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GSA issues cloud email blanket purchase agreements

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The government has entered into a blanket purchase agreement with 17 cloud email providers, a move that will likely spur a number of agencies to switch to the Internet-based email systems, the General Services Administration announced Thursday.

The 17 vendors will offer five different cloud email systems, a GSA official said. They are Google, Microsoft 365, Microsoft Exchange, Domino Web, an IBM system, and Zimbra, an open source system.

Cloud-based email systems, such as Google’s Gmail, can save agencies roughly $1 million per 7,500 email inboxes over competitors located in onsite computer servers, GSA said in a statement. The cloud also makes it easier for users to check email from non-work computers or mobile devices.

GSA moved its own email system to a cloud-based version of Gmail known as Google Apps for Government in mid-2011. That move has saved the agency $2 million to date and is projected to save a total of $15 million over the next five years, GSA said.

Thursday’s blanket purchase agreement will allow other agencies to move to cloud email by simply picking a vendor off a list rather than negotiating a price themselves.

Among the companies approved to sell cloud email services to the government are: Accenture, Computer Sciences Corporation, Dell, Lockheed Martin Corp. and Unisys. The list also includes four small businesses, GSA said.

Cloud-based systems are generally cheaper than onsite computer systems because clouds can pack information more tightly and only charge users for data and storage they actually use, similar to a utility. The Office of Management and Budget expects to eventually save about $5 billion annually by transferring one-fourth of the government’s $80 billion annual information technology bill to the cloud.

Other agencies that have moved to cloud email systems include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Agriculture Department. The Commerce and Labor departments are preparing to make similar moves.

Most of those agencies have chosen vendors that offer cloud-based email systems built by either Google or Microsoft.

“GSA has added another excellent option for agencies looking to rapidly move their email to the cloud to save time, resources and taxpayer dollars,” Mary Davie, acting commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service said in the agency’s statement. “Our innovative cloud solutions are another example of how GSA offers the best value, low cost services that help agencies serve the American people.”

Correction: This article originally stated that the Office of Management and Budget expects to eventually save about one-fourth of the government’s $80 billion annual information technology bill by transferring storage and services to the cloud. The actual projected annual savings figure is $5 billion. The article has been updated to correct the error.

(Image via belekekin /Shutterstock.com)

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