Google Apps finds a back door into the enterprise

In this business, there are times when almost everything you write seems to have a Google dimension. The last posting was about Microsoft and Yahoo! – but the suggestion that Google might get involved has hardened over the last few days. Now, in a different part of the universe, Google has announced a new version of Google Apps which isn’t aimed at individuals and consumers, and isn’t the enterprise-ready version; it’s in between.

Google Apps Team Edition is designed so enterprise users can use it without corporate IT needing to do anything. Hence it doesn’t include Gmail – IT support is the only way to route corporate mail to Gmail. But being web based, unless the security people block Google in the browser (and would you fancy being the manager who ordered that?), staff can use it.

What does it give them that the individual versions don’t? Someone in Google was smart enough to figure out that they can tell a user who else in the same company is also signed up. And of course you can invite those who aren’t. So you get all the team collaboration stuff directly.

Question: should IT be worried? They probably will be. But there are some companies that have grasped the idea that they can let go of the user’s hand and trust them (mostly) to walk on their own. They will likely see free, easy to use services which users like, which meet the 80-80 rule (80% of the needs of 80% of the users), and which reduce dependence on Microsoft licensing. And if Apps takes off, there’s an upgrade path to the enterprise editions. On the other hand, should Risk Management be worried? Mostly, people have stopped worrying about whether Gmail is secure. But certainly some information flows are regulated and have to be recorded, so there can be a real problem. Users, at the least, need to be well educated about the risks and to have a clear understanding of when the corporate infrastructure should be used.

But there’s always a parallel. In the early days of corporate email, we used to say that confidential mail shouldn’t go via Internet. We had X.400 for that stuff, if you remember … What happened? People stopped worrying and now it goes via the Internet. Implicitly, in most cases the disbenefits of maintaining parallel infrastructures and of the inconvenience to users outweighed the security benefit. Instead, encryption was applied to Internet email, and more recently we have digital rights management from companies like SealedMedia. It’s far more effective to work with your users, not against them.

But what do you think? I’d love some comments.


Google Intros Apps Edition to Bypass the IT Department (, 7 Feb 2008)

Google Apps, Team Edition or see the main entry for Apps

If you want a completely different take on enterprise collaboration, Forrester Research clients might like to read this blog by Erica Driver: Virtual Offices For All: Return Of The Serendipitous Interaction (From Information to Knowledge Management, 4 Feb 2008)