallocate millions of dollars.
But the move to Office 365 is part of a bigger plan, initiated by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011, to make New York's government more modern, accountable and efficient. Digman said that Office 365 will advance this plan by allowing employees to drive efficiency -- and thus more savings -- via the cloud.
On a day-to-day basis, New York employees will benefit from the ability to access email, calendars and important documents from virtually any device and at virtually any location, he said. Microsoft's cloud infrastructure also makes the state more agile in the case of an emergency. Digman said that during a crisis, the demands on state resources spike, sometimes to the extent that communications are impaired by lagging or overlapping systems. Soon, critical New York systems will run through Microsoft's data center, rather than internally-managed servers. The new hosting environment, in combination with the standard interface, should allow agencies to respond quickly during an emergency, Digman stated.
Hosting the data in a state-run data center was untenable, Digman elaborated, saying, "For us to invest at a level to match a company like Microsoft is not feasible."
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