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August 25, 2007

Google Apps, Not Yet a Mature Enterprise Solution

An interesting report from Burton Group titled "Google Apps in the Enterprise: A Promotion-Enhancing or Career-Limiting Move for Enterprise Architects?" (it's available as a PDF, but requires free registration) analyzes if the business edition of Google Apps is a good solution for the corporate environment.

The report starts with a short description of Google's offering: "Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) is a SaaS-based solution; a member of the Google Apps family; a collection of applications, application programming interfaces (APIs), third-party applications, and support; and supplied by a company where historically selling to the enterprise has been a corporate sideline." Google doesn't make too much money from enterprise products and it tries to adapt consumer-oriented applications to the corporate needs. "Only if and when the enterprise division stands architecturally on its own will Google be able to compete head-to-head with competitors who have focused on the enterprise from the beginning," suggests the report.

Google Apps is presented as a "lite" replacement for Microsoft Office and a basic option for an enterprise content management system or a collaboration suite. Google Apps can't address the needs of Microsoft Office power users, doesn't offer tools for document archiving, records management, stats, content policies. It also lacks collaboration tools like video chat, web conferencing, workspaces for collaboration, wikis, forums, although some of these will be added in the near future.

Google "has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a known only to Google schedule. Furthermore, some companies are leery of entrusting their corporate documents to a company that makes its living from analyzing content and displaying it to the world. To these companies, keeping information secure seems at odds with Google's emphasis on information sharing."

Here are the product strengths, according to the report:
* Don't need to pay for unnecessary power user licenses
* No software to install, and no continual updates
* Minimal, if any, training required
* Relatively easy to include workers outside the enterprise
* Online documents are not scattered on C drives or fileshares
* Integration of past application silos

... and here are the weaknesses:
* Power users and sophisticated documents are not supported
* Records management is difficult and requires extra work
* 99.9% uptime guarantee is for Gmail only
* Google is not liable for lost data, profits, or revenue
* Live telephone support is 17/5
* Difficult to plan for product capabilities and rollouts

To be fair, the text from the service agreement is very similar to Microsoft Office's terms: "In no event will Google or its licensors be liable for any indirect, special, incidental, consequential, exemplary or punitive damages, including but not limited to damages for lost data, lost profits, lost revenue or costs of procurement of substitute goods or services, however caused and under any theory of liability."

The conclusion is that Google Apps is not yet a mature solution and companies should wait until Google or other competing software-as-a-service suites become more powerful:
Google has caught the attention of enterprises with its inexpensive Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE) product: available at $50 per user per year. However, the seductive price can spell trouble for enterprise architects and their companies if they don't do their homework: the solution's rudimentary feature set means that enterprises need to pick carefully and implement slowly.

While Google's entrance is adding momentum to using software as a service (SaaS) for communication, collaboration, and content management, it's unclear at this point whether Google will be able to capitalize on the trends that it's accelerating.

This blog is not affiliated with Google.