The three factors keeping Google from a full-scale enterprise assault

Google has made progress in the enterprise but long adoption curves, organizational auto-pilot, and lack of customization are still keeping them from breaking through.


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 Google has made major strides in making Google Apps, Google+ Hangouts, and Chrome devices more business-friendly, but they still have important enterprise obstacles to overcome.

Google is facing a monumental 20-year legacy of Windows hegemony. Currently, only 13 companies in the Global 500 are using Google Apps, according to Google's own numbers. More than any fierce competition, Google has to deal with an enterprise environment that is averse to substantive change. The recent VMware announcement shows that Google is taking steps to address customer concerns about migration issues and legacy software, but some of the issues have more to do with the enterprise than Google.

Here are three of the biggest barriers that Google will still have to overcome to grow their enterprise customer base.

1. Organizations are on auto-pilot

This is, perhaps, the strongest opposing force to Google in the enterprise. Big businesses like to "set it and forget it" in regards to IT. It takes a lot of work to get a business to run even somewhat smoothly, and the possibility of a change to a part of an organization as vital as IT can be perceived as a threat to that organizational sense of peace.

Tom Austin, a Gartner Fellow, said that for the vast majority of incidents, moving to the cloud is more secure than staying on premises, but organizations are still wary of the cloud. Most companies are loath to cede control of their data, even more-so in the post-Snowden era. This is why, according to Austin, roughly 70 percent of businesses use a Microsoft enterprise email client, while only 30 percent use Google.

This also explains why, according to a Tech Pro Research survey, 37 percent of XP users plan on continuing to use the OS after support ends and have no plans to migrate. Many times the people making the decisions opt for what they are comfortable with, or what they know. Although this isn't always a bad decision, it might not be best for an organization.

"Don't automatically assume you know what would be best for your users," Austin said.  

Google could be a good fit for you company, but it will take some work to decide if that is the case. Austin recommends conducting surveys on employees' home product use and setting up user pilots for the non-IT crowd in your organization.

2. Adoption curve

Gartner's research says that cloud-based products hit the office in 2007. Seven years later, the adoption rate of these products is only 10 percent. The market is moving slowly, but according to a Google spokesperson, "58 percent of the Fortune 500 are now actively using a paid, enterprise cloud product from Google." That includes Google Apps for Business, the Google Cloud Platform, and the Google Maps Engine, among others.

As Austin noted, Google's cloud products help keep companies agile and make them less susceptible to being deadlocked by local software update. In spite of this, Google has to battle the concerns that slow the adoption of their products. The rate of change is high, the benefits are unclear, and the costs may be out of line for a large organization. most larger companies like to pay for something once, unlike the per month or per year options for Google Apps.

"Once you're in the cloud, if you stop spending, they shut it off like the electric bill," Austin said.

While terminal mainframe to enterprise client for email got to 98 percent adoption in 15 years, Austin isn't confident the cloud will get there by 2022. He is hopeful, however, that two thirds of the enterprise will make it to the cloud by then. This is based on projections of the current rate of adoption only, so there is a possibility that exponential acceptance of cloud products could move up the adoption timeline.

3. Lack of customization

Scheduling through Google Calendar isn't as robust as Outlook, Apps customizations for things like toolbars is minimal, and Google Apps updates are difficult to filter or opt-out of. TJ Keitt, a senior analyst at Forrester, said there are other standards and regulations to consider as well.

"Where Google does struggle in the enterprise space is with organizations that seek a higher degree of flexibility in cloud deployments, those that have stringent regulatory requirements and those that are wedded to processes and workflows that don't translate into the Apps environment. On that first point, Google Apps is delivered only as multi-tenant SaaS, meaning organizations seeking dedicated infrastructure or a highly customized implementation won't find a solution with Google.

"To the second point, prospects that have to abide by standards like ITAR find that Google is unable to address their needs because Google has chosen not to provide the operational structures those regulations require. And to the third point, organizations that have developed specific business applications on top of SharePoint or other systems may not be able to neatly translate those into the Google environment. "

Customization issues are really only going to affect the serious computer users and the IT department heads, but these are often the people that are instrumental in making decisions about products and services.

For Google to increase their share of the enterprise market, it will take work on their part, but will also take a substantial shift in enterprise culture.

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Conner Forrest is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. He covers Google and startups and is passionate about the convergence of technology and culture.


