In the battle to get enterprise customers to switch to Gmail and the Google Apps software suite, Google has to meet higher expectations than existing business software vendors. While that might be unfair, it's their cross to bear for being such a powerhouse on the consumer Web and for all the high-profile media coverage the company receives.
During the last couple days, Gmail experienced outages that lasted as many as 30 hours. In addition, the Google Apps start page (the enterprise version of iGoogle) malfunctioned and was updated without Google giving administrators any warning. Some customers (including some CEOs, as the reports noted) were without access to Gmail and Google Apps for several hours.
Microsoft and other enterprise vendors will seize on the incident as yet another example that going to a full cloud computing model -- where most of your key messaging infrastructure is stored offsite -- has its risks, and therefore you should continue to pay to keep core applications on-premise. Or, at the very least, they'll say if you're ready to move to a software as a service (SaaS) model, you should do it with "trusted" vendor and not some consumer oriented company like Google.
Some corporate IT departments will take the bait. But others might know better. As messaging expert Michael Osterman told CIO back in August after another Gmail outage, "I think it should be expected. E-mail outages are not uncommon, regardless if the infrastructure is on-premise or hosted. The Google Mail outages are given more attention, and it will give SaaS a black eye. But if you look at Google's records, Gmail is still well over 99 percent available."
In other words, when a company's e-mail goes down and it's hosted on Exchange or Domino, we don't hear about it because no body really cares unless customers of that company or people trying to do business with them get wind of it (and then tell the press or blog about it).
In this case, the customers of the software (rightly) screamed about it on Google discussion forums, the media picked it up, and we have a story.
But does this really turn you off the idea of SaaS? Or, more specifically, the notion of having e-mail accounts that are actually searchable and offer amounts of storage per user (10GB) unheard of in typical enterprise deployments?
As the economy tightens and Google turns its attention to its core business (search), the burden for the enterprise software division at Google will remain high. Their standards for maintaining perfect uptime with customers, and a strong reputation with the media, will be even greater.
They need to do it (way) better than the other guy.
They need to business customers to believe they are doing so, too.
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