The Google Apps experience
Ultimately, some of the problems facing Microsoft’s Cloud strategy are those affecting many of its long-standing product suites.
“Clearly Microsoft is trying to back-solve that problem to the legacy product set and clearly that’s problematic,” AAPT’s chief operating officer and effective CIO, David Yuile, says.
The lack of collaboration and other features in traditional Microsoft products are a key reason the fibre wholesaler moved to Google Apps.
A year on from its 1200-seat migration, Yuile is quick to list the benefits of Google Apps. From the ease of email access in a multi-device environment to the ability to collaborate on a single document easily, Yuile seems quite pleased the results.
Starting off just with the corporate version of Google’s YouTube for internal video collaboration, AAPT quickly progressed to adopt Gmail as a replacement for Microsoft Exchange. It ultimately adopted the entire suite of products, moving even to replace the company intranet with a Google Sites construct.
Yet AAPT continues to use Microsoft Office — bar Outlook — in its standard operating environment, and even upgraded to Office 2010 as part of its Windows 7 migration last year.
“I’m fed up telling people what to do — we let them decide for themselves,” he says.
“I’d imagine there are people who only use Google Docs but I don’t know who they are. Certainly if I was starting a small business, you could imagine going to that because it’s very cost effective.”
Though much improved from earlier iterations of the product, Yuile concedes there are still weaknesses to Google Apps, and particularly its Docs suite, that send staff running back to Microsoft legacies PowerPoint and Excel for some tasks. The lack of clearly defined business processes and mandated software may seem confusing to a newcomer, but for the company’s existing staff, the flexibility seems to be working.
Google itself is aware of the gap in transition from local software to a public Cloud model, a problem it hoped to solve with the Cloud Connect plugin. By tying into existing Microsoft Office applications, documents are automatically saved on Google’s servers through the business’ apps account and offer real-time collaboration from eligible users. The shortfall is that the plugin is Office-only — collaboration isn’t currently allowed between the local applications and instances of Google Docs. Thus the lock-in to one or the other continues.
Yuile’s experience, and the shortfalls of Cloud Connect, will likely resonate with the inordinate amount of Microsoft shops in the industry. Years of investment in SharePoint developers, Exchange support teams and business processes built around the fickle aspects of Microsoft Office and its ribbon interface cannot be discarded easily.
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