Google Apps optimize

The tools and features still missing from Google Apps

Google Apps has come a long way, but the apps still have a few kinks to be worked out. Kevin Purdy lists some of the drawbacks to Google Apps.

One day, when everything is right with the world, having Google Apps installed on your personal or business domain will be exactly like using Google with a Gmail address, just with a more legitimate identifier and better control.

But today is not quite that day. The viability of Google Apps has come a long way, and the apps offer a wide range of services. But using Google's and other vendors' web-based apps with a Google Apps address still requires overcoming a few kinks, or sometimes gritting one's teeth and waiting on a better day.

Here are the current drawbacks to Google Apps in the Enterprise, as I see them:

No Profiles, so no Google+ Support

Google + is likely a feature that's on its way, particularly the Google Profiles portion, as Google is all-in on Google+, and Google+ is headed to the workplace. However, moving and porting profiles from a personal Google account to Google Apps in the Enterprise is not always easy, as you'll see below.

Google Voice can't port from Gmail to Google Apps

In its original incarnation as GrandCentral, Google Voice was built on the very idea of managing multiple phones (work, home, cell) with one number. So it's somewhat strange that you can't transfer Google Voice to a Google Apps account, at least in the traditional sense. You can create a Google Voice instance inside an Apps account with a whole new number, and perhaps forward your old Voice number to the new one for a transition period, but a true transition is something that might expand Voice's use in the enterprise.

Limits on email addresses

Unless you're a government, school, or non-profit, Google Apps costs $5 per month, or $50 per year, for each "seat" you add. There's still a free option, but as of May 2011, it's limited to 10 users, admin included. Google has a right to, you know, make money from the hosted services they provide, but it leaves not-quite-tiny-, not-quite-big-groups with a strong temptation to simply create free Gmail addresses with linear usernames and work from there. It's a weird kind of curse: Gmail is so respected that handing it out as one's "official" address isn't quite frowned upon, even if there are real security and control benefits to Google Apps email.

No Google Checkout, so no Android Market purchases

Perhaps the best evidence of Google Apps' status as a nifty-but-not-quite-robust service is its lack of scaling with regards to Android. You can set up and sync an Android phone with a Google Apps account, and use all the same apps one would have access to in a browser. But Google's Checkout service only works with "personal" Gmail/Google accounts, not Google Apps. Buying apps through the Android Market, therefore, is a no-go. It would be mighty handy, for example, if everyone signed into an Android phone with a WXYZWidgets.com address could have pre-purchase access to certain key Android apps. Until then, the folks stuck in GApps/Android limbo will have to wait their turn.

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The general wait on new features

Even if you're working in a Google Apps instance where the "Rapid Release Track" has been enabled, Google Apps still means watching Gmail users and tech pundits get excited about the latest new Google-Thing, while you know you're at least a few weeks out from trying it. Google+ is just the latest example, but Google Apps users are likely used to the "coming soon" phrasing.

Before Google+, it was Google Buzz (which still remains a personal-only tool, if not all that necessary), and before the great Google Apps transition, it was just about every cool new feature for Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, among others.

Google has its reasons for keeping Google Apps users away from the bleeding edge of its release cycles - security, deployment costs, and stabilization among them, for sure. But as some folks see it, it often feels like Google's biggest fans and advocates are being left with an experience that's slightly less agile and exciting.

About

Kevin Purdy is a freelance writer, a former editor at Lifehacker.com, and the author of The Complete Android Guide.

3 comments
h8usernames
h8usernames

"Gmail is so respected that handing it out as one???s ???official??? address isn???t quite frowned upon" - HUH??? I don't know a single professional who would ever dream of giving a gmail.com email address out professionally as it is frowned upon... well in NZ, Australia and South America at least - the 3 locations I frequent the most. Yes some businesses do use it, especially start-ups and they more often than not change quickly especially considering US$10 (or less) per year and $0 for a Google Apps account is great value for the very small start up. If it is not the case in North America all I can say is it is definitely a different professional culture. Use of any free email address is frowned upon in all professional communities I am part of. Personally I do use Gmail but no for business. I think your message has been lost because my main taking from the article is that Google should roll out Google+ to Google Apps users ASAP. A problem I see as a Google Apps admin (over about 20 different free and paid for accounts) is Google by default give permission to all users to access all new apps, something we have complained about time after time. We will deny Google+ access for most of our customers as they do not want their staff accessing a SOCIAL network during production. Google+ is at the end of the day a social network and many companies have enough productivity issues as it is. The valuable part of the article I can see is for new Google Apps accounts, businesses can now only have 10 users in the free product, to be completely honest I like Google Apps but not that much. My next deployment (scheduled for next week), is going to Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint as a solution hosted by Microsoft for this very reason, Google is charging around half of Microsoft but my customer sees greater value out of Microsoft even though he currently uses Google Apps in another business where I happen to manage his infrastructure including the Google Apps account. What I think you're really meaning to say is that aspects like formatting in Google Docs does let it down, we have complaints from every new account about this, the problem is Google uses OpenOffice as an engine for their Docs product and this does format differently to MS Office. This leaves customers upset over having to re-format content to either work in both environments or to only use Google Docs for consistency, but then documents sent to customers aren't formatted correctly and some functions are missing from Google Docs compared to MS Office. At the end of the day I have supported Google for about 11 years now, I will continue to recommend Google Apps to the right companies (generally very small in size or budget) but I can see my general recommendation for the average company moving towards MS Hosted Exchanges and SharePoint now because of the reduction of free accounts. A free Google Apps account returns fantastic value but use of OpenOffice formatting that is generally inconsistent to what is generally used and accepted in business reducing the commercial value to the product for most of my customers and many are not happy paying for the product. It is sad in some respects but companies are moving where they think they will get greater value, not always cheaper prices - this is in my opinion the right thing to do.

bmacshara
bmacshara

Not sure what the point of this article is!

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What features are you still waiting to see arrive in your Google Apps?