Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture by Anish Kapoor in Millennium Park

Chicago moving 30,000 employees' e-mail to Microsoft cloud

The City of Chicago is among the latest municipalities moving e-mail operations to the cloud, with plans to migrate 30,000 employees’ e-mail and desktop applications to Microsoft’s Office 365 cloud-based environment, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The city is consolidating three disparate e-mail systems into one in an effort to reduce outages, improve security and provide employees mobile and desktop access anytime, anywhere. By moving e-mail to the cloud, city officials anticipate savings of $400,000 per year over the course of a four-year agreement with Microsoft, city officials said in a release.

E-mail and collaboration services continue to be the top applications federal, state and local governments have identified as the best candidates to move into the cloud, as agencies seek to improve employees’ access to communications and mobile tools while reaping significant cost savings.

The cloud strategy is a major step toward modernizing the city’s information technology, helping to set the stage for further innovation, said Brett Goldstein, Chicago’s CIO and commissioner of the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT).

All e-mail and desktop application users will migrate to the cloud by the end of 2013, according to DoIT officials, who will provide training to city employees throughout the process to ensure smooth transition.
The city already stores and manages some data in a cloud solution, such as data related to the Chicago Department of Aviation’s airline billing system and building plan information that is part of the Department of Buildings’ E-Plan review system.

As part of an overall modernization strategy, Chicago officials have also taken several steps to modernize the city’s digital infrastructure.  For example:

  • On Jan. 1, the city consolidated IT operations by merging Chicago Public Libraries and non-emergency public safety IT support under DoIT, decreasing duplication across departments.
  • The city also has published hundreds of datasets in a machine-readable format on its data portal.
  • The city has launched a new Open311 service request system that helps reduce redundancies and allows Chicagoans to track requests online.
  • City officials have partnered with civic developers to launch and host integrated Web pages on the city’s website that fosters online engagement with Chicago residents, such as PlowTracker  and Adopt-A-Sidewalk.


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