Here Comes Google Apps!!
Implementing Google Apps for Catholic Charities
Having worked in the I.T. / computer world for as long as I have, one thing that I have found to be true is that technology changes faster that many firms (and people) are able to keep up with. This is just as true for companies that have been around for awhile as it is for smaller “mom and pop” firms. One reason for this might be that many companies have found things that have worked for them and so, because their way works, never look at new things when they come out because what they have is “good enough”. Basically, it’s the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ideology. Another reason firms don’t implement newer technology over time could be they lack the resources to invest in newer / different software or hardware: this is a common problem with smaller firms. Another common problem could be that a firm doesn’t have anyone with the experience / expertise to evaluate what kinds of problems the firm is having and then research solutions, let alone implement those solutions and manage the transitions. This was the type of situation that I was tasked with managing when I was hired as a system analyst for Catholic Charities San Bernardino & Riverside.
Catholic Charities San Bernardino – Riverside has been operating in San Bernardino and Riverside counties for over 30 years. In the past 8 years or so, however, they have been growing very fast both in terms of the services then offer, the amount of people they serve, and in the amount of employees they have working for them. This is great not only for the people Catholic Charities serves, but also for the people that they needed to hire to help serve the community. The down side is that the types of systems they were utilizing for things like e-mail, their website, and databases for their intake, were not really adequate for their needs any more. Case in point; their email and website through a company called FireSpring.
I don’t know when exactly Catholic Charities started using FireSpring for their e-mail and web hosting, but I would imagine it has been more than 8 years. Now, there isn’t anything specifically bad about FireSpring’s service, only that Catholic Charities had outgrown the usefulness FireSpring provided them. FireSpring’s email, for example, only allowed for 15 GB of storage to be shared among nearly 200 employees. This amounts to less than 80 MB of email storage per person: not very much at all. Another limiting factor was FireSpring’s content management system (CMS). Again, it’s not to say that FireSpring’s CMS is bad, it’s just not as flexible, or extensible, as others like WordPress or Joomla. Granted, some of the problems with the CMS were caused by the template that was being used (it was image based rather then text based), but not everything can be attributed to that. Another limit was that there was no centralized way of maintaining a company email directory through FireSpring. Seeing these challenges, I began looking for different solutions that would not only address these problems, but also give the firm more room to grow in the future…That is when I found Google Apps.
Join me next time as I continue the tail of migrating Catholic Charities to Google Apps.