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Increasing number of agencies opting for Gmail

An increasingly number of public agencies and employees are jumping ship from their clunky office email services, opting to use Gmail out of sheer frustration with their office programs.

“The Gmail system is much more convenient, quicker, and effective for our purposes,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesman for the State Senate Democrats.

Gmail has led the pack in web-based email programs, tech consultants say, because it is searchable, fast and has instant messenger. As younger workers enter offices, they increasingly want to keep using Gmail at their desks, said Michael Matthews, of Mobile Behavior, a city IT consultant firm that has worked with agencies using Gmail.

The state considered switching to a cloud-based program like Gmail, but decided it had too many security risks, a spokeswoman for the state Office For Technology said. That but that hasn’t stopped staffers from using their own Gmail accounts. The desktop program used by the state Assembly, for example, doesn’t connect with a BlackBerry and only recently became accessible from outside computers, staffers said.

“It’s done with discretion. No one is trading state secrets over Gmail,” said Amy Zern, spokeswoman for state Assemblyman Joseph Lentol.

Consultants to the MTA also recently recommended the agency scrap its cumbersome patchwork of email programs for Gmail, transit sources said. A spokesman would not confirm their interest in Gmail, but said the MTA “is looking at ways to decrease its IT costs.”

A Google spokesman said that its programs are “built to withstand very sophisticated attacks,” and government agencies are increasingly paying $50 a year per user for a souped up version of Gmail called “Apps.” The program provides greater security and features like video chat. The cities of Los Angeles and Orlando recently switched to Gmail, and some federal agencies are also tinkering with it, he said.

Still, tech consultants say that off-site programs like Gmail will always be vulnerable to hackers.

“Google can say whatever they want but they will never be 100 percent secure,” Matthews said.

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