Some thoughts on Google Apps

So this used to happen a few years ago from time to time: a customer meeting with me and some other vendors. Somehow the discussion starts about Lotus Notes vs. Microsoft Exchange. The good and the evil. Platform dependency vs. freedom of choice. Mail-only client vs. platform for applications. Performance, backup, pricing, yada yada yada. But these kind of discussion seemed to stop a few years ago.

Today I had a kind of déjà vu experience. Me and my beloved competitor discussing about the question “why not migrating all that Notes stuff to Exchange?”. The customer is a small 50 user services company and uses Notes mainly for mail and calendaring. They want to have some Quickr style web based teamrooms, so it was obvious they raised that question. But this time it ended up at an interesting point: Why not use Google Apps instead of Notes or Exchange?

I know a few companies actually evaluating Google Apps. Most comments I get are like “looks very promising”. And I can understand it. As expected we covered the usual questions, and we received some unusual answers from the boss:

Some random vendor: Do you really trust Google when they hold all you e-mail data?
Boss: I trust you too. Why not trust Google?

V: But you know they can read everything?
B: My admin probably can read everything, too.

V: But your admin is your employee since years, you know him personally and you trust him!
B: Do I?

V: So what about reliability and availability? Look at the news about Googles outage a few weeks ago!
B: So you want to tell me that my server is more available in average?

V: No, I know, we had that disk crash last week, yes, but if you would have ordered our clustering offer, that crash would not have been any problem for you.
B: So what was exactly the price for “clustering” our servers, I mean: hardware, software and your service?
V: Grmpf…

Our talk was not exactly like this, I took this to extremes. And yes, I know how a professional sales guy should act in that situation – this was fortunately a discussion between business men and friends.

But I have that feeling we are much closer at the point where messaging and collaboration components become a commodity than large software vendors are able and willing to admit. I read the discussion about Google Apps and SaaS at Ed Brills blog and we put some irony on it when the Domino servers were down in Westford.

My point is: I really don’t know anymore if I should advise my customers – especially in the SOHO and SMB market – to build and maintain their own operating and data center. Why should a small company with 50 employees run four to six servers in a room, which he could use for another employee for example? It costs money for space, for energy, for services. Yes, we as a service company sell the hardware, we do the services, we install and customize the software. But what they basically need is mail, calendaring, maybe teamrooms, document management, adress management, activities, CRM. Yes, they could do this with Lotus Notes/Quickr/Sametime/Connections or Microsoft Exchange/Sharepoint/etc. All theses services run on different servers, which are based on different technologies, and nobody from their own staff members ever wants to install a Websphere server to have Lotus Connections up and running. Good for us, you would say. No. They would never pay for that. And – to stay with my todays discussion – no SOHO company can afford a Domino licence which allows clustering – and two servers just for a reliable mail solution.

So why not just setup Google Apps? I know so many companies using salesforce.com, and they are happy. If you can get CRM as SaaS, why not messaging and collaboration? Google is nearly enterprise ready from my perspective, and I am not only talking with SOHO and SMB companies – I hear it from large accounts 5000+ too. I don’t see any other vendor in that space, even not IBM with its hesitant Bluehouse attempt. So this all makes me think. It is provocative, I know.

Correct me if I am wrong.

2 Responses to “Some thoughts on Google Apps”


  • Alexander,

    you made some points. But from my perspective the key question will ever be: is my data that unimportant that I give it to someone I cannot control?

    For example with salesforce.com: it’s a very good CRM solution. But CRM contains very sensible and important data for the company.
    Can I trust salesforce.com? Probably yes.
    Do I know who else has access to my data? No, I don’t.
    Do I know that if I just invested some really new technology and I save data about that at salesforce.com or whichever ASP it is safe there? Or will there be another, perhaps american company which also has the same idea “by chance”?

    In times where the USA grants themselves access to every kind of electronic device when you cross the border, I would not be sure of any data any ASP saves on any harddisk located in the US.

    Or what about the current discussion in germany about Datenschutz because there are so much illegal activity in trading personal data from german people? If I save all my customer data in some system from a ASP, how Do I know who else has access to them?

    My point is: I think to have *control* over your own data is very important. And with any ASP solution, you simply don’t have it.

  • Julian, thats right. But my observation is: there is a change going on in perception of SaaS services concerning security, control, availability or reliability. And I think more and more companies will trust ASP services who can probably offer a much better service than internal IT ever can do – and I am not only talking about costs.

    Well, and are you sure you are in control of your data, even if the server is inhouse?

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