Contoso Fooled By Google, Returns to Microsoft

Today we hear from Thomas Rizzo, CIO at Contoso, a manufacturing firm headquartered near Seattle.

Lured by promises of “proven cost savings,” a year ago today we switched all 1,200 Contoso employees to Google Apps for Business. Finally, we’ve decided enough is enough. Yes, you’ve got that right: we’re moving back to Microsoft.

Why, you might ask? Our experience, to put it mildly, was a tad frustrating.

I quickly learned that Google Apps for Business costs much more than the listed price. Fifty dollars per user a year was just the tip of the iceberg. We still had to buy several solutions to cover web conferencing, archiving, better IT administration, and like most Google Apps users, we found ourselves using Microsoft Office to do most of our work. Next came all the IT and user training required to get our employees up to speed on Google Apps. No more lunch time office yoga for me!

After finally implementing Google Apps for Business, we worked very hard to persuade our 1,200 employees to actually use the service, giving them every incentive we could think of, from complimentary downloads of Angry Birds to free copies of Justin Bieber’s hit movie, Never Say Never.

Despite our efforts, after eight months hardly anyone had migrated. Much like employees at the District of Columbia, most continued to secretly use Exchange & Outlook, clumsily switching to Gmail whenever an IT person passed their desk.

Puzzled, we surveyed our employees to find out why. The survey revealed that Google Apps was costing our staff hours upon hours in lost productivity and real frustration. Using Gmail, for instance, many employees complained they were wasting precious time searching for specific emails. And when they opened a Word file using Google Documents, graphics disappeared while revisions and comments appeared jumbled together as plain text. Some tore their hair out; others began to call in sick.

For the 10 people in our workforce who are visually impaired, productivity was even a bigger challenge. Since Google Apps wasn’t compatible with their screen readers, they weren’t able to get any work done at all. Frustrated and confused, many of our employees turned to knitting to drown their sorrows, decreasing their productivity even further.

Hoping for help, we reached out to Google’s recently implemented 24 x 7 phone support. The support person was friendly, yet never deviated from her script. I spent lots of time on the phone answering her endless questions. When the grilling was finally over, she bumped up the call to a ‘real’ expert who told me a fix didn’t exist. That’s when the real problem finally occurred to me: Google Apps for Business just isn’t a priority next to advertisements, consumer products, and new products like Google+.

The next week, Google Apps went down in our finance division, leaving 58 people unable to work. When we called Google, we were told that 58 people with no service did not qualify as downtime. By their definition, the system was not truly down unless more than 5 percent of users were affected. They were sorry, but to receive a service credit, 61 employees needed to be without service, not just 58. As a result, the finance division issued employee paychecks three days late, creating a near mutiny.

A couple of months later, we noticed our profits had begun to fall. Upon further investigation, we discovered that one of our top competitors had started to produce the same signature widget that we do – for a dollar less. We had no idea how they had figured out our secret. We later learned that because Google doesn’t support Information Rights Management, email message recipients can easily edit, forward, or print sensitive information. One of our employees had leaked out our secret without us knowing it!

We also realized we weren’t closing as much business as usual. When we talked to our resellers, they told us they weren’t able to insert images uploaded to Google Docs into their Google Presentations. Without any images, our sales presentations were boring, with prospective customers visibly fidgeting in their seats. Even worse, many of our salespeople were missing customer meetings. Why? Because with Google Calendar, they weren’t getting any email reminders.

Last month, things came to a head. The Contoso workforce occupied the IT department offices chanting, “Enough is enough.” When some of the management team approached, they pelted us with pies. Reluctantly we brought out the riot gear, tasers and pepper spray, to get them to retreat. When we finally sat down at the negotiating table, we learned that the Contoso workforce had only one demand – that we abandon Google Apps and return to Microsoft.

At that moment, I realized they were right. Enough is enough. There’s a reason why 750 million users count on Microsoft Office for business productivity – because it works!

My advice to you: Don’t be fooled by Google.

Comments (51)

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Google’s staff was not who organized the first joke. Neither the staff of Microsoft did not organized the joke return. They fight over little things, each author exalts his favorite company and impoverishes the opponent. The difference between each joke was one year and the two companies took responsibility.

  2. Anonymous says:

    @ Adrian: Yes, Contoso’s Tom Rizzo wrote Programming Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange (, and its latest edition is available as an eBook (

  3. Anonymous says:

    @Ian Ray: Realities of Google Apps user experience is quite different from your single data point. Here is Google accessibility report card from 2/29/2012,…/162, showing significant issues with JAWS and ChromeVox.

    There are plenty of evidence of users struggling with common day to day Google Docs features. Even worse, features one might depend on to do his/her job (ex. 'vLookup'…/ that get randomly shut down and leave users with errors.

    So after 5 years of product release, Google is still trying to 'improve' and add basic features (like Spell Check or yet to have the ability to select multiple non-consecutive cells in Spreadsheets ). Well, I think there are plenty of customers would be concern about Google Apps limitation TODAY.

  4. Adrian says:

    Is he the same Thomas Rizzo that wrote Programming Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Exchange? I didn't knew he was working for Contoso.

  5. Derik says:

    Don't be fooled, this article is full of mis-information…again and is a bad attempt at humor. Don't be fooled, Microsoft is again resorting to tricking customers into thinking their platform is better. Honestly, it is sad to watch.

  6. Ian Ray says:

    You guys must have been working on this for years as most of the information is 1 or 2 years old.

    To review:

    One reason Microsoft can say that there are no hidden software to pay for is there are no obvious third-party programs either. Yes, I know about the Office 365 app store, what is there? Google Apps marketplace has hundreds of quality Web apps (including Smartsheet… try it!) that integrate nicely.

