Google’s Limited Cloud

It’s easy to make good decisions when there are no bad options. But what if there’s only one option—and it doesn’t fit your organization’s needs?

That’s the situation with Google and its so-called “pure” cloud model. Either you move completely to the cloud all at once or you can’t use Google Apps. With Google, there are no options. It’s one-size-fits-all, no matter what your business requirements. 


Google also claims its cloud model is a “proven.” We beg to differ.  From a lack of a planned roadmap to a service level agreement (SLA) filled with caveats to a lack of IT management control, Google Apps is far from an enterprise-class solution.

What Google offers businesses is a limited cloud experience. Rather than examining what organizations truly need, Google develops solutions for the consumer and hopes enterprises will simply adapt—it’s like forcing a square peg into a round hole

Limited Options
So what’s wrong with a pure cloud strategy? It might work for a small percentage of businesses. But surveys show that most organizations don’t want to move all of their information to the cloud at once. According to a recent survey by North Bridge Venture Partners, 36 percent of companies that have moved to the cloud have chosen a hybrid approach, while 52 percent plan to take a hybrid approach within the next five years.

Right now, most companies have less than 30 percent of their systems in the cloud, according to David Nichols, a principal at Ernst & Young. In the long run, Nichols expects cloud penetration within organizations to reach 70 percent, meaning widespread adoption of hybrid clouds. 

The reasons for a hybrid approach are many. Some companies may want to continue to leverage their existing investments, using the cloud for new situations. Others may want to keep some information on-premises for compliance or operational reasons.  Still others may simply want to move at their own pace. Whatever their situation, businesses need options. Forcing them to move to the cloud all at once doesn’t provide the choice and flexibility enterprises need.   

A Limited Experience
Not only is the lack of options problematic for many businesses. The experience, once they deploy Google Apps, falls short of what they deserve.

For one, there’s no planned roadmap with Google Apps.  As the recent shutdown of Google Apps for Teams, Google Listen, and Google Video for Business demonstrates, new products and services are added and then shut down at whim. In the last year alone, Google donated, merged or shut down some 50 products. Google provides a one-week advance notice for new features to customers on the Scheduled Release track, and retires products with little or no warning. Such unstable predictability makes it impossible for businesses to plan ahead.

Second, the Google Apps service level agreement (SLA) doesn’t guarantee the level of service enterprises need. Google’s SLA covers only nine services and does not cover offline availability. In addition, Google tests its beta products with Google Apps users, but these are not covered by its SLA. There are even caveats about how downtime is determined. Downtime is defined as a user error rate of more than 5 percent.

What’s more, Google Apps fails to provide the level of IT control enterprises rely upon. Google Apps provides limited management tools that are primarily designed for small organizations and are not robust enough for complex deployments and enterprise organizations. In addition, it relies on third-party products, such as CloudLock, to meet auditing and compliance requirements. 

Deploying the Cloud Your Way
By contrast, Microsoft provides its customers maximum flexibility, a solid SLA, and a planned roadmap. (To learn more, please see our “Top 10 Reasons Why Enterprises Choose Microsoft Office 365” white paper.)

With Office 365, customers can choose among a pure cloud experience or a hybrid experience that integrates cloud services into an on-premises IT infrastructure. If they choose a hybrid infrastructure, users will likely never know the difference, and customers can use the same management tools across online and on-premises servers.

In addition, Microsoft is one of the few cloud services providers that offer a financially backed SLA when any Office 365 service drops below 99.9 percent availability. The SLA covers every user and every component of the suite.

We also give enterprises the time they need to plan their technical strategy. Office 365 is updated on a regular schedule and offers a 12-month advance notice of significant changes. Customers avoid unpleasant surprises and gain visibility into the Office 365 technology roadmap via the publicly available Service Update Wiki.

All of this is based on more than two decades of experience working with enterprises on a very close basis.  We provide an enterprise-grade cloud experience designed to meet the most rigorous requirements businesses have.  

Turning Off Cloud Converts
The problem with Google’s so-called “pure and proven” cloud strategy is that it offers both limited options and a limited experience for enterprises.  Organizations don’t have access to the choice and flexibility they need. Nor do they get the guaranteed service, IT manageability, or detailed roadmap they need to operate effectively.

Says David Linthicum of InfoWorld: “The majority of public cloud providers are religious about pushing everything outside of the firewall (after all, that's where they are). They need to be careful that their zealotry doesn't turn off potential cloud converts.”

Indeed.  Enterprises need options. They need the ability to plan. And they need a cloud services provider committed to meeting their needs. Microsoft provides all three.

Comments (26)
  1. Anonymous says:

    @Al Trewthe: You bring up an important point that most Google Apps customers have to use Office to address the shortcomings of Google Apps. This leads to couple of issues. First, your organization would be required to manage two solutions, which probably
    isn’t a great business decision due to the greater IT cost involved. Second, the interoperability tools that Google provides leave a lot to be desired. For example, users report a lot of problems using Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook:
    . In addition, a lot of errors can occur when working with Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office including loss of data and reduced Office functionality. To learn more, please check out this blog post:…/the-realities-of-google-cloud-connect.aspx

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Tony Tai – Why would you have to move all at once to Google's Cloud? I mean we can still use the Office we own right or do we have to stop using that if we choose Google? I thought our EA meant we paid for and can keep Office and some users might want a local version of Office regardless of whichever cloud we end up using. Plus I understand that Google Apps works with Office as Office is interoperable anyway, so I am not sure I am following your logic at all here. Why would we have to only choose Google's cloud if some users want to use Google?

