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When is a productivity suite not a productivity suite?

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Google Apps announced this week that it would start charging for its Cloud-based productivity suite. Though the meagre sum of £3 per user per month may seem manageable to many organisations, this change comes at a time when Google’s services have already been called into question, with disruption to both Google Chrome and Google Mail being reported over the past week.

The service boasts remote syncing of business-critical applications, such as Gmail, Calendars and Google Drive, affording users the ability to access the software remotely for enhanced business productivity. Primarily utilised by smaller organisations, Google Apps is not unique in its offering. A number of providers offer synchronisation suites, such as hosted e-mail services, often for free, however Google’s reputation and size often prove alluring to many businesses in their strive towards total business continuity.

With a reputation that ‘speaks for itself,’ service issues prove particularly prominent. This week’s outage of Gmail – a key application in Google’s Apps package – has been widely reported, with Google admitting amidst much speculation that the problem was down to a human error during a configuration of the Chrome Sync Server. The back-end failure affected many, but not all users, with some even reporting operation problems at the Google Chrome level. As the ability to access e-mails and documents is critical to business productivity, this recent press may deter new users from forking out.

For those already using Google Apps, it is unlikely that £3 per month per user will prove enough of a deterrent to make them transfer providers completely. What must be considered, however, is the effect of the introduction of a fee for a service whose resilience is coming under question. Many enterprise-class managed service providers offer packages hosted at truly resilient data centres powered by a robust application server and storage infrastructure. Moreover, these services can also be added on to network and data packages already being taken by the customer, keeping costs down. As this financial motive is of continued importance, these providers are sure to come to light in the wake of Google’s recent changes.

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