The state of Minnesota knows a thing or two about IT.A few years back; the state’s IT department (MN.IT) consolidated dozens of disparate e-mail systems from a number of vendors into a single Microsoft (News - Alert) Exchange 2007 platform, according to a recent Forrester report. It began operating as an ISP to support 70 state agencies. It combined 20 SharePoint instances into a single, scalable data center.
For some IT departments, that would have been enough. But it wasn’t enough for MN.IT.
The department stepped back and asked themselves how they could help the state efficiently communicate and collaborate.
The answer? Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud offering dedicated to individual customers.
Office 365 is enabling businesses of all sizes to easily move their collaboration workloads to the cloud. The cloud offering features video conferencing and instant messaging, the ability to share files internally and outside of an organization, cloud-based e-mail, easy and secure administration, financially backed reliability, and predictable monthly costs with no up-front infrastructure costs.
New doors were opened for state workers after the migration to Office 365, according to the report. With the state fully in the cloud, agencies could now collaborate with one another because the common collaboration platform integrates the disparate directories of the different government entities. This enabled the Governor, for instance, to send a message to every agency in the executive branch through this common platform with ease and efficiency.
Additionally, it freed the IT department from spending much of its time maintaining servers and applying software patches, too, offloading that to Microsoft. That meant that the department could instead focus on driving value through working with users to enable better collaboration and get new groups of people involved with business process improvements.
Another advantage for MN.IT was what Office 365 does for mobility support.
With organizations of all types struggling to effectively manage a mix of smartphones, tablets and laptops from work and home, known as the bring your own device trend (BYOD), a particularly compelling feature of Office 365 that is revolutionizing business operations is its support for mobility.
The Office 365 platform supports Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android (News - Alert), Symbian and of course Microsoft’s own mobile offering, Windows Phone. Mobile users not only have synchronized e-mail, calendars and contacts, but also have access to documents via SharePoint, the ability to view and edit Office documents of all types (even PowerPoint), and remote data wipe capabilities, according to Microsoft.
Putting the state’s resources in the cloud has allowed government workers to access their workspaces when not plugged into the network. And larger mailboxes via Office 365 have meant that employees spend more time working and less time cleaning their inboxes.
Some were initially skeptical that the system could scale enough for a giant like the state of Minnesota, and that there might be legal issues with using the cloud, such as from HIPPA requirements. But, MN.IT found that Microsoft was able to deftly handle such a large deployment and it discovered from working with the state’s legal department that a particular version of Office 365 was able to meet their legal requirements.
In a word, Office 365 enabled the state of Minnesota to take their IT to the next level—all the way to the cloud.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein