Does Google fall short when it comes to business needs or can it play a viable role in the enterprise? Susan Cline suggests the latter.
Justin James recently wrote an article about why big companies might want to be wary of Google. Although I agree with some of his points, I'm going to take another swing at it and address each of his concerns. Here are 10 good reasons why you might want to give Google the benefit of the doubt if you're coming from the enterprise side of the street.
1: Customer support is up to par
Let's look at a few of the other companies that are supporting your enterprise. Perhaps your company works with Dell, Apple, HP, EMC, or software vendors like IBM/Lotus or Microsoft. All these companies have limited baseline-level support and offer extended service (or service through their implementation partners, at an upcharge). Google Apps now has 24/7 phone support for all business customers. The last time I called (4 p.m. on a weekday), I got a live person on the phone in 60 seconds to its Canadian help center.
2: Privacy issues are no worse than with other vendors
This is one of those moments where you have to ask yourself: How do our other software vendors (Microsoft, IBM/Lotus, etc.) fare on privacy? Microsoft's Hotmail privacy breach in 2010 made international news.
3: Information about you isn't at greater risk
Well, there are a few roads you can go down, in terms of enterprise software, that can be used at the desktop level. You can pay for non-cloud software (e.g., Microsoft Office) that costs 10 times as much. Or you can use a competitor's less expensive offering and run the same risk of its data being subpoenaed by the government. In this case, Google is no greater risk than Microsoft and its ilk.
4: Products are yanked only when they're unnecessary
When was the last time an essential product was removed or disabled from your Google Apps? The most recent products that have been pulled from Google are probably ones you have never even heard of: Aardvak, FastFlip, and Google Pack. Often, Google will yank a product because the functionality exists in one of its other products.
5: Quality is continually improving
In case you haven't had time to read the 13,238 forum posts in the Office365 "Email & Calendar with Exchange" forum, you can rest assured that the competition is in the same boat as Google. It is difficult to re-create the functionality of a desktop client in a Web browser. However, Google has much more experience building cloud apps than its competitors.
6: Google listens and responds to real-world users
The Google of 2009 did have minimal contact with users. But in the last nine months, especially, it has made business-class support and sales resources easily available. A couple of phone calls will show that its "availability" is just about the same as the competition. Recently, Google has also been proactive about listening to its customers through Twitter, user groups, and surveys. When administrative assistants spoke out about the lack of the read receipt functionality and the confusing architecture of conversations, Google promptly changed the product.
7: Google Apps has an SLA
First off, Google Apps had the lowest unscheduled downtime rate in the industry in 2010. Second, there are SLAs, and then there are SLAs. If you look over the service level agreement, it's pretty clear that if quality dips below 99% uptime, customers are looking at a credit of 7% to 15%, per month. If you have 200 users ($1k/month), that means that a 432-minute outage (seven hours total for more than 5% of your users) gives you a refund of $70. Is this worth it? Probably not. But technically speaking, it does have a policy, and downtime is measured by a 5% user error rate.
8: New features are aimed at business users
A quick look at Google Apps new feature list shows that most of the key features being pushed to the enterprise, like robust mail storage, Blackberry Exchange Server integration, Postini, and Gmail advertisement disablement, are clearly tailored to the needs of enterprise users. In fact, Google Apps for Business was created especially for the needs of business users.
9: Google has built a loyal following
As far as $29B corporations go, it's difficult to measure the amount of TLC it allocates to each individual customer. A search of Microsoft's 2010 annual report yielded zero results for "TLC," as well.
The results here are, well, totally inconclusive. Neither Google nor its competition (Microsoft, Lotus) uses a specific NetPromoter score for its desktop line of products. But a 2006 study stated that Google, as a whole (as well as Apple and Symantec), has the most loyal users in tech.
10: Google caters to business expectations
See #7 and #8. Justin argued that Google caters to consumers rather than to businesses. That statement is correct for 2010, but in 2011, things have changed.