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Google eyes the enterprise market

Martin Veitch | Sept. 3, 2008
We should know better having seen the likes of Lotus Notes and SmartSuite, WordPerfect Office and GroupWise, Corel and Novell fail to topple Microsoft, but it's hard not to get excited by the latest challenge to the Microsoft hegemony, Google Apps.

The deal will provide "a step change in how we use email in the organization", says Rob Ramsay, Taylor Woodrow IT director, by providing users with a Google-hosted service that replaces a legacy HP OpenMail system that was front-ended by Outlook.

One of Google's key opportunities is to step in at times when legacy systems and processes have reached the end of the road and, as Ramsay describes it, this was the situation at Taylor Woodrow.

"We had major challenges in our email with limited mobility and limited scalability in terms of taking it forward to provide email to new staff appointments," he says.

Ramsay also points out the extra savings to be made because web-based systems have features such as antivirus, content filtering and archiving that would be paid-for services in the -client/server world.

Taylor Woodrow is using Google Apps primarily for email and calendaring but does not rule out the domain spreading as people get used to a new way of working.

"We found we were part of a behavioral change just as if you changed your car park," he says. "People could bring their personal calendar or email and sit it alongside their professional one. That clicked with people: I didn't have to put the school run on the professional calendar. When we bought Apps, our initial need was mail and calendar but what's interesting is that there's been a natural evolution to using Docs [Google's set of word processing, spreadsheet and other desktop tools] and Sites [Google's website creation tool]. They're not seen at this stage as a replacement for Office-based products, but if people want to use them, so be it."

Perhaps even more interesting was a subsequent Google Apps deal, this time with the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), publisher of the Daily Telegraph. Most strikingly, TMG is deliberately moving away from a Microsoft infrastructure in favor of Google.

"We've got Office 2003, Windows XP and Exchange 2003 and we started to look at the refresh cycle at the beginning of this year," says Paul Cheesbrough, TMG's CIO. "We had a decision to make as to whether to sign up for a three-year enterprise agreement with Microsoft or look at something else.

"[As a pilot] we took 10 percent of our 1400 user seats and let them use Google Apps alongside their Office and Exchange infrastructure. Overwhelmingly the feedback was positive and there would have been uproar if we had said we were turning it off. We were faced with the decision of whether we pursued the same [Microsoft] path and paid the price for that, or put more and more internal solutions in the cloud.


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