| Office 365 combined with cloud storage and mobile tools can save millions
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Mobile Tools

Office 365 combined with cloud storage and mobile tools can save millions

On Wednesday, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina’s most populous county, announced it has bet big on the Microsoft platform by selecting Microsoft Office 365 as its communications and collaboration platform, Windows Azure as its cloud storage solution, and Microsoft Surface Pro for its mobility needs.

Together, the seamless mobility, productivity and flexibility aspects of these solutions have already helped various departments within the county collaborate better with staff, integrate across a number of crucial systems, and streamline and improve daily responsibilities. For instance, the county’s Youth and Family Services department is reporting $3.2 million in productivity savings per year due to Mecklenburg’s Surface Pro pilot launch. Meanwhile, by switching to Windows Azure, the county’s cloud storage costs have reduced dramatically.

“With the mobility factor of Surface Pro and Office 365, we are able to do so much more,” said Cliff DuPuy, technical services director at Mecklenburg County. “Not only do our Youth and Family Services folks love the devices for the flexibility and productivity the combination provides to them, but they appreciate the toughness of the devices, the touch aspects and the ability to document benefits while they are visiting clients. We are working toward ensuring that all our employees have their own device, and we can’t keep up with the demand we’re receiving from excited workers. It really has helped to increase their enthusiasm around how they do their jobs.”

Just as important, the county’s technical services director, Cliff Dupuy, acknowledged that these modern devices and services have increased employee productivity and excitement. In addition, the investment in Microsoft technology enables the county to reap all the benefits of the cloud while maintaining its commitment to privacy and security.

In addition to the Department of Youth and Family Services, a number of other departments within the county have recognized the value and mobility benefits provided by the Surface devices when combined with Office 365 and custom-built apps specific to each line of business. For example, the county’s Food Services Department has used these solutions to ensure Food and Restaurant Inspectors can utilize state applications, while the county’s Medical Examiners are benefitting from the note-taking abilities with their tablets. Meanwhile, Mecklenburg County’s Parks and Recreation employees, all of whom are moving to Surface 2 devices, are using these solutions to help them collect payments, book venues easily and tie seamlessly into the county’s financial system. In addition, due to an overwhelming demand for more devices, the county will increase the number of Surface Pro devices it is using to more than 1,000 by Aug. 1, 2014.

With 1.6 million emails sent per day by county employees, the cloud storage that Office 365 provides and the ability for employees to use Office on up to five devices has proved beneficial to all levels of employees within the organization. The emphasis on privacy and security in the cloud was a driving factor for the county to select the Microsoft solution. Similarly, the ability to use Surface Pro tablets with Office 365 has been a killer combination for the county: The Youth and Family Services Department is reporting $3.2 million in productivity savings per year after participating in the county’s Surface Pro pilot launch.

Selecting Windows Azure for its cloud storage was a natural fit for the county — its interoperation with Office 365 and Surface makes the user experience seamless. In addition, with key disaster recovery capabilities, Windows Azure makes more sense from a planning perspective, but also from a cost savings point of view. For instance, the county can ramp up quickly and take significant workloads out of its local datacenters, saving significant dollars.

“The cost savings with Windows Azure are tremendous,” DuPuy said. “Our storage costs used to be $21 per GB; now, with Windows Azure, we are around 30 cents per GB.”

“Mecklenburg County is leading the way in harnessing the power of the cloud and new mobile device form factors to deliver better government services to citizens, while at the same time lowering costs,” said Michael Donlan, vice president of Microsoft’s State and Local Government business. “Whether it’s field inspection, delivering better services to youth and families, or making it easier for business and citizens to enjoy the county’s parks and venues, Mecklenburg is using Office 365, Windows Azure and Surface to transform the business of government all within a solution that best meets their requirements for security and privacy.”

Across the board, county employees have embraced the switch to the cloud, and they have been vocal in their support.

“We have people telling us on a consistent basis that these mobile and flexible solutions, tightly tied together, have collectively changed their working lives,” DuPuy said. “Whether they have used these tools in the past, or they are just learning the breadth of Microsoft’s capabilities, we’ve consistently heard that our teams are really enjoying the new lease on productivity and efficiencies that they now have. That’s really humbling for us IT folks.”

Across the nation, state and local governments are constantly pressured to deliver more services with fewer resources. They are tasked with finding and investing in modern and secure solutions that help them save time and money, while ensuring employees can use these tools in the office and on the go. With Microsoft’s suite of solutions, Mecklenburg County is helping address these challenges.