Hardly a week goes by in which Google isn’t a topic of conversation with our clients. IT managers are often lured to Google applications on the promise of lower costs, simplified administration, and the ability to shed costly infrastructure (and support requirements) in exchange for a cloud-based solution. Google has certainly started to stake a claim to the enterprise communication and collaboration market. It continues to improve Google Apps for messaging, calendaring, document creation and document sharing. It has added real-time capabilities such as instant messaging and desktop video, and now with Google Voice, it has finally opened up its unified messaging solution to all (though it continues to resist calls to deliver a true VOIP service). Given these efforts, it’s certainly not surprising that IT buyers are taking a long hard look at Google. Over the last few months we’ve interviewed over 200 companies for our annual research benchmark. Around half are evaluating, using, or planning to deploy “office as a service” applications (not just Google, but also competing offerings such as Zoho, and Microsoft Office Live). But an equal percentage (50.2%), have strong reservations specifically about Google as a vendor. Why? Security tops the list. Many companies, due to retention/governance or compliance concerns don’t trust Google with their data, afraid it could be compromised, or even indexed for searching (though Google clearly states that they don’t access private data). Some companies outside the U.S. are reluctant to store data on servers within the U.S. due to concerns about the Patriot Act. The second biggest area of concern is support. Google doesn’t yet possess the ability to support large, global companies via a direct support model, though it has partnered with systems integrators such as CSC to deliver enterprise-class support. Other concerns we heard relate to custom developed applications and the need for local storage. On the UC front, Google’s capabilities are minimal compared with what one can buy from an Avaya, Cisco, IBM or Microsoft. As noted, Google lacks a voice capability. It also lacks web conferencing, the ability to integrate its video chat with enterprise video systems, and the ability to federate with private IM systems. From a feature-functionality perspective, even Google’s office apps still lack features one expects from an enterprise-grade e-mail package including task management, directory integration, and integration between mail, office, and document sharing applications. Google also lacks social tools on par with what one can obtain from its competitors. So what kinds of companies are adopting Google Apps? We see two buckets. The first are those who are solely concerned with cost and are willing to accept reduced features and integration in order to save money. The second are those with minimal needs, especially SMBs who really don’t need the high end features such as SharePoint document management, video conferencing integration, and so on that larger organizations require and are simply looking for a low cost collaboration and messaging solution. The bottom line: carefully evaluate Google as part of your collaboration strategy, but understand not only what you gain, but what you give up should you head down the Google path.
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