Summit County Utah

Summit County Lessens IT Burden with Cloud-Based Microsoft Exchange Online

Solution Overview:

Organization Size

320 employees

Organization Profile

Summit County, Utah is part of the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Statistical Area. It has a population of 36,000 who are served by 320 county employees and are supported by a $45 million budget.

Business Situation

The County had an aging bifurcated email legacy system that was becoming more expensive and complex to run. The challenge of running the aging system was exacerbated by the need to support mobile workers.


The county upgraded its legacy email system to a new cloud-based solution on Microsoft Exchange Online.

  • Reduced administrative burden
  • Better mobile worker support
  • Improved disaster recovery
  • Lower overhead costs
Software and Services

Microsoft Exchange Online

Vertical Industries



United States



Company Overview:

With a population over 36,000, Summit County, Utah is part of the Salt Lake City Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county seat is in Coalville and its largest city is Park City. The County Manager administers a budget of approximately $45 million, and manages more than 320 employees, up from about 50 ten years ago.

Summit-County-Case-StudyAs the county’s Chief Executive Officer, the manager oversees six departments, including community development, health, public works, information technology, library and personnel. In 2011, the county upgraded its legacy email system to a new cloud-based solution on Microsoft Exchange Online. Rather than building out a new on-premise system, procuring email as a service has delivered several benefits, including: reduced administrative burdens on IT staff; easier access for mobile users; lower overhead costs such as cooling and power; more agile recovery of email content.


The county’s on-premise legacy email system was more than ten years old and required, with each passing year, a lot more maintenance time and expense. Additionally, as more users wanted email on their mobile devices, providing access from within the county’s legacy environment was proving cumbersome, recalls Ron Boyer, Summit County’s Director of IT

“We had an old POP3 email program that we’d been using forever. With the increase of mobility with smart phones and mobile workers, it was getting hectic to keep up with the management of those accounts,” says Boyer. “We had Web Access, but then we had people with iPhones who couldn’t really access their email or it wasn’t synched up.”

Beyond its mobility limitations, Boyer points out that the county’s legacy system was labor-intensive to support as desktop hardware was renewed or when accounts needed to be recovered from its rudimentary archiving system.

“It was really a nightmare, because every time we switched out somebody’s computer, we’d have to copy the .pst file and move it over,” he says. “And if somebody lost their hard drive, they’d lose all that email. The archiving system that we had in place would just copy all the messages that came in and out of the server to another account. I just had this huge directory of messages, and there was no way I could search them. So if somebody came and said, ‘I want to get back all my email,’ that would have taken weeks.”

In fact, Summit County was actually running two email domains in tandem. The majority of employees were on the county’s MDaemon environment while a smaller segment used the state of Utah’s Novell GroupWise system. When a new county manager entered office last year, he decided to consolidate these domains into one while at the same time upgrading the county’s legacy email infrastructure. Migrating existing email content from both legacy domains into a new environment therefore created another layer of complexity the county’s IT department.

“That was one of the key challenges to overcome,” notes Ron Braatz, President of Crofton, MD-based Liftoff LLC, the Microsoft technology partner that supported Summit County during its email migration. “They were worried about their old GroupWise system and how it would be handled. Using utility programs, we were able to handle that migration exceptionally well.”


Initially, the county considered upgrading to a new on-premise email system built around Microsoft Exchange. At the time, the county’s IT department had budgeted about $20,000 for new hardware, software licenses, and installation. However, when compared to purchasing a cloud-based solution running Microsoft Exchange Online, the county realized it would be more cost-effective to procure email as a service rather than constructing and operating a new on-premise system.

“After we put the math to it, it was cheaper over a 10 year period because we would need an upgrade in five years anyway,” says Boyer. “Why mess with the hardware and the headaches when we can just have Microsoft host it?”

One of the biggest concerns of implementing a new email system in-house was ensuring that the county’s IT staff was proficient with the new technology so they could complete the installation and troubleshoot all problems once it was in place. Moving to an unfamiliar email platform would have entailed new training and a longer rollout cycle. Implementing Microsoft Exchange Online as a service eliminated that issue, Boyer explains.

