Microsoft Exchange has been used by small and large businesses for many years. So, over the past few years, Microsoft has been looking for ways to expand its productivity software into the small/medium business market and has chosen to do so through service providers such as Rackspace. These services include hosted Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, and ActiveSync, in an all up business productivity suite that Microsoft is calling Microsoft Communication Services.
There are many companies who also provide a variety of communication services, in particular on the cloud. Google, one of the more well known online services, has a variety of services, including email and collaboration tools. In our review of the market we’ve found, however, that there are some common misconceptions about the Microsoft Communication Services offered through service providers, versus the paid Google version Google’s Apps Premiere Edition, that need some clarification.
Just to clarify, we are talking about a paid version of Google Apps for Businesses versus Microsoft Communication Services offered through a service provider like Rackspace.
Here’s an overview of some of the most common misconceptions:
Misconception 1: Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook enables you to replace MS Exchange with Google Apps
In their datasheet available for download, Google claims that “Users who are familiar with the Outlook user interface can now benefit from the scalability, reliability, and security of Google Apps without changing the way that they work.”
Fact: The truth is, if a user is used to using Outlook powered by Exchange they will have to change the way they work in order to adapt to the fact that several items of Outlook’s robust feature set are not synchronized with the Google Cloud. The point of the cloud is to be able to take your information with you wherever you go. The Outlook sync plugin leaves the user with a fragmented experience when they have some information on the desktop, and some on the web, which can be frustrating and unproductive. Some of the features that do not sync with the Google Cloud are:
– Color categories
– Notes, tasks, and journals
– Distribution lists, follow-up flag dates, and out of office notifications.
In the Outlook calendar,
– Optional attendees,
– Calendar attachments
– Rich text formatting are not synchronized,
– Calendar details are limited to free/ busy.
In addition, Google offers a level of delegation that is all or none. With Exchange, there are
several levels of privacy and delegation available such as Author, Reviewer, and Editor.
Not synchronizing these features reduces the productivity of an Outlook user and limits their capabilities to match the capabilities of Google‘s less-capable, browser-based interfaces, changing the way an Outlook + Exchange user works and robbing the non-exchange user of needed capabilities and productivity.
Misconception 2. Google Apps for Business has 24/7 Support
In its landing pages for Google Apps for Business, Google claims “24/7 email and
Fact: Google claiming 24/7 support is “technically” true, but when you dig deeper into Google’s support policies you discover this claim is somewhat misleading. Let’s walk through what 24/7 support actually means.
1. Online Forums: only option for end users – you post a question and pray that someone
gets back to you, or you happen to have the same issue someone else did and find the
answer on the forum.
2. Email Google Support: Admin only. Google claims that they try to respond in one
3. Limited Phone Support: The admin can call Google directly – 24/7. Response depends
on a number of factors. Google prioritizes support calls based on the following criteria.
P1: Critical Impact – Service Unusable in Production
P2: High Impact – Service Use Severely Impaired
P3: Medium Impact – Service Use Partially Impaired
P4: Low Impact – Service Fully Usable
• Only answer P1 level outside business hours
• P1 is defined as: “any situation where Customer is unable to access or use
the Services for the majority of its End Users or where Customer’s network is
not receiving any inbound email (and/or outbound email from the Services).
Customer must identify a Request as Service Unusable by designating it as a P1
Priority support Request.”
• The rest of the priorities are undefined by the terms of service, meaning they
will try to get back to you, but if you need assistance outside of business hours,
too bad, you will have to wait.
4. Pay for Additional Support Vendor: If this level of support is not good enough for you, you can always purchase additional support from a vendor in the Apps Marketplace.
So, lets take a sample support situation and play out what 24/7 support would look like with Google Apps for Business. Say we have a 25-employee company, and two or three of their outside sales guys are having trouble syncing their phones. They are missing important information and end up missing a few sales calls because of the error. At the end of a frustrating business day, they call the IT admin for help since he is the only person allowed to contact Google Support. In this case, the IT admin for the small business is also the accountant, who has other important duties to perform. The admin has a couple of choices. He can:
1. Spend several hours searching through Google support forums and can wait days or even weeks for a response to a forum post.
2. He can send off an email to Google support, which can take several cycles of email back
and forth to understand the issue and may take several days to get resolved. Meanwhile, his sales guys are frustrated and losing deals.
3. He can call Google Support but since it is after hours and it is not a P1 critical issue
(meaning it does not affect over half his users and does not involve access to email), he will
again have to wait in order to get his issue resolved.
4. He can then search the Google Apps Marketplace for a vendor, taking more time and
money to get the support he needed hours or days ago. All the while, he is losing money and deals because the phones are not syncing correctly.
With Microsoft Communication Services offered through a service provider like Rackspace, the admin could call any time, 24/7, and get expert help to resolve the issue the same day or the next day. This is REAL 24/7 support.
Which version of 24/7 support would you like to have for your small or medium business?
Misconception 3: Google cares about my company. They care about my privacy and they want to make me more productive.
Fact: Google offers a set of productivity and collaboration tools in order to gather as
much information about me as possible in order to feed their monetization strategy.
Google claims that Google Apps for Business will make me more productive and that they
are safe and secure. But, to understand the truth behind the marketing you have to follow the money trail. Does making companies more productive and protecting their privacy fit in line with Google’s overall monetization strategy? So, in understanding Google Apps for Business, is Google making a shift in overall strategy toward producing high quality business applications and making money off of the high margins the cloud offers? OR are they innovating just enough to make a web-based product palatable for businesses so that they can run algorithms against all of your important company information to feed the main money maker: search and advertising. (Here’s a thought-provoking article on this concept ) This is evidenced in the “Good Enough” Outlook Sync and the lackluster levels of support, as well as many other aspects of the Google Apps offering. The way I see it, Microsoft is the best option for productivity applications and business productivity (i.e. the market preference of Office and Exchange). Google is shaping their offering to mimic Office and Exchange, and they are positioning themselves as an on premise Exchange Server replacement. My question is, if you are replacing an on-premise Exchange box, why not replace it with a hosted Exchange Solution from a partner who can provide additional value and really make a smart move to the cloud, and not just settle for a so-so solution that seems cheaper?
If it is a cost-based issue, look at how Google values your privacy, and see what the $50/user/year is really costing you, because with it goes your productivity and privacy. Google really is harvesting your information and the more information they have they more money they make. So you have to think, are you using Google, or is Google using you?