Why move from Office to Google Docs?

Coins

The Boston Globe has reported that the city of Boston is moving from Microsoft software to Google Apps online, including transitioning from Exchange to Gmail for email and calendaring, from Microsoft Office to Google Docs, and from Windows file shares to Google Drive to storing documents. In short, all that will be left on the desktop will be the Microsoft Windows OS.

From the article:

It will cost Boston around $800,000 to move over to Gmail, Google Docs for word processing, and Google’s cloud service for storing documents. But by dropping some Microsoft products, the city government will save at least $280,000 a year.

“The number one reason that organizations are going to Google is price,” said Matt Cain, an analyst at the tech research firm Gartner Inc.

What’s more, Cain said, Google’s contract terms are much simpler than dealing with Microsoft.

It’s believed the transition will take a year. That doesn’t sound very long. Dropping Microsoft Office for Google Docs is a bold move and document conversion could prove challenging. I wonder what testing was completed to build the busines case for the switch.

“Anyone with a current Gmail account will not have much trouble transitioning,” said David Nero, director of technology for Boston.

Hmmm. A significant percentage of employees may already have personal Gmail accounts which certainly helps in terms of familiarity with Gmail’s user interface. But dropping Outlook and Office at work may come as a bit of a shock. And moving from having any on-premise Office suite to browser-based is unlikely to be that straightforward.

According to the article, Microsoft software was costing an estimated $100 per employee per year compared to approximately $50 per user per year for a Google Apps subscription. But that’s comparing on-premise software licensing with an online subscription. A similar level of savings would also have been achieved by switching to Office 365. Government pricing plans offered by Google and Microsoft are closely aligned for comparible features.

If the migration is predicted to cost $800,000 and will save $280,000 per year, it will take nearly 3 years for the project to break even. It would be interesting to have an update in 18 months time once the transition has been completed and operational for 6 months. If the decision really was primarily about price, it’s a bad one.

We moved from Exchange and Outlook to Gmail three years ago. We still have Office on the desktop. Some aspects of Google Docs knock the socks off of Office Web Apps. And vice versa… The decision of which is best to use should be based on the ways you work, not just the price.

One claim we certainly would agree with is that Google’s contract terms for cloud services are a lot more straightforward to deal with. Both as a customer and as a partner. Microsoft needs to get on top of that.

Disclaimer: Joining Dots Ltd has a paid subscription to both Google Apps for Business and Microsoft Office 365 for Enterprise. We continue to test and compare the features in each.

Reference

Google vs Bing for search results

Last weekend, I wanted to find out what time the Wimbledon men’s finals match began.  TV coverage started around about 1pm but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the start time. So off I went to Internet search.  And whilst I was at it, decided to compare Google and Bing.

Search Wimbledon on Google

Google search results for Wimbledon – Click image to view larger

Search for Wimbledon on Bing

Bing search results for Wimbledon – Click image to view larger

What’s interesting is that each is taking a very different approach to displaying the results.

Google seems to be trying to save you visiting a web site if a quick answer is what you are looking for. You get to see recent match results and the date/time for the next matches to take place. Yey – found what I was looking for.  You also see a variety of different sources – news articles, location map as well as the official web site.

Bing displays no information about the current tournament in its results summaries. And appears to assume you might not find what you’re looking for at the first attempt, offering a list of related searches in a prominent position over on the right of the results. Bing manages to display more results than Google in a smaller space, but it seems to be at the expense of helping decide which result is most likely to be useful.

From a personal perspective, I find the ‘Related searches’ list distracting on the Bing results page. It pulls my eyes over to it instead of reading the main results area. Google puts a list of related search links at the end of the first page. This feels more logical – if you haven’t clicked anything on the first page, maybe the results need refining.

It’s a similar story when searching for other facts, such as weather:

Search weather comparison

Yes, the UK weather this summer really is that bad…

I find I still favour Google for searches.  Quick facts can usually be found without needing to click further. Whether web sites like that outcome is another matter. But when it comes to applying these lessons for enterprise search designs, saving clicks can be a big productivity boost.

I haven’t found an example yet where Bing delivers demonstrably better search results, despite what Steve Ballmer says. Has anybody else? And of course the missing element to both is the conversation taking place in real-time. Google is starting to push it’s Google+ social network, if you’re signed in. But no Twitter, no Facebook, no chattering updates. They’re all taking place in the digital walled gardens.

Office 365 vs Google Apps

Microsoft UK recently posted an ‘Office 365 vs Google Apps‘ presentation to SlideShare, positioned as a day in the life of an IT professional.

Well…

We don’t entirely agree with all of the points made. And as we happen to be a subscribing customer of both Office 365 and Google Apps, we thought we’d add our own comments based on actual experiences.

The modified presentation is embedded below.

Personally, I think the presentation is weak and damages Microsoft’s credibility. Far better arguments could have been easily made to show where Office 365 is superior to Google Apps for business activities.

Related blog posts

Facebook vs Google+ for companies

Update 1st July: Google now requires everyone to login to view anything so the first row of the table has gone red too. Makes it even less useful and it was already struggling to justify any effort…

The short version:

Facebook vs GooglePlus for company pages

The details…

The Wall Street Journal has a great article looking at Google’s efforts to rival Facebook – The Mounting Minuses at Google+ <- title kind of indicates how well those efforts are going.

