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Google Gmail doesn't meet LAPD security needs

Worried about email security, the Los Angeles city government kills plans to move the LAPD to Gmail.

No surprise that the government of the nation's second-largest city got cold feet when it came to trusting sensitive law enforcement email to the cloud. It is, however, an indictment that may delay other enterprises from accepting public cloud-based email.

After months of rumors and conjecture, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to exclude some 13,000 criminal justice organization users from Google's highly-touted revamping of the city's email system.

The problem?

Google's cloud-based productivity suite -- Google Apps -- doesn't meet the L.A. Police Department's (LAPD) stringent security requirements. Other law enforcement agencies affected by the decision include the city attorney's office, the L.A. Fire Department and the city's department of transportation. Instead, those users will remain on the city's aging on-premises Novell GroupWise system.

Another 17,000 L.A. city employees will continue to use Gmail. In fact, the city legislative analyst and administrative officer said in a joint letter to the council that "the city has realized significant staff and hardware savings as a result of migrating to Google."

Google started out too cheap. Delivering secure email in the cloud is being done today, so it can be done -- but it can't be done cheaply.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst, Enderle Group

For its part, Google tried to remain focused on the bright side when it claimed that L.A. taxpayers have saved at least $2 million already on users that have switched to Gmail.  At the same time, the company did a little griping over the outcome, asserting that the city didn't raise the security requirements for law enforcement bodies until after the initial contract was signed.

Indeed, the joint letter to the council agreed that existing security "regulations are currently incompatible with cloud computing."

No cloud is good enough
Is Google just whining about having its contract rewritten after the deal was signed or does this mean that no cloud email security is tight enough for the LAPD and city attorney's office?

In fact, the city also has to meet state and federal security standards, including the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy, which has been an issue from almost the start.

L.A. signed the $7.2 million contract with Google and its implementation partner Computer Sciences Corp. in late 2009 in a high-profile win against Microsoft -- but the deal ran into trouble early on over security concerns for law enforcement information.

Despite Google's protests, however, at least one analyst calls that position "a cop out."

"Google started out too cheap," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the San Jose-based Enderle Group. "Delivering secure email in the cloud is being done today, so it can be done -- but it can't be done cheaply."

Stuart Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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