As the Government Printing Office attempts to rebrand itself as a government publishing platform, rather than one dedicated to producing physical documents, the agency announced Tuesday that it would move its internal email systems to the cloud.
The new system will use Microsoft’s Office 365 platform, giving users a larger mailbox and more archive capabilities. In the future, the system is expected to offer online collaboration tools and online meeting capabilities. The migration should be completed by January 2015, according to a release from the agency.
Although email in the cloud is not new to government, GPO Chief Information Officer Chuck Riddle said the agency wanted to make sure the systems were completely ready before they went live.
“We’re not going to move to the cloud just for the sake of moving to the cloud,” Riddle told FedScoop. “Where it makes us more efficient, we’ll do it; where it just is checking a box, we’re not going to do that because that doesn’t make sense and it puts us at risk.”
The process of moving email systems over to a cloud-based infrastructure began more than a year ago, Riddle said. Alongside transitioning the agency’s email, the agency has also been working to virtualize operations to make it more agile.
“As new opportunities with other cloud options present themselves, we’ll be in a position to take advantage of it,” Riddle said. “It’s been a long process because we want to make sure that we’re completely ready before we go live, but I think we’re getting there pretty quick.”
According to Riddle, moving email is only the first step on GPO’s cloud transition journey.
“It’s the gateway to the cloud for GPO, because once we move email, obviously we’ve set the foundation in place to be able to authenticate our users, so it allows us to then start looking at things as far as platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service,” Riddle said. “Email really is a good foundation or gateway to help us start to leverage more of those things, so that was sort of the thinking behind email. It made sense, it was a good thing to do, it helped us deliver more features, more functions quicker and it also helps lay the foundation for us to start taking advantage of other cloud-type products to host applications and do other ‘as-a-service’ sorts of things out there.”
Riddle said GPO is the first legislative branch agency to make the move to cloud-based email systems, but rather than use the move as an opportunity to set a precedent for other legislative agencies, the CIO said it was more of an example of the agency trying to transform itself to become more digital.
“So much of the work that GPO does is not about the printing anymore,” Riddle said. “It’s more about the publishing aspect of what we do, but there’s so much work that goes into that. This is just another example of GPO really not being afraid to be a trailblazer where it makes sense to do these things.”
In fact, earlier this year, a bill introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., that would officially rename the agency to the Government Publishing Office passed the Senate Rules and Administration Committee and moved to the full Senate. The Senate hasn’t taken up the legislation, and the GPO declined to comment on the bill’s chances once Congress returns to session after the midterm elections.