Is Your Business Ready to Make the Switch to Google Apps?

Google appsWe’ve been kicking around ideas for making the Matrix Group intranet better.  During a recent meeting, the Director of Software Engineering wondered if we should switch from our intranet calendar to the Google calendar. Whoa, I thought. Put my company calendar and personal schedule on Google? My mission-critical data that I would die without?  No way.

But then I got to thinking. Gmail is a seriously good e-mail service.  Google Analytics is so ridiculously good that yes, I would pay for it; in fact, I would pay lots of money for it (don’t get any ideas, Google.)  And before Google bought Postini, it was already a best of breed, commercial anti-spam service.

So I did a little more research on Google apps.  It turns out that the Google apps, terms and conditions I’m familiar with are for personal use.  But Google also markets its services to companies and schools.  Google offers the same services (Gmail, calendar, docs, Web site hosting, and Postini) to companies for a really low price ($50 per user, per year).  So why is the corporate version of Google Apps not free?  For the money, you get a 99.9% uptime reliability guarantee (for Premier Edition users), mobile device support, 25 GIG of storage, and the Google promise of security and compliance.  Phone support is supposedly also available, but I can’t find reference anywhere in the Terms of Service to back-up and retention of data.

So now I’m intrigued and impressed.  Google apps look great, work great, are easy to use and are super reliable. But I still remember how my Magnolia bookmarking account just vanished last year.  And  while I wasn’t out any money, I was out all my bookmarks.  Thank goodness I was able to recover some of my data from an RSS feed!

So are Google Apps truly ready for the corporate prime time?  Would I trust Google with my most important and mission critical data and functions?  How about you?  Would YOU trust Google with your calendar, e-mail and docs?

5 thoughts on “Is Your Business Ready to Make the Switch to Google Apps?

  1. We have been using Google applications to run NimbleUser since 1/1/09. We found ourselves at an interesting crossroads, upgrade our aging Exchange server hardware, licenses, and pay for consulting, or consider other alternatives. Our founder suggested we use Google Apps. They ran a cost benefit analysis, and the advantage was clear. 25 users * $50/year vs. $4,000 in exchange hardware and $12,000 in licensing + worrying about backup, the staff time to maintain another server, and a server crash.

    So they piloted a Gmail program with a few staff late last year and beyond getting used to the functionality which took a little bit, things went well so there was a company wide rollout at the beginning of the year.

    Gmail has some great advantages over Exchange beyond the infrastructure and cost concerns. They are CONSTANTLY upgrading the product and it has a few features that Outlook can’t match such as threaded conversations, messag labeling, and of course… search!

    Along with the Mail, we also moved our entire intranet over to Google sites. They are easy, straightforward to learn, hosted on the cloud, and accessible from anywhere. Document management is now all with Google Docs, it’s a rare day that I need to use my MS office anymore, as nearly all of our internal documents are now hosted on Google. It’s free, and we often use them for their collaborative power.

    Okay, I will take my *Use Google* sandwich board off now. :)

    Garry

  2. My department began using Google Docs this summer. I love it. I really enjoy being able to access work-related documents from any computer. Since we are in publishing, we’re not using the platform for our publication material because Google Docs does not (yet) offer something comparable to Word’s track changes, a must-have tool for us. But it has many other great features, such as revision history, and it is so easy to use.

  3. We would all be lost without being able to use Google for everything, but it was just last week that Gmail crashed and took a bunch of other apps down with it. Giving up the ability to control and fix problems in-house and leaving it to a third party is still a big risk.

  4. I agree that Google Apps brings cost savings and convenience but….there are big security concerns that many people overlook.

    The biggest argument for Google from a security standpoint is that Google spends more money on security in a year than your organization may spend in 10 years. That is a bunch of BS in my mind though. For one, Google is a much larger target than your individual organization so it is being attacked at a much higher frequency. Second, Google isn’t spending all that money on monitoring and protecting specifically your data. Will they know that every night someone from the Ukraine is logging in, or trying to? Will they do anything about it? Nope.

    What kinds of things am I talking about? How about an account lock out policy….oh there isn’t one. How about password auditing….oh you can’t do that either. How about reviewing the access logs for the past week….not going to happen. Now that you access everything via the web, what about CSRF and XSS risks? New attack vectors for your organization. How about those Terms of Service? Google can do what they want with your data, you own it but they have rights to it. Scary thought don’t you think? There are other points in the TOS that are disturbing but that is the main one.

    Bottom line here, if you don’t have any security practices in place today, then Google will probably be an upgrade. If you do even basic security best practices, you are downgrading. Are the risks worth the rewards? Not for my enterprise they aren’t.

  5. Wow, thanks for the informative and insightful comments. I, too, am concerned about things that are missing from the Google terms of use, like back-up, security, audit trail, etc. About a year, some usage data mysteriously disappeared from a client’s Google Analytics account. We called Google, begged, pleaded, offered them money, but nobody would talk to us and we certainly couldn’t ask for the data to be restored.

    That said, I love my Gmail and many staff here swear by their Google calendars. And yes, clients have sent us Google docs for collaboration.

    Lots to think about and consider over the next months and years. Thank you!

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