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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.

Although many fight shy of mentioning it, cost is also an inducement to switch. TMG's Cheesbrough says that there could be up to a five-to-one price difference, "and the Microsoft licence piece doesn't get me hardware to run it".

LMU's Colledge also spies a saving. "Cost avoidance comes into it," she says. "If we were considering extending storage to 6GB per user [on an in-house system] we would have to look at it a lot."

Rapid migration

Speed of change is also critical, with many adopters taking just a few months to move to the new system.

"We went through due diligence but we did it very fast," says Leeds Metropolitan's Colledge. "We started thinking about it in December 2007, made a decision in January to pilot Apps and in February we signed up volume numbers of students who wanted to take that forward. We had 3000 students signed up and students were very positive about the benefits."

Having flexibility is also attractive, with TMG's Cheesbrough saying that using Google's Postini online backup system means that, if necessary, another supplier could be swapped in.

Ubiquitous access is one of the most attractive reasons for using web-based systems of any kind. "We have embedded teams within clients, we sponsor over 100 students and we have major projects such as Heath-row and the Docklands Light Railway," says Taylor Woodrow's Ramsay. "Gone are the days where people work on a site nine to five, five days a week. The model of communicating has changed and we were keen to move into a situation where mail was accessible from anywhere."

LMU's Colledge stresses the global possibilities afforded by using an anytime, any place, anywhere service like Google Apps.

"It was important that we served students in Leeds but also provided access all over the world because we have students in Zambia, Hong Kong and even Alaska. We open up our library all day, every day, so students can come in any day, even Christmas Day, and we wanted the same from Google," she says.

"The other thing important to us was brand association. We felt this was a global brand used by students and we wanted to be associated with this. We can keep the Leeds brand [on Google Apps] and give our students email for life."

Out and about

Nomad workers are also well served by the web. "About half the company is on the move," says TMG's Cheesbrough, adding that extras such as Google Sites can be useful for ad hoc collaboration.

The inherent collaboration and ability to share documents that is provided with web-based tools is also key.

"Productivity levels increase when staff use Google Sites. It's much more powerful than our intranet that we've spent a lot of time and money on," says Cheesbrough.


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