Google tightens Apps' uptime guarantee

Changes to Google Apps SLA increase the company's accountability, with scheduled maintenance now counted against uptime commitment

Google is modifying its Apps service level agreement in ways that increase the company's accountability whenever the hosted collaboration and communication software experiences downtime, the company plans to announce on Friday.

Google's uptime commitment remains at 99.9 percent for the Business and Education versions of the suite, but the company will now log every moment of downtime, whereas before it only counted outages of 10 or more consecutive minutes.

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In addition, downtime due to planned maintenance work will now count against the SLA guarantee. Previously, planned maintenance outages were exempted from the SLA.

These moves are the latest by Google to make Apps for Business more attractive to large enterprises, a market the company has been aggressively pursuing in the past year.

As it tries to woo CIOs, Google faces stiff competition from enterprise email and collaboration heavyweights Microsoft and IBM's Lotus division.

Google Apps' initial focus was on small business and individuals, but Google has been progressively adding security, reliability and management features that enterprise IT departments require.

The market for cloud-based email is "hyper-competitive," so Google is doing well to change its SLA and sharpen its focus on uptime, said Matthew Cain, a Gartner analyst.

"Google had been getting beat up in the market with its policy of not counting downtime until an outage was over 10 minutes, so it's not surprising they're changing that. The decision to count scheduled downtime as part of the uptime SLA is admirable and puts pressure on competitors to do the same," Cain said via email.

A good next step for Google would be to offer customers financial compensation when it doesn't meet their SLAs, instead of extending their Apps contracts, he said.

In 2010, Gmail specifically achieved a 99.984 percent uptime rate both for consumers and professionals who use it as part of Apps, Google said.

The company didn't provide the uptime of the other core Google Apps components, such as Calendar, Docs, Sites and Video, which are also covered by the 99.9 percent uptime guarantee in the Business and Education editions.

Google Apps for Business, formerly called Premier, costs $50 per user per year, while Google Apps for Education and the standard Apps edition are free.

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