Per author, Conner Forrest, you points make some sense, but I think the biggest fail is that Google Apps for Business is a really good beta product. It is not worth paying for, it is purely a beta product. The idea is a good, however, execution is way, way off of what enterprises really need. Our business moved to Google Apps for Business despite our IT department, of which I am part of, case studies on other Cloud solutions as our company decided that the cloud was the way to go. So, we looked at many cloud solutions and the powers to be , had decided that we had to get off of Lotus Notes and get on the cloud to decrease costs. But because Lotus Notes has a lot of not so well known features, it turns out that in-house (as in on premises) is not so expensive after all. We would have needed to spend $18,000 to upgrade our Lotus Notes, $35,000 to upgrade our server, $4,000 per year for Lotus and Microsoft Server, support. So we would have had to lay out $57,000 for the first year and $4,000 per year thereafter. If you take the life as three years, then keeping Lotus would have been $69,000, with the new server and new version of Lotus. It you take that across 5 years, then it would be $73,000. So, our cost saving of having to move to Google Apps for Business, which discounted meant we spend $35,000 per year. So, in three years it would be $75,000 and in 5 years it would be $175,000. Well, simple math would indicate that Google Apps for Business is way more expensive over the course of time. Also, we found functionality in Notes that we were able to create applets without much programming required to handle a lot of what we called our "portal" which gives employees a few utilities. So, going with Google Apps for Business, we had to outsource our "portal" programming, We have two developers in house, myself included, but we needed to get this out in 2 months time and that we programmers couldn't do, in addition to our regular work tasks. In other words, neither of us had enough bandwidth to handle that programming, We chose a particular company and they quoted us $43,000 and they would have the first delivery in 3 weeks, so that we had a common point to start from. Well, they were about a month late, but we got it, and we had to buy a server anyway and get MS SQL server. So our new Windows 2008 R2 server with multiuser CALs for MS SQL, it cost us $52,000. So to get the same functionality as Lotus Notes where the upgrade would cost us $57,000 for the server and database, our first year cost was $35,000 for Google Apps for Business + $52,000 for server and database + $43,000 for portal programming = $130,000. Also, if you are not aware, Lotus also comes with Symphony (Lotus' attempt at a suite like Office). So, instead of spending $57,000 for upgrading Lotus, we "saved" money by spending $130,000. Huh? In the long run, MS Windows server maintenance, Lotus maintenance (we were long time customer and IBM quoted us good pricing for Lotus maintenance since we were historically a low maintenance customer) we would be out $69,000 in three years. If we did that again in three years time, we wouldn't need to pay anything more for Lotus, so only a new server, then we would probably just come out more expensive than the initial cost of going with Google App for Business.

Us in IT showed this to our department head, and we showed various combinations of Cloud, he seemed genuinely shocked at how expensive Google Apps for Business costs compared to other Cloud solutions and also, the low prices for getting our Lotus current with new server. I later figured it out, the search was a waste of time, it was already decided that we were going to Google Apps for Business anyway. What happened was that our head office (in another country) had done the cost analysis of moving from Lotus to Google Apps for Business and because they were 5 version behind on Lotus, and their servers were really old Windows 2000, they would have had to do a fresh install of Lotus, plus some $80,000 to pay for migration to the new Lotus, and all new servers, with the latest Microsoft licensing, it was far cheaper for our head office to use Google Apps for Business. But they never took into account that we were only one version behind (BM was still supporting that version) and if we just paid our $2,000 per year maintenance, we could have gone on for at least another year before having to upgrade. But our upgrade would have been comparatively inexpensive. 

So, after much finger pointing, it finally came out that to save us money where we clearly showed research that there were more comprehensive and better either staying with Lotus (I didn't really like it, but the numbers indicated that was the best course of action) we showed that Office 365 as the far better option. We buy Office for everyone. So, if you add that in, Office 365 with Exchange on-line, the total cost comes out way cheaper than Google Apps for Business + Office, is one of the most expensive options around. The problem is that once someone gets Office (and I believe only Accounting really needs it in our line of business) then everyone wants it (since they are used to it) and they get their managers to pay for it anyway so it is de facto standard. Only IT and the young ones really use Google Drive.


1. We are not on autopilot we went Google Apps for Business because we were commanded to do so. If i had the power, I'd rip it out today.

2. Adoption curve. Irrelevant. Paying for Google Apps for Business, where it is still really only a beta. it doesn't compare to far better on premises or other cloud solutions, It is a rip-off. Does not even have better features than Lotus Notes. That is why if I had the power, I'd rip it out today to save money.

3. Lack of customization, this will always be the case when you go with Cloud. It is a given. But the good points are that you don't have to take care of backups and you don't have to accommodate the server, and handle all the maintenance contracts, I can see the benefits. 

If you are looking to save money, have a look at Libre Office. I'm stating to use that more and more, since it works on all my devices. Google Apps for Business works best in a Chrome browser, so if you like Outlook, you will lose quite a bit of functionality. I can, however, access my mail anywhere (I could already to that with Lotus Notes and their Traveler utilities, so I gained nothing).

