Google to pay LA $415K for e-mail system delays

The city of Los Angeles will not be expected to pay $415,000 in projected costs associated with delays in switching from an outdated e-mail system to a Google-based system, with the internet giant agreeing to cover the tab.

The council last fall signed a $7.25 million three-year contract to set up a Google-based system to provide e-mail, document archiving, spreadsheets, presentations, virus detection, disaster recovery and more storage by June 30, 2010.

More than a month after that deadline passed, however, Information Technology Agency General Manager Randi Levin said only 11,000 of the city's 30,000 e-mail users had completed the migration to the new system.

None of the 13,000 e-mail users within the Los Angeles Police Department have made the switch because of problems in meeting stringent security requirements set by the state Justice Department and the FBI.

As a result, the city is continuing to pay for its current system, called GroupWise, while also paying for the Google-based system.

Google has agreed to shoulder up to $415,000 in costs expected from the delay, and to allow the city to ask for additional payments if the transition is not completed by June of next year.

Levin said today she intends to have all of the city's e-mail users on the Google-based system by November.

Concerns have been raised over the security of the Google-based system, because it does not store data on city property but on servers at so-called "Google data centers'' managed by people with high-level security clearances.

The information is then accessed via the Internet -- a system known as "cloud-computing.''

Google's senior vice president for engineering, Jeff Huber, tried to assuage concerns about security during a hearing last fall.

"In addition to 24-7 guards, electronic key access and closed-circuit video, we employ state of the art security mechanisms such as biometrics and heat sensing,'' Huber said then.

"Also, in a Google data center, your data isn't stored on a single computer,'' he said. ``Instead, it is obfuscated and digitally shredded, then spread across hundreds of digital computers, making its physical theft virtually impossible. In addition, data is encrypted in transit ensuring data is safely delivered.''