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5/14/2013
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Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions

Office 365 could soon be a $1 billion annual business, but Microsoft is still playing proactive defense against Google Apps.

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Microsoft endured criticism earlier this year when its customers perceived unappealing Office 2013 license terms as a strong-arm push toward Office 365 and its subscription-based delivery model. This tumult has since died away, not only because Microsoft amended the Office 2013 terms, but also -- and more importantly -- because Office 365 has become, along with Azure, one of the company's biggest success stories of the last year.

On Monday, Microsoft added several new customer testimonials to this positive momentum. Killing two birds with one stone, it also fired a few shots at Google Apps, continuing a recent stretch of proactive attacks against Google's enterprise ambitions.

In a statement, Microsoft emphasized that several of the profiled customers are subject to regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA. Many companies are hesitant to entrust their data to cloud-based products, and though cloud vendors are making progress, Redmond is clearly attempting to stake out territory as the secure cloud for businesses.

FHI 360 was one of the companies that chose Office 365 in part for its regulatory prowess. A nonprofit human development organization, FHI 360 arose through the union of two smaller nonprofits: FHI, which utilized Microsoft Exchange on-premises, and AED, which relied on Google Apps.

In an interview, Douglas Wilkins, the organization's associate director of operations infrastructure services, said FHI 360 opted for Office 365 because the service could, unlike Google's offering, facilitate a hybrid model in which Active Directory and a number of applications are hosted locally by the nonprofit, while other documents and resources are stored off-site by Microsoft. Office 365 offered richer offline access as well, he said.

[ For more on transitioning to Office 365, read Google Apps To Office 365: Why To Switch. ]

"We were looking for a way to do not just email but instant messaging, Web conferencing, document sharing and collaboration," said Wilkins, who also said Google Apps fulfilled a "portion" of his needs but offered neither the on-premises flexibility nor the regulatory compliance of Office 365.

Wilkins also noted the value of Office 365's videoconferencing and instant messaging capabilities, tools that Microsoft said will save FHI 360 approximately $20,000 annually. He also said that by allowing Microsoft to manage patches and other features, FHI 360's IT staff had had more time to focus on business opportunities. The subscription model also permits the organization to flexibly activate or shut down licenses as staffing needs change around certain projects, Wilkins said.

Though stories such as FHI 360's emphasize the diverse benefits Office 365 can deliver, Microsoft also presented most of the testimonials to highlight Google Apps' relative deficiencies. It noted that Arysta LifeScience, an agrochemical company with sales and services in 125 countries, initially adopted Google's suite, but switched to Office 365 because employees were "unhappy" with Google's shortcomings, such as limited calendar-sharing functions and watered-down offline access.

This anti-Google messaging follows three recent blog posts -- one on May 13, and two on May 10 -- in which Microsoft representatives have opined on the ways Office 365 outshines its competitor. The emphasis is somewhat curious; Microsoft enjoys a near-monopoly in this market, so much so that terms such as "dominant" don't do it justice. That said, if any competitor has nibbled -- even moderately -- into Microsoft's sales, it's Google Apps.

Redmond, by turning Office to a cloud-oriented model, has successfully addressed -- at least for many businesses, if not also for some consumers -- one of the product's most glaring criticisms: Because earlier Office versions are adequate for most workers' needs, updates have become increasingly less necessary. Office 365's features have challenged this contention, and it remains likely that additional Office enhancements are coming. One can only assume that attempts to dismiss Google Apps before they pose a real threat are just another part of Microsoft's efforts to keep its flagship productivity products relevant in the so-called post-PC era.

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AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/18/2013 | 2:18:54 AM
re: Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions
Sorry, did I touch a nerve there? You were the one that blasted Michael for his article. And, you are clearly heavily biased for Google. I'm simply trying to bring you back down to earth for a moment.
I'm simply pointing out that if you are gonna throw out all kinds of links to justify your obvious love of Google Apps and how they are taking over the world then at least post something recent, verifiable, and from an unbiased source. Posting stuff from Google and its eco partners is hardly gonna do it.
Yes, Google has many devotees. Yes, some of the stuff they do works well. No, they are not nearly as good or competitive as the Office franchise. THAT, my friend is a fact.
I have used products from both sides and I can tell you hands down I prefer the MS Office products over Google. They just work.
Regarding HIPAA, if Google (as you emphatically state) is HIPAA compliant then why will they not put any skin in the game when it comes to signing BA agreements. That's all I am asking. I do not trust any company to hold my PHI that won't sign up for their share of the compliance responsibility and liability. And, neither should any other company that values PHI. How much of your personal medical history do you have on Google servers?
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/17/2013 | 7:53:16 PM
re: Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions
Oh what am I going to do with you and those articles you site as your validation of Google's success. Let's start with the first link. Written about a year ago and contains mainly quotes from Google's Sundar. Hardly a factual piece. Says nothing to substantiate the 5000 a day conversion ratio.

