CIOs Speak Out On Google Apps Vs. Microsoft Office

CIOs are testing Google Apps, but don't think the Postini acquisition will give Google leverage in many Microsoft Office accounts
Compliance will be Google's biggest sales pitch with Postini. The company has been a partner of Google Apps for months, and among its offerings is Postini Compliance Services for Google Apps. This service lets someone track down a specific e-mail to "provide proof for a critical situation," and archive or block e-mail based on rules set by an administrator, "so users don't have to worry about complying with specific regulatory requirements -- it happens automatically for them," according to Postini's Web site.

Even before the Postini acquisition, Google won the interest of Ken Harris, CIO of nutrition company Shaklee. His IT department recently began testing Google Apps. "There's got to be a lot of CIOs doing the exact same thing as me," said Harris in an interview. "Google Apps has tremendous promise from my perspective. If the rubber meets the road, I could easily see us adopt this technology in the short/intermediate term. I think enough interest is brewing that I would be surprised if more companies at least didn't do an internal test in the not-to-distance future."

Harris likes that the service would be relatively inexpensive for the 1,000 employees likely to use it, and may also help him avoid a much-needed E-mail server upgrade. He's impressed that Gmail offers 10 Gbytes of hosted storage per desktop. "We have a number of internal users who are constantly demanding more capacity," he said. "I would love to get out from under that problem."

Shaklee has built apps that use Google technologies, like one that uses Google Maps to announce meetings and provide directions to its direct sales force. Google Apps also make sense for a company like Shaklee with a lot of mobile employees, since it doesn't require a "fat piece of software on a mobile device," he said.

Finally, Harris said he'd likely consider Google Apps over other low-cost hosted applications because of Google's viability and history of technology innovation. "They're not the kind of company that you have to worry about getting on their platform and falling into technology oblivion," Harris said. "They're going to be around, and add more and more features."

Yet, as the former CIO of Gap, Nike, and PepsiCo, Harris can see situations where the move away from Microsoft Office might be difficult. Big companies have built IT budgets around supporting Microsoft Office on the desktop, he said, and "making that change when you have 10,000 people versus 1,000 people is a whole world of difference."

There's no question, Harris added, that Microsoft apps have a lot more functionality. Nor can businesses ignore that most of the world's desktops run on Microsoft Office. "It's a lot easier to be sure you can 'talk' when using the exact same technology," he said. If two business partners are using Microsoft Office and one makes a change, Harris said, "suddenly you may no longer have that compatibility."

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer