Having been in the enterprise productivity apps game for only three years, Google has made impressive strides with Google Apps, its Web-based messaging and collaboration suite.
Since the 2007 introduction, Google has gone from zero to more than 2 million business customers with high-profile examples that include Jaguar Land Rover, Motorola, Konica Minolta, and fashion conglomerate Roberto Cavalli.
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Google has also won Google Apps deals with government agencies such as City of Orlando and City of Los Angeles (where all is not rosy) and sold state-wide school district migrations in Maryland, Oregon, Iowa, and Colorado.
Google Apps' big draw is still price. For $50 per user, per year companies get 25GB of email storage through Gmail along with Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Groups. Collaboration apps such as Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Video are also included. As part of the deal, Google promises 99.9 percent uptime reliability and 24/7 customer support with Google Apps.
But Google Apps doesn't work for everyone.
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Both Aisle 7, a small health and wellness marketing company, and Serena Software, a midsize maker of change management software, left Microsoft for GAPE (Google Apps Premier Edition) then switched back, choosing Microsoft's more expensive cloud-based service, BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite).
Among the pain points both companies cite: Hits to email productivity and insufficient customer support.
1. Email interface quirks drive Outlook users away
Aisle 7, a small health and wellness marketing company that provides content for Web sites and in-house kiosks for stores such as Whole Foods and Wal-Mart, moved to Google Apps for its 32 users in early 2009 mostly because of the low price and 25GB of email storage space.
Hamstrung by an Exchange server that was failing and costly to manage, Aisle 7 needed to save money, says IT manager Jake Harris. Aisle 7's did not want to have Google Apps replace Outlook and Office, but rather complement them.
"We quickly realized that the attitude of our users was: 'Take Outlook from my cold, dead hands,'" says Harris. "Only 10 people were using Gmail for email initially and within three months it was down to two people. Most did not like how threaded messaging and meeting requests work in Gmail."