Case Study: Google Services Too Good, Making IT Departments Shrink

So the latest Economist article (subscription required) discusses how Arizona State University made the switch to using Google Apps for Your Domain. As the article puts it, “with one flick of the proverbial switch 65,000 students had new e-mail accounts.” Now all emails are stored on Google servers rather than on university servers.

The head of IT for ASU, Adrian Sannier, mentioned that no one is being forced to switch, though many students are already used to Gmail. And since now they can use their “” address with a Gmail interface, students have been voluntarily migrating to the new email at a rate of 300 per hour. Sannier explains that he pays less than $10,000 for support and that the in-house IT staff do absolutely nothing for email now.

He even compares this new consumer-driven technology with the corporate software alternatives: using Google is like “receiving technology from an advanced civilization.” Now students can share calendars, something not easily done before. And soon Google is likely integrate into the service its online word processor, spreadsheet software, blogs, wikis, etc. Sannier explains that it would be “absolutely inconceivable” that he and his staff could implement such services the traditional way of buying and installing software on university computers.

But many IT department heads are slow to switch for two main reasons: 1) You lose control by handing over your data to Google. And 2) IT personnel wouldn’t recommend something likely to put them out of a job, as organizations would no longer need to maintain huge data centers.

The first excuse is really there to cover up the the real reason of job security. But Sannier remembers Google showing him a picture of one of its data centers burning to the ground. The point being that no one even noticed because Google’s infrastructure is so huge that the loss of an entire data center did not impact anyone’s data.

“I have a staff of about 30 people dedicated to security…Google has an army; all of their business fails if they are unable to preserve security and privacy,” says Sannier. Google uses an analogy of the old days to explain the shift: People reluctantly accepted that their money was safer in a bank rather than under a mattress.

Nonetheless, some still are worried about handing over too much to Google.

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  • Tom Caswell

    My school is looking into doing the same thing, and they should because our current email system is worthless.

    The point of technology is not to create jobs. If we got hung up about jobs every time there was some form of progress that eliminated jobs we’d still be using the telegraph instead of the cell phone and the ice box instead of the refrigerator. If your IT job is not needed anymore then it’s time to move on. And hopefully you know more than just Microsoft Exchange Server.

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