Ten years of Google - what it means for enterprise IT

After ten years Google, which celebrates its birthday this week (7 September), has conquered search and positioned itself as the most viable alternative to Microsoft's desktop software.

After ten years Google, which celebrates its birthday this week (7 September), has conquered search and positioned itself as the most viable alternative to Microsoft's desktop software.

Its Gmail web-based e-mail service has the potential to take off among corporate users as an alternative to traditional outsourced e-mail.

IT directors have lapped up some of its products such as the downloadable applets and Google's library of website components and mini applications (applets).

But so far, they remain sceptical on Google's Apps business, which offers free office productivity applications - paid for through advertising.

A straw poll of IT directors contacted by Computer Weekly, shows that Google is now firmly embedded in the fabric of the IT department.

John Middleditch, chief technology officer at E.ON UK, says, "In the web context Google search is definitely an integral part of my everyday work and that of most desk-based staff in the company. The list of what it is used to find and research is endless, including technical information, legal, IT, media coverage and competitor intelligence."

Google is also making in-roads into the corporation with its Google Apppliance. IT directors say they are impressed with its search capabilities. More importantly Google's integration with Active Directory ensures that business can control which employees get to see sensitive information.

"The big challenge for Google (or any other search enterprise for that matter) is searching and marrying search results against the content which you are permitted to see - not a hard job in its own right but something that eats up time to present results. I think Google has got this sewn up," says Middleditch.

Google's Apps business has put Google in direct competition with Microsoft, with a web-based alternative to Microsoft Office. Early users include Telegraph Media Group and construction firm Taylor Woodrow. Large businesses such as General Electric and L'Oreal are also considering switching from MS Office to Google Apps.

But IT directors Computer Weekly has spoken to say the product is not mature enough to deploy. It may well end up on the short-list the next time IT departments consider refreshing their Microsoft Office suite, however.

"It has been more than a year since I tried Google Apps. At the time it was not quite corporate ready," says Jem Eskenazi, chief information officer at Groupama Insurances. "Next time we will look at replacing our existing Office Suite we will consider Google Apps as a possible alternative."

Google is targeting web developers with free applets and add-ons such as Google Maps, web services, and application programming interfaces, to help them add useful functions to websites.

Karen Neal, head of IT at Montagu Evans LLP, says, "My business is using Google add-ons, particularly Google Earth and Maps."

But Neal says that Google's licensing policies are confused. "We have paid to use some of Google's services in a limited commercial manner but it is very unclear what can be used at home for free [what we are charged a fee for]."

She has also found Google's support lacking. "This needs to change if fees are levied," she says.

Some IT directors are concerned about Google's security track record. Stephen Boulton, head of IT at Leek United Building Society, says, "I would not touch Google Apps with a barge pole. There have been some security concerns around Google applications and the data that Google take off site, so we have taken the decision not to use any Google applications internally. I would not use them at home either."

So although Google has built a front-end for millions of users to the worldwide web, and it is regarded by many as the easiest way to find information in the enterprise, IT directors believe it will be some time before Google becomes a viable alternative to Microsoft in the enterprise.

Google's achievement

"It has been a great achievement of Google to create one of the most valuable brands in the world, up with Coca Cola, Nike and Microsoft," according to Bob Tarzey, service director at analyst Quocirca. Ten years ago people searched the Internet using directories organised by subject matter. "Google turned internet search on its head with its page ranking-based search engine, allowing users to run free text search."

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