Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to move its entire executive branch to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based messaging and communications platform that will allow nearly 40,000 state workers to collaborate across 70 different agencies. MN.IT Services completed the migration in April and will welcome the City of St. Paul to the system in the coming months.
The journey to the cloud began four years ago when the State made the decision to standardize messaging systems across agencies. Like many state governments, there was an array of about 40 different e-mail systems in use. By 2010, MN.IT Services had standardized state e-mail systems on Microsoft Exchange 2007.
Collaboration, however, was difficult in this environment. Business users hoping to collaborate with a group of other agencies were faced with waiting weeks to have the necessary changes made to firewall ports and system directories in order to allow cross-collaboration. Recognizing the benefits of cloud services in providing convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of computing resources, MN.IT decided in 2011 to migrate workers to Office 365.
The vision of this migration was to create a “collaboration ecosystem” where collaboration, innovation and development could occur in one place. MN.IT accomplished the migration to the cloud in two months without network downtime or a disruption to workers’ email access, resulting in 50 times more storage capacity for users. In the process, MN.IT Services moved 39,000 mailboxes, 4 terabytes of data, and 66.5 million items.
The transition of state agency systems to the cloud also allows MN.IT Services to provide hosted e-mail and collaboration services to other customers around the state. In fact, the City of Saint Paul will soon be the first municipal user of the state’s new cloud-based email system. The transition of the city’s 3,300 e-mail inboxes should be complete by early June and will give the city a more reliable communications system and 24-hour technical support, a level of support the city could not supply on its own.
Like many cities facing budget constraints, IT staff has been downsized in Saint Paul over the course of the last several years, leaving staff overbooked on projects. Andrea Casselton, Director of Saint Paul’s Office of Technology and Communications, told GovTech.com that the migration to MN.IT’s Office 365 platform “frees up our staff from those mundane, break-fix tasks and allows them to focus more on the bigger picture and maybe exploring new technology and doing more strategic work.”