Irish SME usage of Google Apps for your Domain?

27th of August 2007 by conor

I’m interested in getting some feedback on small business usage of GAFYD (as I like to call Google Apps for Your Domain) in Ireland (and Europe generally). Until this year I was very dubious of Steve Gillmor’s “Office is dead” mantra but as the year has progressed I have found myself using more and more online applications and fewer installed ones.

The standard Google Applications from GMail to Calendar and Docs/Spreadsheets are solid useful usable tools. It got to the point a few months back where I was happy to try out the free Google Apps for your domain. This entails some DNS changes on your side so that Google becomes the provider for your company email. You then get your own custom versions of GMail, GTalk, Calendar, Docs/Spreadsheets and a Personalised home page.

Initial impressions were good, particularly given that it is free but very quickly I found myself running into a variety of limitations and problems. It is quite clear that the “For Your Domain” development is done is total isolation from all the other online Google apps.

The single biggest limitation is that the login you are given for the Domain Applications does not work on any other Google application outside of the ones I have listed. In particular there is no Notebook, Google Groups or Google Reader. For a company so intent on being an integral part of every aspect of your online life, this just seems bizarre. There are a bunch of other problems like

  • The Personalised Home page is very rough compared to iGoogle
  • The Calendar Widget on that page is totally broken
  • Many third party widgets do not work with that page
  • GTalk for your domain is completely flaky with third party applications like Pidgin

The overall experience really is is less than slick. If I had a full SSO Google Apps experience, I would happily pay quite a lot per year for them taking all that administration effort off my hands.

What have your experiences been of Google Apps, GAFYD and the competition?

  • Using and happy
  • Using but not happy
  • Used but reverted
  • Considering
  • Never heard of it

I hear only good things about Zoho and our limited usage of it so far has been positive. Any other recommendations?

Company Index: Zoho

Comment posted by Michele
at 8/31/2007 5:22:15 AM

James

Gmail, which Google Apps uses with a custom frontend, does not follow best practices. The source IP is not put into the email headers. This means that companies filtering mail end up filtering the Google SMTP completely or blocking certain netblocks when there is abuse. It’s been a topic of discussion on a lot of the anti-spam mailing lists over the last couple of years.

Regards

Michele

Comment posted by James
at 8/31/2007 5:04:22 AM

Michele – it did occur to me that the potential was there, but have there been actual instances of Google mishandling email?

Comment posted by Michele
at 8/31/2007 4:34:13 AM

We’re seeing quite a few people trying it out. Whether they will stay with it permanently or not remains to be seen.
I can see the attraction of the apps, but I would be very concerned about Google’s (mis)handling of email.

Comment posted by James
at 8/28/2007 3:56:12 PM

I set this up last year for over 1,000 people and was happy with it. When dealing with so many users, there were some problems with the bulk import (unable to assign aliases as part of the bulk import, for example), and really poor support from Google.

I was happy enough with the experience that I decided to use Google Apps for Your Domain for my company’s email this year. I upgraded to Premier just because I had experienced the lack of support in the standard edition. I agree that it is annoying that the login doesn’t carry through to other Google services, and it is also annoying that very few of the external applications which have ‘Gmail support’ have ‘Google Mail for your domain’ support, even though it is probably only a couple of lines of extra code. I use iCal for calendar, and BaseCamp, but I keep coming back to Google Apps for collaboration on spreadsheets and word processor (BaseCamp’s Writeboards are very poor).

I had a quick look at Zoho and it seemed decent – will have to test it out some more though.

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 8/28/2007 1:01:17 PM

Yeah, I do the “add every widget known to man-kind” followed by scorched earth on a regular basis.

Comment posted by Joe Drumgoole
at 8/28/2007 12:00:11 PM

Using it and happy. Not crazy about the seperate SSO for the rest of Google, but its worth living with for the convenience of a maintainance free mail and calendar service.

We also use gtalk quite a bit and we have a start page with a bunch of useless widgets on it that I blow hot and cold on.

Comment posted by Conor O’Neill
at 8/28/2007 4:38:06 AM

We use it for similar reasons Conn. It also helps a lot when travelling.

I love the idea of GAFYD, it just feels like they need a Google SVP or EVP somewhere to crack a few heads together and get _all_ the apps working under Single Sign On.

I also like the Zoho freemium model and have heard they are getting lots of traction despite “not being Google”.

Comment posted by Conn O Muineachain
at 8/28/2007 3:50:15 AM

You and I have twittered before Conor, about the risks of my total reliance on Gmail. I feel happier about it now that I’ve backed it up locally with POP. I’m not using GAFYD yet, but I’m increasingly building my operation around Google apps. I passed my first scalability hurdle last week, setting up a second workstation in my office for occasional contributors. It’s a PC running Ubuntu and it doesn’t need Office – neither MS nor Open. It doesn’t need backing up either, or user configuration. As my operation grows I can clone as many of them as I want.

It’s all about scalability. At this critical stage in my business I don’t have money for servers, backup systems or expensive software. I certainly have no time to manage and maintain these systems. Right now Google does that for me. The challenge for them is to build a system which can grow with me, so that when I can afford to invest in my own infrastructure, I may not feel the need to. If they can do that, then Office really is dead – and so too perhaps is Exchange, SQL Server, Oracle …

Comment posted by Jan Blanchard
at 8/27/2007 11:30:43 AM

I implemented Google Aps last February – At first, I thought I was going to use it a lot: Spreadsheets, docs, calendars… But I experienced the same hiccups you mentioned. I ended up using it as a mail service only (easy to add users and same benefits as gmail) and use Basecamp to manage the rest of our activity.

Comment posted by dc crowley
at 8/27/2007 8:49:52 AM

Excellent sticking the finger in where it hurts. Lot’s of good question. Google is doing lots of clever stuff. But in the apps and office space they have made a start but it has quite a way to go still. Same with gdrive, where is it? Is Google stalling? Lacking a vision on a way forward? I wonder about that an awful lot lately

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