:Ben Metcalfe Blog

Is your domain right for Google web apps?

I can’t work out whether the press release on Don Dodge’s blog claiming to be from Intermedia.NET is genuine or not.

But it raises some valid things to consider about Google’s announced apps for your domain.

  • 24×0 support.  This is important because companies for whom email and schedules are mission-critical will want to know they can pick up a phone and get support 24 hours a day, 0 days per week. Google also gives the option of filling out a support form and receiving an automated response.
  • No wireless access.  Where Intermedia.NET hosted Exchange gives users access to information via BlackBerry, Treo, Q or any other device, Google has bucked this trend, perhaps suggesting that wireless email is in fact a productivity-sapping distraction for employees.
  • Private data read by others.  Google Apps for your Desktop again bucks the trend that businesses should not allow outsiders to read their proprietary documents and email. Businesses can rest easy knowing that Google is looking at all emails and documents.
  • Ads inside applications.  Clearly, employees are more productive when their business applications stream ads for online poker sites and pills to combat ED.
  • No uptime guarantee.  Rather than a predictable 99.9% uptime guarantee, such as the one offered by Intermedia.NET, Google does not provide a set percentage of the time when email will be up and running. This keeps corporate collaboration more exciting, by allowing staff to guess whether the system will be working or not.

Clearly Intermedia.NET are over-egging it a bit. If you’re observing a marked decrease in productivity from your employees clicking on adverts, maybe it’s time to stop watching over their shoulder? And whilst there is occasional downtime with GMail, it’s a bit rich to saying that your staff will have to keep on guessing whether their email is available or not.

But look, I’ve mentioned before my concerns about keeping all my mail on Google. I’ll also admit I’m a hypocrite – I am currently running my mail through GMail.

When I moved over to GMail (from the POP account on my server) I went through my concerns – the most significant being that of privacy of business related matters – and decided that because I used my bbc.co.uk email address for such matters, the amount of sensitive material landing on Google’s servers was very small.

However, now that I have left the BBC and am working in a small start-up environment I’m critically aware that we are all using our personal email accounts (all running on GMail) for our email.

I’m not sure what to make of this current situation but I’m certainly uneasy about it. I don’t particularly have a problem with the actual displaying of ads in GMail – I block them out and I’ve certainly never clicked on one before. But the fact that Google could take the service offline at any time and that it is scanning all email arriving into one’s account concerns me, especially now that the stakes are so much higher.

No longer is my email account just spam, messages from my friends and family, mailing lists and the like – it’s now contracts, details of industry-related meetings and appointments and potentially information that I have signed an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) upon.

And just like a crack addict, I’ve started taking Google Calendar too – cos it was readily available at a click of a button. It’s becoming a really bad addiction.

I personally think we should get our business off Google Mail and Google Calendar… But there are two problems:

Firstly, it’s not my decision what other people use in the business for their email needs. There is little point doing this unless everyone concerned agrees and moves off Google (and any other hosted service for that matter – 30Boxes et al share the same issues).

And secondly, there aren’t many viable alternatives. I wish I got on with Zimbra – which I’ve tried to use but just don’t like the interface of. Where are the Web2.0/AJAXy equivalents of NeoMail and SquirrelMail?