The North Naples Fire Control District is an independent district and supports eight locations including seven fire stations which are staffed 365 days per year, housing nearly 165 employees, 13 fire apparatus and 3 boats. The District's size and budget has grown from $20,000 per year in 1961 -- when it was an all-volunteer department -- to its current operating budget of over $20 million a year.
North Naples Fire district had been using Groupwise email system with the server housed on premise. There were many shortcomings with it -
- continuing costs of upgrading
- hardware requirements of an in-house system including backup
- difficulty interfacing Groupwise with other mobile devices
When Susan Hopper joined the company as IT Administrator, she knew this system had to change.
Groupwise was also expensive and had limited support. For example, they were spending 3 weeks, twice a year manually moving mail out of a server, into a text file and then searching it to comply with Florida State's "Sunshine Law" which requires the departments to keep copies of all business emails going in and out of the district.
Sue Hopper called in Kevin Lalor, owner of Business Intelligence 101, the premier cloud consulting firm. Bi101 recommended Postini for email scrubbing (virus and spam protection) and the North Naples Fire District has been using this system ever since.
" Because we are in Hurricane land, we always have a fear that if we have to evacuate our administrative building we would lose access to our communication - our email, our documents containing disaster procedures, etc. Because Bi101 understood our business so well, their recommendation to go with Google Apps was the best way to guarantee our business stays up and running during a crises event. Period." said Sue Hopper. "
They were so pleased with the Postini software addition, Hopper again called on Bi101 when North Naples was ready to upgrade their email client. There were a couple of issues concerning the Fire District regarding a new email system:
- They needed assurance that their data was going to be safe and accessible - they could not afford to have a server go down in a crisis situation.
- Shifts of 24 hours on and 48 hours off with 60 people working every day required flexibility in employee email due to shared computers.
"After comprehensive review of multiple offerings in the market, North Naples ultimately chose Google Apps - specifically cloud-based Message Discovery and Calendar Sharing. Bi101 was able to efficiently deliver this service at a huge cost savings for the District," Hopper explains. "It has completely eliminated 6 weeks of IT work and also ensured archiving accuracy and security," said Hopper. "And now everyone in the organization has access to email."
"One of the best parts of Google Apps is that it's stored in multiple data centers - I'm not going to lose my mail" Hopper said. "Also, Google Apps offers so much more than just a hosted email service. Its been a very good move for us because the shared calendar functions have helped tremendously with the physical resources we share among people in the community - conference rooms management was a big headache to our administrative team before we added the Google Calendar App. Now they can immediately see what rooms are booked when they are called for a room request. And our Deputy Chief works closely with the county strike force so it's been a great help for him to share his calendar out with county officials who need it so they can coordinate training."
"Bi101 also introduced us to a great tool called Shared Groups. This is an invaluable tool that facilitates communication with our first responder teams in local neighborhoods - the CERT teams - these are groups of neighborhood volunteers that provide the initial assessment during a natural disaster. We have implemented shared 'groups' to maintain a central area for maintaining addresses for these groups that we need quick contact with when disaster strikes."
Google Mail and Calendar was Phase One. The next phase will be setting up Shared Documents so Firefighters can access from home each day what Fire Station they are assigned to without having to come into the District. "My District is also going to do a lot of video sharing. Rather than upgrade the Microsoft office licences for 2011 we will make the conversion," shares Hopper.
Sue continued, "We're very happy with Bi101's recommendation and execution, now anyone who has access to the Internet - through a PC or phone can be in touch anywhere at any time. A hurricane in 2005 came through and we lost cell service but we had internet connection; because we didn't have outside access to the building, where our server was housed, we lost all communication - shows you the vulnerability of our communication if it's housed on-site. We're thankful Bi101 understood our business and made the technology transition easy on all of us!"