“I didn’t want to move to Exchange unless we knew exactly what we were doing. With our old product we just had to learn as we go,” he says. “I was having so many issues with messages being bounced around or not being delivered, I’d have to go through the logs and figure it out myself. Or if there were problems with spam filters or DNS records, things like that.”

“That’s where I saw the biggest savings,” he adds. “I don’t have to send my own staff to training and hope that they soak everything up in six months while we try to install it. And I’m not going to have to worry about these DNS issues because I can just call the support line at Microsoft, and they’ll take care of it.”

Opting for a cloud-based solution also helped the county to consolidate its on-premise server room and reduce overhead such as cooling and utility costs, Boyer points out. “Our server room was built in 1998, so it’s fairly small. I think we had two servers when I first moved in here, and now we have twenty just in that room,” he says. “We were going through a big green initiative too, and we’re always having problems with overheating in that room, and sucking too much power. So if we can get rid of a piece of hardware too, that’s even better.”

Summit County currently has about 285 email users, but using Microsoft Exchange Online allows the county to designate different service levels for different types of employees. “We split ours between full users and desk-less users, and that saved us some money because we have some employees that aren’t going to use the full capabilities of Exchange,” says Boyer. “They just need an email message. These are users out in the field like our deputies, for example, who don’t really need things like the calendar functions.”


In analyzing the outcomes from implementing a new email solution on Microsoft Exchange Online, Boyer points first to the elimination of email administration. “The number one item would be the administration of the whole system. I don’t have to worry about the hardware or the cooling. I don’t have to worry about training my staff or setting up the system. You’re basically turning it over to the experts.”

While making the switch from a wholly-owned, on-premise system to a hosted solution in the cloud feels like relinquishing control over one’s infrastructure, Boyer explains that it actually puts his department more in control of how they allocate their time to more demanding responsibilities because the routine maintenance of email service is no longer on their plate.

“With state and local governments being trimmed across the country, I had to look at [an on-premise system] as an additional responsibility that I was going to have on my office. If I could take that away, then we could release some of the burden that we have on the staff, and they can move on to other stuff.”

In addition to streamlining day-to-day maintenance, using a hosted system on Microsoft Exchange Online facilitates recovery when hard-drives or other systems go down. “On the old system that would crush the Summit IT department,” notes Liftoff’s Braatz.

“You’re going to backup tapes, and then days of effort to restore and recover. Now that their mail is in the cloud, they can literally fire up a new machine, point it at the cloud, and all their mail comes right back up. It is just good to know that – when you have a hardware failure – your content can be recovered and reestablished quickly. That’s how disaster recovery works in the cloud,” he says.

The cost avoidance that Summit County has realized goes well beyond the price of new infrastructure. The real savings, Boyer explains, comes from the reduced burden on IT resources and lower overhead costs. “In the first calculation that I made, just on the software licenses and hardware alone I was going to save about $5,000 over a ten-year period, which isn’t a whole lot,” he says. “But when I throw in there the costs of cooling and power, and training and administration, I found I was saving a ton of money.”

Furthermore, by using a hosted solution, Boyer feels the county’s investment is more future proof than on premise systems. “We’re basically paying month by month for the upgrades,” he says. “And the cost is kind of negligible when the alternative is to make a big buy right now and then in five years make another big buy. Instead I’m just paying a monthly fee because I’m going to have to upgrade anyway, so let’s just do it piece by piece and let somebody else worry about the technology refresh.”

Ultimately, however, it is the simplification of email administration is that produces the county’s greatest return on investment.

“By outsourcing the software, hardware, maintenance and administration burden to Microsoft, you free up time and allocate resources to those who are the experts at it anyway.

“You’re going to save by the fact that you don’t need somebody on your staff that’s dedicated to administrating your email servers. You take that role out of the IT office and you put it on Microsoft.”


Microsoft Case Study: Summit County Utah

Partner(s): Liftoff 

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