Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Ed Nettles, Vice President and Director of IT for Lamar Advertising. Founded in 1902, Lamar Advertising operates over 150 outdoor advertising companies and 63 transit companies, reaching driving audiences. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

In 1902, when Charles Lamar and J.M. Coe decided to dissolve their business partnership, a coin toss was used to divide their assets: the Pensacola Opera House and the Pensacola Advertising Company, the small poster company created to promote the Opera House. Mr. Lamar lost the toss and was left with the less-lucrative poster company. A few years later the Opera house burned down, but that little poster company has grown into Lamar Advertising, one of the largest advertising companies in the U.S.

Prior to Google Apps, we were using Microsoft® Outlook for employees in the field, and Microsoft® Exchange for the employees in our corporate office. With this setup we were constantly facing three problems: data vulnerability, lack of reliable mobile access, and a constant need for IT maintenance.

We had employees saving Microsoft Outlook data in multiple locations, making us vulnerable to data loss and discovery requests that we couldn’t comply with. Microsoft Exchange limited our employees’ ability to get their information when out of the office. Employee smartphones couldn’t sync with calendars or contacts and while employees could get new messages on their phones, they couldn’t see emails older than a few days. We felt like once our employees walked away from the office, they walked away from their work. Even in the office, our email lacked stability so the IT department was constantly dealing with issues. We needed one centralized way of storing and managing our data so that we could provide a better service to our users, provide the business with better security and let our IT department get out of the business of managing email.

We considered upgrading to the latest version of Exchange, but the benefits of the cloud - access from anywhere, increased storage, better security- were too important to ignore. Once we decided that we were going to move to the cloud, Google Apps was the clear choice. Google Apps was affordable and many employees were already familiar with Gmail. Because Google Apps is web-based employees can work and easily collaborate anywhere, any time, making us much more productive.

Cloud Sherpas, the Google Apps reseller we’ve worked with, has been extremely helpful, deploying Google Apps to over 2,400 email users without any major hitches. We now have over 4 terabytes of data in Google Apps. That would have been too resource and cost intensive to build and maintain on our own. With Google Apps, we know our data is safe in the cloud we don’t have to continue to build out our IT infrastructure as we grow.

We’re just getting started with Google Apps, but already employees have started embracing the benefits of its collaborative features; we’ve already seen over 10,000 Google spreadsheets created in just a few months. With so many of our employees working in remote offices and on the road, the ability to access their information anywhere has greatly improved productivity. We know that this is just the beginning and we’re looking forward to seeing the impact Google Apps can have across the business.