Wyoming hospital takes leap to the cloud for email

By Diana Manos
12:24 PM

Google saves money and trouble, provides privacy, staff says

CASPER, WY – Wyoming Medical Center (WMC), a 100-year-old hospital in Caspar, Wyoming has dumped its frustrating limited in-house legacy email system for Google’s cloud-based email system. WMC officials said the new Google system has saved the hospital money and trouble, and they don’t have concerns about privacy.

Last August, the 207-bed WMC completed the transition of its entire organization from Novell Groupwise to Google Apps¬–Google’s email system for businesses and organizations, said Tom Schoenig, the CIO at WMC. The hospital was one of the first three healthcare systems and the first hospital in the country to adopt Google Apps for its email. The decision came after a number of years with constant server breakdowns during the middle of the night and too little email capacity for providers. In addition, web access to the in-house server was touchy.

“With the Novell system, even with upgrades, our web piece was unstable at best,” said Rob Pettigrew, WMC’s network manager. “It was the thorn in our side. We couldn’t figure out why it kept crashing.”

Pettigrew said it was a running joke in the hospital’s tech department, “why don’t we just get Google to handle this email?” So, one day out of sheer frustration, they called Google. And, it turns out, Google could.

“Once we made the decision it would be best to switch to Google Apps, all of us had to convince our administration. It wasn’t a straight apples-to- apples comparison on cost, because the Novell system and Google Apps can’t compare,” Pettigrew said. “The real savings came in the enormity of the email space Google could give us. Groupwise gave us 200 MB of space per user. Users at the hospital were constantly complaining that their mailboxes were full.

“Google gave us 25 GB per user. We couldn’t give that to our users with hundreds of thousands of in-house servers,” Pettigrew said.

Of course, the hospital administration was concerned with security on the Google cloud system, Pettigrew said, but we explained to them. A four-man hospital IT team can’t beat what an entire company like Google can do on security. “Google handles safety and is always concerned and always upgrading its safety measures. This all happens in the background,” Pettigrew said.

Schoenig said Google security policies and procedures keep the email safe. “At the end of the day, the email resides with Google, under Google’s infrastructure, protocol and within the safety of its data centers.”

One of the hospital’s biggest fears was migrating from Novell to Google, Pettigrew said, so the hospital hired an Atlanta-based company called Cloud Sherpas to help. “The transition was smooth and we haven’t looked back since,” he said.

Founder of Cloud Sherpas, Michael Cohn, said his company is a premier partner with Google, and was the only implementation company named “partner of the year,” by Google last year. “We are Google’s white glove service,” he said.

After WMC’s email migration, there wasn’t a lot of ongoing maintenance required, Cohn said. Cloud Sherpas is now mainly helping the hospital with user training and support.

To provide just one more layer of security, the hospital had DomainWatch by Better Cloud installed.

According to David Politis, the founder and CEO of BetterCloud, DomainWatch can help an organization see when a Google document is shared publicly or internally. “It allows administrations to create polices based on users or groups of users, and asset types,” he said.

“What we do at BetterCloud is build applications that are integrated with Google Apps that allow administrators to manage and secure their Google domain,” Politis said.

WMC was the first healthcare organization BetterCloud has served, but more healthcare clients, law offices and financial firms are now joining, Politis said.

Some large healthcare organizations are becoming interested in Google Apps, “we’re starting to see the adoption increasing,” he said.

Politis said Google email provides a more secure system than an in-house email system because Google encrypts email and scatters the data across servers all over the world. “Google has full-time security experts that are the top in the world,” he said. He said Google Apps is “extremely, extremely secure and much more secure than any legacy system inside someone’s facility.”