    Google Apps is compatible with JAWS and ChromeVox. I could also say two years ago Office 365 didn't even exist and so was therefore inaccessible (but this wouldn't be a valid talking point today, much like all of the talking points above.)

    I have found Google Apps phone support quite rapid in the three times I've needed to use it, especially compared to Microsoft's Punjabi phone support.

    Cloudlock (a secret, cheap, "tax") can see documents shared outside the organization and tell you what rate your users are producing new documents. Cloudlock also can keep "vaults" of documents to satisfy government regulations on original documents. How many actual cases of corporate espionage are foiled by IRM? If you are trusting your confidential information to people clumsy enough to share it out, good luck with IRM saving you.

    I just dragged an image uploaded from Google Docs from one monitor to another with an open presentation. How long has it been since this was supposedly not possible?

    I get all sorts of annoying reminders for appointments if I set them: email, on screen, and on phone. Never seen an error.

    Please Microsoft, I would seriously consider your product if you would keep up with the times. Nobody cares if Office 365 is better now than Google was 2 years ago.

  7. Ruth Volk says:

    I think this Story is only a prematurely April Foul  :-),…/Contoso

  8. thenonhacker says:

    It's a satire, with lots of truth to it.

    I LOL'd at:

    "When we called Google, we were told that 58 people with no service did not qualify as downtime. By their definition, the system was not truly down unless more than 5 percent of users were affected."

    And a link showing Google's definition of "downtime" at…/sla.html

  9. What a bad spirit in a bad competitive story. I thought Microsoft was more serious and professional instead of telling a story full of false assumptions. Tom would take a more serious approach of what is really Google Apps instead of this "last chance" destructive fake analysis.

  10. # says:

    @Derik why do you think Google has some platform? Do you mean browser and JavaScript? This kind of platform is bringing all of us back in the history. Respekt for all your search-things, but for application platform you will need 10 more years if at all.

  11. Ian Ray says:


    Both Google and Microsoft are leveraging html5, css, and javascript… why do you think Metro interface came out so interesting? I don't really see browser as the debate anymore. Web browsers are finally mature enough to run business software after a decade+ of half-hearted company "portals" and other gimmicks. Sharepoint Online was the cleanest part of the Office 365 when I tested it and it worked fine in major browsers.

    I'm looking forward to how Metro evolves an it potentially integrated into the rest of Microsoft's software line, perhaps in pure Web services.

  12. Paul Bowkett - MSFT says:

    Guys, you realise that Google did an Apil Fools joke last year and said that Contoso had move to Google apps right?…/contoso-has-gone-google.html

  13. Ian Ray says:

    @Paul Bowkett, yes, and this article looks like it was written the next day.

  14. Ian Ray says:


    Check out

    There are quite a bit more data points in the discussions. Not everyone has the same opinion as ATHEN.

    ‘vLookup’? You mean ‘GoogleLookup’ and ‘GoogleFinance’.

    When I mean please stay current, I don’t necessarily mean please get more up to date with your attack marketing (although the attack marketing has lagged consistently in the time I’ve been reading it). I mean get these emerging products up to speed. Namely
    tablets, smartphones, and cloud services.

  15. Sarah Mocke says:

    It is SO funny that some of you thought this was a serious post! I have to laugh. Google did a sartircal post about Contoso moving to Google Apps and Microsoft did one about Contoso moving back to Microsoft – YET THEY WERE BOTH SATIRE! Some of you need to take a deep breath and LAUGH – as this post was intended to pull that laughter out of you!

  16. J M says:

    What do you call an untruth represented as truth? A lie. Providing a link to a wikipedia article contradicting the first line of the post doesn't make the post ok.

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  23. AntonyWillis says:

    Hilarious, guess 04/01 Google rip to M$ had a backfire; I think it’s awesome two multi-billion dollar companies can plant jokes and Easter eggs like this at each other, shows that competition doesn’t have to be all dull and un-witty.

  24. Luniz says:

    Microsoft don’t do anything really kicking ass. Even though google is need to be improved, it will still have a faster step and make thing more make sense. Microsoft is just like an old man to try hard to stay in place stubbornly. But sometimes they move
    a little step reluctantly because of revenue. And the step is just copy from on of the ass kicker(e.g. google, apple). Don’t ascribe the huge amount of deployed customers. They’re happy to upgrade if you make things perfect. For company like google, lots of
    projects are just a kicking-ass-tools. The most purpose is not to build a perfect solution, but just push old man like microsoft to walk. If companies like google, apple never exist, windows xp will still in maintenance. windows 8 is just a premature baby.
    Windows 10 not even in mind. For commercial products, lots of things won’t appear(bonding in 2012, Hyper-V, even .NET). And, microsoft is just like a grocery. Anything you can buy from it. But I prefer to search in a featured shop if I need some kind of products
    first. Then microsoft will be second or backup choice. And once I bought something from microsoft to my home, it breaks within a short time. The sales person will suggest to buy a new one or to have renovation with anything from microsoft. And then the first
    thing I bought will be fine. But other things will begin to occur problem. And the way to solve is to pay maintenance. Then you will cry, why I choose to have that fxxking renovation?!

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  26. ryan says:

    @Derek – Don’t be fooled. No calendars or eDiscovery with Google, among numerous other things. Not a good choice for any size company, unless you don’t mind free crap.

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  33. anonymouscommenter says:

    @ Ian Ray I have used google apps and gmail and I have lost so much productivity. I switched to Microsoft products recently and I have made up for the lost productivity. And I am quite pleased with their service. I tried hangout calls for every business
    meeting, and they either failed or lost frames. I have tried all sorts of email products and office software, but nothing works as well as Microsoft Office 365. Any thing else I have tried either didn’t have what I wanted, or was web based and was not accesses
    able on the go.

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