All in all, there are too many problems with Google Apps for Business. For schools, who don't want to have to worry servers, Google Apps for Education or organizations that have their 501(C) 3 nonprofit status, Google Apps for Nonprofits are free and if you don't do much other than basic mail, calendaring and simple documents, it could be a good fit. Enterprise, it is simply not ready.


I echo Dave's issue with lack of control.  As an end user I was involuntarily upgraded to the "New! Improved!" Google maps and found that a major piece of function, Search Nearby, was crippled.  The Maps forum has several threads going as far back as June complaining about the damage, and Google has yet to do anything about it.  I am on the old interface and will not move forward.

I would hate to be in an IT department that chose Apps and have to sit between disgruntled users and an unresponsive company.  Oh!  Wait!  Maybe Google IS ready to be an enterprise company.  They already know how to ignore the end users!


A few things I'd be worried about are:

1) Whether Google does something whether or not they will stick with it. Google has created plenty of products/projects only to drop they later on  - sometimes with little warning. I think it was a few years back when they dropped [with little notice] something related to syncing with Exchange servers.

2) Privacy. If I am using Gmail or other services, I don't want Google to electronically ready anything let alone some other issues that have come up over the past while.

3) Compatibility is still a problem between their "office" applications and MS Office [clearly still the standard].


The biggest fear that I see for my customers is the lack of control.  You are at the mercy of future unknown changes.  Enterprises want stability and be able to control change at their pace.  If every time Google blinked  you had to retrain 2,000 employees or look for another way to do something you would be going through a lot of pain.

The other issue is storing your data in Google's cloud.  Google wants to know everything about everything.  If your data isn't encrypted in the cloud or in transit then they could have access to your data.  Who's to say that their apps don't leak when it's being used on a desktop at the office?  I'm not a security expert so I'll leave that to others.

Microsoft, as imperfect as it may be, is a known entity.  Most people have a basic knowledge of MS office applications.  Learning curve is considerable less.  MS integration within office products is great as you can drag and drop stuff between almost anything.  And if you are not ready for Office 2013, you can still run 2010,  2007 (heck 2003) until you are ready to migrate.  Can't do that with Google.  When they change everyone takes a step forward whether they want to or not.


Do you really think Google wants customers' enterprise data?  Google Apps for Business is just that; for Business.  It's not the same as the consumer-focused and free version of  While features are the same in many areas, how Google deals with customer data, and how they go about the business of supporting enterprise customers is different.  They don't want the liability associated with access to customer data, and they're not focused on ads for revenue on a "free service."

When evaluating new platforms, most customers state that email is a commodity, and not strategic to the corporate enterprise (meaning; email is integral, but the giant feature list is not necessary and messaging is pretty simple or "commoditized" across platforms).  But then everyone wants to talk about feature sets and extensions and critical needs, and this doesn't seem consistent with a commodity approach to the service.

It's probably best to split the functions up into 2 sets; messaging and collaboration.  Google mail, calendar, chat and talk with video capabilities and Google Hangouts is very good.  It offers things other email platforms do not, and can lower the barriers to quick communication on many levels within an organization (e.g. email someone, go into a quick chat on the email subject, grab 3 other cohorts to join chat, and then go right into a video session to flesh out an issue).  

Where Google still has a little work to do is on collaboration.  But they're chasing Microsoft and a few other application providers who have a 15 year head start on delivering thick-client desktop applications that have features only capable through installed, local applications.  Google has done amazing things through a browser-only interface, and continues to deliver real-world and feature-rich capabilities in the collaboration suite of services.

Google is HIPAA- and FISMA-certified, so our healthcare and government information is sitting in Google Apps right now.  Customers' local information is subject to myriad attacks every day, through local sources and nefarious attacks, as we see every day in example like Target and other entities who send out notices of their data breaches.  Google has a great track record of securing customer data, and everyone thinks their local data is safe and secure despite the onslaught of attacks and threats that exist.  Many of these organizations probably have a current data breach in progress and don't even know it yet.

It's easy to throw stones at the new services being offered, especially compared to the high-priced bloatware that exists on our local application machines, but Google provides a lot of value in a suite of services that hasn't had a price increase for quite some time now.

Poli Tecs
Poli Tecs

"long adoption curves, organizational auto-pilot, and lack of customization are still keeping them from breaking through"?

No its not, its because Google is a fragmented company, and in more way's than one!

First it starts with their inconsistent products like Android. Then it carries into their online game of catchup with Google +. But the most devastating is Google's collusion with government and its inability, in fact open disregard, to protect user rights and privacy. Their "one court order fits all" approach to government spying on all citizens.

