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Feds On Board with Online Apps

Federal agencies' adoption of online applications from Internet powerhouse Google Enterprise could usher in an era of rising productivity and improved security, said David Girourard, the company's vice president and general manager.

"Ten of 15 Cabinet agencies' sites use Google search" technology, Girourard said today in the opening keynote speech at the FOSE 2008 conference and exposition. He went on to cite the tens of thousands of Google Earth users among the ranks of federal employees. Girourard noted the 80,000 members of the intelligence community who contribute some 5,000 items daily to Intellipedia, an online information pool that closely reflects methods used in the Google-sponsored Wikipedia.

Federal agencies increasingly benefit from Google's collaborative tools, Girourard said. He emphasized the role of such tools in shifting work methods in both the federal and private sectors toward team productivity and away from individual effort.

The spread of Google apps, and the cloud computing approach in which data resides online and tools arrive as a service, promises to increase security for federal users, Girourard said. As an example, he mentioned that he recently lost his laptop PC -- but lost no data because the data remained secure and available online.

Federal agencies' travails with lost or stolen laptops have caused the loss of countless files containing personal identifying information or classified data, he said.

The Office of Management and Budget has issued regulations that impose multiple levels of authentication for portable system access and mandate the elimination of unused data, among other steps. But potential data leaks via both laptop loss and online intrusions remain a top priority and continuously evolving threat to federal agencies.

Those agencies' shift to Google's cloud computing approach will conserve federal funds with the "almost zero incremental costs," he said.

The concept of cloud computing itself, or using networked computers to store and manage data, isn't new. But recent advances in processor speed, software productivity and Internet speed have made the technology more viable, Girourard said.

He said his company's plans to offer upgraded services to an ever-growing base of users include using low-cost energy.

Google puts its data centers in areas that benefit from low electricity costs, he said, and the company has placed photovoltaic technology on the roofs of its headquarters. That solar electricity installation is the world's largest such renewable energy site, he said.

Google plans to build a massive alternative energy generation facility, Girourad said.

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