The second link was from an article written nearly two years ago by a Google Apps reseller. Again, hardly a factual piece based on a very small sampling of 2000 companies that have implemented bits and pieces of Google Apps. Mainly Gmail and Calendar it seems.

The last is from Gartner? Really? They are so well "respected" for their opinions now aren't they.

Geez, you gotta do better with the numbers validation than that. The fact is that Office365 is going to win out in the end no matter how hard Google tries. They are just not relevant at the end of the day when it comes to getting serious work done without a lot of hassle in making it all work. I actually read many of the forum comments for those articles and they were not too sympathetic to Google.

Why won't Google sign HIPAA Business Associate agreements with their customers?

Chao
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/17/2013 | 3:30:17 AM
re: Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions
Do you understand the difference between AD and LDAP? In particular, a system that just does a simple LDAP query and sync? Hint they are not one and the same. Not even close.

Using Google Apps and their AD sync tool in an AD environment might work ok for a simple deployment with one or two administrators and a single Domain/Forest. But, start scaling that out to larger organizations with multiple Domains, separate divisions, linked partners, and the need to delegate AD functions, sync directories, user account and email account (de)provisioning, Single Sign On, IM, Video chat, conferencing, UC, presence, and the multitude of other functions that rely on the AD database (and changes to it) and you will begin to see the boggy mire that you wade into when trying to use Google Apps in that environment. As is usual with the Google ecosystem, you have to rely (and spend) heavily on third party tools to fill in the gaps that Google misses. It gets more expensive and more complex to administer the more you try to integrate the two. Take that up a notch to hybrid deployments and you begin to see why it makes no sense to rely on Google tools for that level of integration with AD.

You should "actually" read the HIPAA Privacy rule. It does, in fact, require the signing of written contractual agreements between a "covered entity" and any "Business Associate" that has access to PHI. There are civil money penalities as well as criminal penalties for non-compliance. And the fines can be quite large so it isn't really worth it anymore to skirt compliance. If you use Gmail to transmit PHI you are in violation of the Rule. If you use Google Drive to store PHI - and that data is accessed by anyone outside of your covered written agreement - then you are in violation of the Rule. Google won't have your back on any of those issues. Need I go on? Health Care companies (that are actually concerned about compliance) are hesitant to entrust Google with their communications and their data because Google will not execute a BA agreement in writing. So, you should be asking why Google won't put their skin in the game. Microsoft will.

Like I said, Google makes all of their money in the advertising business. Any data traveling thru their networks is used in some fashion toward that end. You might not see ads presented in Google Apps for business. But you darn well see targeted ones follow you around the web. I wonder where that "insight" comes from?

I love it when people try to defend their position that Google is in the Enterprise software business. They haven't made a dime in profit off their efforts. Their tools come and go like the seasons - so CIO's have become very wary of trying to build a roadmap for their organizations based on Google tools lest they get tossed out for incompetance.

5000 businesses a day are converting to Google Apps you say? Why that's 1.8 million a year. You sure about that number or did it just magically appear in front of you?

You have to wonder why a company of Google's size would wage war against Microsoft in the Enterprise space with an ever changing toolset that makes no money for the company. What is their real purpose in getting people to use their services? I think we know that answer.

This has been fun and I guess we'll see what happens down the road.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/15/2013 | 5:36:56 PM
re: Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions
Your two counterpoints don't quite measure up:
First, Google Apps has an LDAP sync component which is a "one way" sync. From AD to Google. It is not a true Active Directory integration whereby anyone using Google Apps could fully take advantage of what Active Directory does for an organization, its IT assets, and its users. Office365 IS fully integrated with all the good things that AD does for an organization running the MS stack, Office, etc.
Second, the key thing about HIPAA is that it "requires" organizations to sign Business Associate agreements between the keeper of PHI and their providers who have access to that data. Microsoft via Office365 executes such agreements in writing. Google, to my knowledge, still does not.
Google is in the advertising business. Not, in the Enterprise software business. One only needs to understand where they get their bread buttered to understand where their key interests are focused. Take Gmail for instance, it has already been proven that they scan every email for keywords and then use that info to market to you. I cannot get too excited about basing my business on a company that uses its tools to constantly harvest data about us and then use it to constantly pitch to us.
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2013 | 10:58:04 PM
re: Microsoft Office 365 Steps On Google Enterprise Ambitions
Office 365 is an outstanding service that, coupled with Office, is a true powerhouse. MS doesn't need to defend it (currently). But, MS is just being MS by heading off any threat to its dominance early on and with force. Can't blame them cause their competitors do the same in markets where their products are doing well.
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