Georgia's Department of Community Supervision has gone virtual via Google Apps and Chromebooks. With staff increases and with significant amounts of time outside of their offices, The State of Georgia was looking for a more economical and cost-efficient solution to getting things done in their offender supervision programs. They made the decision to go 100 percent virtual office and 100 percent Google.
"We decided to try something that had never been done in Georgia state government history: eliminate the majority of our offices entirely and allow hundreds of our 2,100 staff members to work remotely instead," said Phil Sellers, Director, Information Technology Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, writing in the Google for Work Blog. "Our existing desktop computers and office applications didn’t have the features to support remote workers, so we started looking into alternatives. I was familiar with Google’s cost-cutting, collaborative and mobile-friendly features, so my team led the switch to Google Apps for Work and Google Chromebooks."
He says that they have saved literally millions of dollars by not paying for expensive hardware and enterprise licensing contracts, not to mention the increased productivity of employees who can now work anywhere, anytime. "We no longer have dedicated IT services for routine storage and email support, and our small IT staff of 35 doesn’t need to roll out patches and antivirus software. If an officer closes her Chromebook or loses power, she doesn’t have to worry about trying to recover lost data. If we need to replace a device, it’s inexpensive and fast to get someone back up and running."
Many government agencies and large corporations have been leery of cloud solutions because of possible security breaches, which could include crucial data exposures. Georgia's Department of Community Supervision believes the opposite is true. "Officers used to store their data on laptops, so if their device was lost or stolen, they’d lose sensitive information about parolees and probationers," said Sellers. "With Chromebooks, we store everything in the cloud and can easily wipe and replace a device if needed. Officers use a 2-step authentication to enter our systems, which adds another layer of security."
The agency is often field-based away from the office, so using Chromebooks and Android phones lets their officers work wherever they are and collaborate with colleagues via Google Docs, Google Drive and Google Hangouts. "Since we’ve adopted the policy, officers are more productive, and sick leave and employee turnover have decreased," added Sellers.
Google is pushing the concept of Chromebooks, Google Drive Apps and Android as one enterprise level platform for businesses to operate. They are competing with established players such as Microsoft, Salesforce and to some extent Amazon. They are working to distinguish the Google approach by tying in their Android OS and phones, Chromebook tablet, the Google Cloud Platform and their many office related apps and chat tools so that businesses have a much less expensive alternative than the competitors.
Google recently touted how its platform is the most secure. "We're talking about stuff that you've seen in "Mission Impossible"-- biometrics, lasers, vehicle barriers, bollards. All of this is custom-built, also, to make the data center more secure," said Neal Mueller, Security and Networking lead for Google Cloud.