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Third largest newspaper in the US moves to Google Apps to centralize IT and improve collaboration

Posted by Terry Geiger, Director of Corporate IT, The McClatchy Company

Editors note: We're pleased to welcome guest blogger Terry Geiger, Director of Corporate IT at The McClatchy Company. Learn more about other organizations that have gone Google on our community map.

With headquarters in Sacramento, Calif., The McClatchy Company has more than 8,400 employees with 30 daily newspapers spread throughout the U.S. Historically, each newspaper has operated independently with on-premise software and their own various business operation departments and specifically IT. To date, our technology has been both destandardized and decentralized, but our vision is to become a more collaborative organization and centralized where it makes best sense. We want to act as a cohesive enterprise, not a collection of smaller companies.

We have 8,500 mailboxes (individual and shared) spread across all 30 of our operations. Individual newspapers had been operating using various versions of Microsoft® Exchange Server, and managing that complexity had become expensive and cumbersome. All of these separate systems also made it very challenging for us collaborate. Just seeing the calendar of a co-worker at another newspaper or having access to reliable contacts wasn’t possible in many cases. I knew that email was one of the first things we needed to standardize to promote collaboration and begin to innovate in an industry not always known for being on the cutting edge of technology.

Also, Email has become a business-critical function and with the economy and its impact on the newspaper industry, we had lost confidence in our ability to effectively manage and maintain such a distributed email environment with our diminished resources. We needed a solution that was easy to use and required little from IT to maintain.

We started evaluating technology options that could help us make collaboration across our entire organization a reality. We looked at Google Apps as well as Microsoft® Office 365 and BPOS. When evaluating our options we asked ourselves several questions: What’s the service level offered? What is their support like? Will there be people there to help when we have questions or run into issues? What is their record for uptime and reliability? We just didn’t see Microsoft providing the services aspect of “software as as service.” Their record for uptime was particularly concerning. Overall, Microsoft just doesn’t seem to have the services mindset that we found with Google.

Microsoft may still be the personal productivity leader, but Google is the team productivity leader. Google Apps and its collaborative nature are really where we want to go. Google has a better service strategy, better collaborative strategy, and a better cost structure.

In making our decision, we also calculated the cost of avoiding upgrades to our Microsoft Exchange and Office licenses. We estimate that Google Apps will cost only 67% of what we would have spent on the equivalent Microsoft technology over 5 years.

We’re currently working with SADA Systems to roll out Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Sites. We’ll then let Google Docs take hold organically, but we are no longer going to en masse upgrade our Microsoft Office licenses. As a content creation and management company, the need to collaborate is tremendous and we’re excited about empowering our team to work together with Google Docs.

In addition to “anywhere access” email, we will now be able to synchronize calendars across the organization. We have secure chat functionality, and Google Sites to create a much better connection between sales staff and customers. IT can focus on other business-critical functions that generate revenue, manage content creation and delivery and put collaboration and content creation into the hands of our users.

We worried that there would be some resistance to this change, but our announcement to move to Google Apps has been met with a lot of enthusiasm – our employees are really excited. We see this as a critical part of our overall effort to use technical innovations like Google Apps to change the way that we operate our business.

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