  3. Anonymous says:

    @ Derik: Here is Google Apps’ release process ( If you are counting the first week’s consumer release (see calendar example)
    before it is determined that the new feature is ready for Google Apps customers, then you are correct – you get TWO WEEKS.

    What kind of roadmap that leaves customer hanging by killing the products frequently with no options (…/google-graveyard-spooks-customers.aspx)?
     Take Offline as an example, Google shut down Gears, left customer in the dark for over 18 months, then rolls out a limited solution in 2011 that took many steps backward (…/google-s-offline-blunder.aspx).
    Now after another release of Offline in 2012, it still cannot edit Google Presentations, Spreadsheets, and more… Not sure any enterprise customer can accept this type of “roadmap”.

    Google touts no planned downtime, but the exact definition of Google Apps downtime on…/sla.html is – "Downtime" means, for a domain, if there is more than a five percent user error rate.” – So no wonder it does not need to have planned downtime.  In fact, a customer could be down for 5% of its users the entire time and
    still Google would not count it as downtime at all.  

    Just because people want to move to the cloud, it does not mean they can or are ready to do so. There is no need to hypothetically look around, here are real customer examples – Lantmännen, MedcoEnergi Internasional, and City of Rome are just some examples
    of different reasons why people choose to go with the hybrid approach. Google customers can pay more and support two platforms to have them co-exist, buy why would you unless you find there is something that Google Apps can’t support.  Hybrid gives customer

    Lastly, Microsoft has the culture of testing out our own product first hand with its employees before release, we have been on Office 365 for a long time. If Google Docs is so good, why is Google requiring Office skills (…/search)
    for its employees?

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Derek – Let's talk about the real facts, Derek, because a lot of what you say is inaccurate or simply doesn't make sense. First off, I don't see how you can call one week's advance notice even a "limited roadmap." It's not a roadmap at all. Second, we're not talking about a three-year roadmap, but a one-year roadmap. There's no reason why Google couldn't plan a year in advance. Enterprises need that kind of consistency — they need the ability to plan. Second, your spin on the hybrid cloud statistics don't match reality, which is that most businesses want to move to the cloud according to their needs, and not those prescribed by any cloud service provider. Third, you are wrong to say that Google is straightforward in how it measures service reliability in its SLA. The reality is that Google boosts its uptime figures by combining consumer and business services. It also throws in a lot of caveats as discussed in the blog post. At any rate, if we're going to talk about facts, let's get them straight.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @ "@Tony": Google’s poor fidelity issue is a known fact. See it for yourself (…/google-documents-vs-word-web-app.aspx)
    and try to tell any customer that this is an acceptable solution.

    Google Docs even has fidelity issues with other formats, such as PDF, just check out many posts of printing problems ($20problem/docs/Blks8JRpYkQ/DsOwvHRqYGMJ).

  6. Derik says:

    @Al – Tony is continually wrong about his Office 365 and Google comparisons; you should not be surprised. To state a few below:

    – "Either you move completely to the cloud all at once or you can’t use Google Apps" – This is flat out wrong; there are a lot of customer running in a mixed mode, and doing just fine. In fact, most customers that evaluate Google do so in a dual environment and find it works quite well. On the flip side, we do see customers have challenges when evaluating O365 because of coexistence issues. Really? MS has trouble existing with itself? I'm shocked! Further, Google provide the coexistence tools customers need, free of charge.

    – " lack of a planned roadmap" – True, Google does not provide a public, 3 year road map. Google will, however, provide customers or prospects a limited road map. One reason they do not publish a 3 year road map is, this is technology people; who knows what is going to happen in technology 3 years from now. Remember what Ballmer thought about the iPhone 5 years ago?

    Good call on that one! Google remains nimble and does provide customers with road map data, but why provide 3 years worth? That just shows you are trying to predict the future, and often wrong.

    – In his "30% to 70% cloud adoption" reference; what this shows is not the proliferation of "hybrid cloud" it shows the proliferation of PURE CLOUD. If I have 10 applications and I move a couple of them to the cloud, I'm probably testing the cloud waters, but if I move 7 of my 10 applications to the cloud, I have adopted cloud and actively looking for ways to move the rest of them to the cloud.

    – The Google SLA – One key feature MS never mentions about the Google SLA is that has a zero allotment for downtime; meaning, there is no planned downtime. Microsoft, on the other hand, has planned downtime nearly every weekend; simply search for "Microsoft Online Service Notifications" and there is a nice RSS feed with all their planned down time.

    These are just a few of the constant problems with any of Tony's articles; they simply do not relay the real facts. It's like a bad campaign were all Microsoft can do is sling mud instead of consistently show/explain why their product is a better cloud application.

