Google has launched a business version of its Google Apps hosted productivity software service.
Charged at £26 per user per year, Google Apps Premier Edition is designed to provide businesses with a low cost way to roll out e-mail and desktop software to a large number of end-users.
The applications – which include Google’s Gmail web-based e-mail, its Docs & Spreadsheets office productivity tools, instant messaging, calendar and IP telephony – are hosted on Google’s servers and accessed over the internet.
While some of these applications have previously been free to home users, the Premier Edition includes 10Gbytes of storage per user, application programming interfaces for business integration, a promise of 99.9 % uptime and round-the-clock support for critical issues.
Advertising is also switched off by default and IT directors are able to customise the look and feel of the Google Apps page with their own logos.
Premier Edition also integrates with third-party single sign-on software and directory services that businesses may have deployed to provide controlled access to IT systems for authorised users.
From a corporate pitch point of view, the Google story is compelling, according to Guy Creese, analyst at Burton Group. Creese said it would appeal to companies that spend a lot on IT infrastructure.
“However, IBM and Microsoft have a proven track record in the corporate market – Google does not. The enterprise group within Google is fewer than 500 people – or less than 5% of Google’s total workforce,” he noted. He suggested the product would be something that smaller businesses might consider evaluating.
Ovum’s principal analyst David Bradshaw said that while the model offered by Google meant users did not have to worry about patching or backing up, Google’s offering required a live internet connection to work.
“Google Apps lacks a detached client. It does not appear to allow users to work when there is no connection.”
One of the companies starting to look at the new tools is Procter & Gamble Global Business Services (GBS).
General Electric is also evaluating. Gregory Simpson, CTO for General Electric, said, "GE is interested in evaluating Google Apps for the easy access it provides to a suite of web applications, and the way these applications can help people work together.
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