Google is another branch of the feds even going to far as to help build the spy network and open the doors for them. Hell, even participate by staking claim to all your data on their network!

No what they lack most is trust!


Where I work (in higher ed), we've considered Google, however, we don't trust Google enough to put our faith in it. Google has a history of removing features or modifying them, and worse: outright discontinuing services when they no longer suit Google's needs. A lack of customization presents other challenges, as does too-frequent updates that can introduce glitches and incompatibilities. Ultimately, we just don't see Google as being serious about obtaining enterprise customers -- the company treats enterprise efforts as more of a hobby, and that's simply not reassuring enough. There are other issues -- primarily of trust over whether it's safe to entrust Google to host our data -- though some of those begin to border on religious beliefs (and fears).


I completely agree with @Youri van Dijk. Plus, Google has the habit to remove features, or even worse, applications, with a very short notice. That leaves any enterprise with a lot of costs: migrating to another app, training at the very least. 

As long as Google plays "I'm the giant, I can do whatever I want", the enterprise market looks far for it.

Youri van Dijk
Youri van Dijk

I simply feel that Google apps is not good enough for businesses. Especially on the documents side of things. I think Microsoft is quickly catching up and might be the preferred choice since Office 365.


I'm sorry but I disagree with the claim by Tom Austin, that data is more secure in the cloud than on premise. That comes down to your IT department and their protocols. In the defense industry, we're constantly under attacks for data, but have not had any breaches.

The only time we've come close, is thru email phising tactics, and we try to keep all employess up to date on handling their business emails.

Good practices and training really do work, and I can guarentee that our info will not be put into cloud in the forseeable future.




@tomatsalvair  regarding your first paragraph:

Do you really think Google wants customers' enterprise data?  Google Apps for Business is just that; for Business.  It's not the same as the consumer-focused and free version of  While features are the same in many areas, how Google deals with customer data, and how they go about the business of supporting enterprise customers is different.  They don't want the liability associated with access to customer data, and they're not focused on ads for revenue on a "free service."

We were forced into Google Apps for Business, even though most of us in IT wanted a different cloud solution. So, while the powers to be, wanted a cloud based system, we thought, ok, great. What we didn't see was that the powers to be wanted Google Apps for Business, period. The problem with Google, as clearly demonstrated in the past, was that Google changes things (removes, adds - then revamps, the removes again, or makes something useful into something frustrating).at will. The current Google Apps for Business, a paid for service, is incredibly poor:

1. Changes to the Dashboard and Admin Screen, did not make it more useful or "easy". Meanwhile their Calendar App with regard to resources (like company cars, meeting rooms) doesn't support multiple time zones. You say it does, try this: Create an all day calendar event, book a resource, send invitations. Now have someone else try to book the "open" times for the same resource. What is happening is that "All Day" means midnight to midnight GMT. Not your timezone, GMT.  I pointed this out to Google and this was their response:

"Timezones are not supported in resources whatsoever so going through and changing each resource's timezone will not help address the issue. The best thing to do is create events that start at 00:01 and finish at 23:59 as per Akshay's previous comment.

As Akshay mentioned, adding timezones to resources is on the roadmap but there is no specific timeline."

2. Dashboard changes: The dashboard used to state how many of the licenses that we purchased as compared to how many were used (so that we could buy more licenses before we could add no more, is now only available in another screen (it was always in that screen but they took away a quick view without diving into some menu items. The main point behind this is that Google taking away functionality and making you go through a two deep menu. This makes support more difficult than it used to be. Ok, this is an inconvenience, but it is that Google changes things at will, regardless of what the paying customers want (find out that other clients wants it back as well.

I currently have 137 cases open with Google, and many are from a year ago. So, instead of correcting those issues, they Make cosmetic changes to the Control Panel, that add zero functionality, slow things down because you have to click an icon, then find what you were looking for, some moved to the menu, where they used to be inline. So instead of making the core of Google Apps for Business have the features that are required by the enterprise, they spend time and resources on changes that we don't need or want. Ok, they are nice to haves, but they don't get that enterprise level functionality is more useful rather than makes is look pretty.

I also attend school, part time, mainly for the fun of it. Our university changed to  Google Apps for Education, which I find clunky to use, the main thing is that Google Apps for Education (mainly the same as Google Apps for Business, but it is free for educational institutions) is free. You don't pay Google anything. Of course you university's IT staff is not free. The point is Google Apps for xxxxxx (remember, is not worth paying for. so you can also get Google Apps for Nonprofits). My children have Google Apps for Education for their school mail system. At nothing paid to Google is is a decent system. It is not Enterprise ready, yet.

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