  7. @Tony says:

    Not to mention the same fidelity issues users experience between on premise Office with Office Web Apps; for example, lack of Macro support. See, MS likes to say this is a Google issue, when in fact it is an issue for MS as well because it is really a Web issue. Further, with the release of Drive, Cloud Connect isn't necessary. Oh, and you mention that Google is built for the consumer first, and not the enterprise; tell us, where did Sky Drive start and where are you rolling it out to now? That's right, it started with the consumer and is now being rolled out to Enterprises in Office 365. Not to mention the fact that you REDUCED the amount of free storage from 25GB to 7GB…tisk, tisk…

  8. Derik says:

    Tony, Tony, Tony…see, you must be confused; see, Fact: Google does give customers more than one week's notice of new features; it even gives customer an option for how/when they would like to adopt those features.

    Fact: Google does offer roadmap items to their customers and others if they ask for it. Becuase it is not published does not mean they do not have one; if they didn't have one, how would they know what to code next; your argument doesn't make sense.

    Fact: Google publishes different SLA's for consumer and Enterprise; not sure why Microsoft can't get that through their head. Fact: Microsoft does not provide a public dashboard of service disruption like Google does, but only has a reporting page for the administrators of a particular domain; MS does not publish this data publicly like Google does.

    Fact: My "spin" on hybrid cloud is not a spin, it is a fact, just look around you. More and more people are moving entire applications to the cloud, like CRM with Salesforce, like HR with WorkDay. That is not "hybrid", that is pure cloud.

    And since we are talking about it, here is another fact: every Google employee runs on Google Apps; how many Microsoft employees run on Office 365? Not all of them, and that my friend, is a fact…

  9. Derik says:

    Really? We are having a Cloud discussion and you bring up document fidelity? Again, Fact: Microsoft has fidelity issues between local Office files and Office Web Apps files. As an example, I created a very simple Word file that I put a table into and highlight the first row of the table; pretty simple right? Then I uploaded that file and opened it with Web Apps, it displayed just fine. However, when I went to edit that file with Web Apps, my simple highlighted row disappeared. Why I wonder? You would think that Office-to-Office would have perfect fidelity wouldn't you? Well, you don't, that's a fact. And why? Because as I stated earlier, it is a web issue and not a Google or Microsoft issue. The web just does not allow for 100% fidelity today.

    Also, I put a simple graph in my document; that displays just fine, but guess what I cannot do…I cannot edit the graph. Why? Because it is pointing to an Excel file that is on my desktop. So, I am unable to edit this graph. So, for someone else to work on this with me, I would have to go back to emailing to them, or have them download the file and we are back to 1999 and having multiple copies of the same file and we all know how that works out…Fact…

  10. Mandy says:

    @Tony, You said "@Al Trewthe: You bring up an important point that most Google Apps customers have to use Office to address the shortcomings of Google Apps." but Al Trewthe didn't say that! I believe he meant that people are sometimes really stubborn to change…even if it means using a superior product than what they currently have!

    All this talk about fidelity is becoming a moot point with Google's acquisition of Quickoffice anyway. And, once people start using Google Apps, there is no need to use MS Office anymore. So again, the issue of fidelity goes away.

    With the world moving more and more towards collaboration, Google Apps is so far superior to Microsoft. It's really the notion of two heads are better than one. When you have two (or more) people collaborating real time on a document, spreadsheet, presentation, you name it…work becomes more fun, innovation happens faster, and life is good!

  11. Derik says:

    You simply are not stating fact; maybe it is because you don't know the real answer, and that is fine. See, the release schedule you posted does indeed have the link to their release schedule, then you get the option to be "rapid release" or "scheduled release" and that gives you more than 2 weeks to plan for the change.

    As for "killing products", what do you think Microsoft did with BPOS? Sure as heck wasn't an upgrade from BPOS to Office 365; it was a full-blown migration. Oh, and the reports from your BPOS-S customers; many of them were migrated without their knowledge, over a weekend, so many of their business process that relied on on email failed to operate. Talk about killing a product that effects bottom line!

    As for downtime, what I am referring to is the fact that Google does not need to allot for downtime for scheduled maintenance because of their infrastructure. MS on the other hand has scheduled downtime nearly every weekend. So what if that weekend is also my month/quarter end and I need those O365 systems to be online? Oh, that's right, I don't have a choice; MS just does what it wants.

    As for "eating your own dog food", I know for a Fact that a very small percentage of MS employees use O365. How do I know? Because I sold your products for over 8 years and know too many people there.

    Lastly, I don't think you want to throw out customer name as examples as it is a well known fact in the industry that MS have VERY few customers, actually deployed, of over 1,000 users. Yes, you have several customers you talk about "licensed" for Office 365 for over 1,000 users, but only a handful of those are actually deployed. Fact…

    Oh, and talk about blending consumer and Enterprise:


  12. Ian Ray says:

    Microsoft, to its credit, is at least now trying to include more Web software:…/search

    Granted, I did look through all of those and couldn’t find anything that stood out.

    In contrast:…/search

    I should go review LucidChart to bump it up that list…

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