If you run a small (or maybe not so small) business, odds are you’re hearing the buzz about Google Apps. And if you aren’t, you probably will soon. Google Apps is a solution for the storage and management of business data (email, contacts, calendar, documents, etc.) based on the cloud computing model, meaning that Google hosts users’ data on their servers.
At first, Google Apps may seem like a no-brainer; “You mean I don’t have to buy a server and spend money and resources manage it?” you may ask. And for some companies, particularly smaller companies who do not already have a managed local server, it really might be that simple.
But, of course, it’s not that simple for everyone. Perhaps the biggest advantage of switching to Google Apps is that your data is stored remotely, on Google’s servers, as opposed to locally, on a server you manage. But that’s also the biggest disadvantage of switching to Google Apps. Doing away with local storage—storage that gives you physical access to your data—involves a certain level of risk.
At the very least, the lack of local storage makes your data less mistake-proof. What would happen, for instance, if a user in your company accidentally deleted some important contact information? Well, if you have a responsible data system running backups, that data can be easily restored. If all of your information is stored on Google’s servers—servers you don’t have access to—this easily-remedied situation becomes complicated.
Furthermore, storing your data exclusively on Google’s servers brings up security concerns—especially if your company has to comply with legal regulations such as HIPAA. Yes, Google’s Postini services may provide the encryption you need to be in compliance with email standards, but if you need to store sensitive documents that fall under regulations, you could be treading on thin ice.
And the case of Postini brings up another point: while Google Apps seems inexpensive (its Premium Edition, which allows the most functionality for businesses, costs $50 per user per year), some of the extra applications like Postini and data backup applications cost extra to implement. Depending on your needs, then, you may end up paying double the initial $50 per user—or more.
Furthermore, keep in mind that even though Google Apps may eliminate the need for a business server, it will not completely eliminate the need for data management. In other words, you will still have to spend time and/or money migrating existing data, implementing appropriate security procedures, etc.
So, if your company simply needs somewhere to host email, contacts, and a calendar and you aren’t in an industry with particularly strict security standards, Google Apps may be worthwhile for you. But if your needs are much more complex, you may be better off—both from a productivity and a cost standpoint—going the traditional route of having your own server. Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about Google Apps and whether or not it would be right for you and your business.