Some quotes that stand out from the article:

“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis

Intel Corp said 360,000 Google+ members have signed up to receive updates from the chip maker since it set up a brand presence on the site. [But] While Intel gets dozens of responses to its posts on Google+ the company has nine million “fans” on Facebook and gets thousands of comments there [according to Ekaterina Walter who manages Intel’s presence on social media sites]

Facebook and Twitter helped change the way people discover new things on the Web, rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet. Much of the activity on Facebook is private and can’t be accessed by Google’s search engine, making search less useful as people spend more time on Facebook.

All of this makes it more important for Google to win over people like Ben Hopper. The 29-year-old photographer in London joined Google+ shortly after it launched. But in November, Mr. Hopper stopped using Google+. Instead, he re-focused on Facebook and social media sites like Twitter. Google+ “was an additional tool that needed time investment—time I didn’t have to begin with,” he said.

That last sentence is particularly relevant.  When you are not first to a market, you need to not just do something different or better, you need to make it easier for the people who you want to not just attract to the product or service, but keep them using it. This is where Apple succeeded with the iPhone. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but without even talking about the hardware design compared to the standard at the time, its user interface was incredibly well thought out in terms of making features easier to use. Simple steps like when you move the handset from your ear to look at the screen, the keypad automatically appears (it assumes you are about to do something). Previous phones I used (both Windows and Android) required you to press a button to reactivate the screen – half the time I’d press the button that cancelled the call. Doh!

Having experimented with both Facebook and Google+ from a business perspective, the opportunity that Google has is making content accessible to everyone. I can add a link to a Facebook page on my web site. But nobody can see the Facebook page without first logging into Facebook and nothing from that site will ever appear in search results.  Facebook may have 800 million and counting users but there is a growing backlash to being logged into it all the time and I don’t want to make those sorts of demands on any client.  Google+ doesn’t require the same – anyone can view my company’s page on Google+, the page will appear in search results, and nobody needs to login unless they want to participate in the conversation.  All good reasons to prefer Google+ over Facebook.

So why is Google+ so quiet?

Google requires you to invest too much time to keep the site active. I haven’t found an easy way to share blog posts automatically through Google+. At the moment, I try to remember to go over and add it to the feed. Once there, I usually have to switch accounts because my Google Apps account doesn’t currently work with Google+ but my Gmail account does.   I’d like my Twitter feed (all or by a certain hashtag like #in for LinkedIn and #fb for Facebook) to be automatically added. If it can be done, I haven’t figured out how. This is compared to a great little tool I used a few years ago called FriendFeed that looked visually similar but made it easy for you to automatically integrate data feeds so that you didn’t have to duplicate effort. FriendFeed was acquired by Facebook.

But even the act of adding a manual status update isn’t obvious on Google+ in some areas (it is in others – consistency, or lack of, is another gripe). Where as Facebook and Twitter both put it right in front of you in the main part of the page, regardless of whether you are on your own profile or a fan page for a company, Google has taken a different approach for each area.

Google+ Example

The image above is the start of the stream for the Joining Dots company page.  See if you can spot where to add a status update (I’m logged in as admin for the page)…

…It’s the tiny + visible just to the left of the logged in account ‘Joining Dots’ in the top right corner. Go figure.

If Google seriously wants to take on Facebook, it needs an Apple mindset to make Google+ as easy and intuitive as possible when you are on the site. And it needs to start making it easier to add in automated feeds such as Twitter updates, blog posts when they are published etc.  Along with Likes and all the other trickery that Facebook has done so well  but keeps locked and hidden inside their walled garden (even if it is a big garden).  Until then, as the photographer Ben Hopper soon found out, Google+ is simply too much hassle. And that’s Google’s, not than Ben’s…

We’ve been down this road before

It's a road

So Google finally unveils one of its key directions going forward – cheap laptops running Google Chrome focused on cloud computing as the primary working area and local computing relegated to being the offline backup. No huge surprise. Tons of reports covering the news but Sarah Perez sums it up nicely on ReadWriteWeb:

…this initiative pushes forward many of Google’s agendas: get into an institution through its end users, not its admins, get more people online so they’ll click Google ads, and, the future is the Web, not the hard drive.

That’s how Office and friends first arrived (the first bit, no web for most back then).

References:
Photo: Taken by me! Travelling from Geneva to Annecy for a Microsoft offsite, many moons ago. The mountain is Mont Blanc, according to the taxi driver 🙂

Did the clouds just get darker?

Dark clouds over Bournemouth from freefoto.com

In February 2010 three Google executives were convicted of a privacy violation in an Italian court and received suspended prison sentences. The reason for the trial and conviction: they allowed people to upload a video to Google Video showing someone being bullied. It was two hours before the video was removed following complaints.

“It is like prosecuting the post office for hate mail that is sent in the post”

The BBC covers the story in more detail here.

The trial sets an interesting precedent and could have far-reaching consequences for social media and cloud computing services. In particular the costs to provide such services if content is supposed to be pre-screened and the viability for organisations to use them for business data. Will Internet Service Providers be held to the same level of account if an employee complains about data an organisation stores using online business services? China is not the only country with a government wielding local power to disrupt global Internet services. And although Italy is singled out in this example, Australia has been planning to introduce strict filtering controls that could restrict access to social networking sites. The UK is exploring how to prevent illegal downloads and considering blocking broadband access for those accused. The list goes on… Providers of online ‘cloud computing’ services will find more turbulence as they cross political borders.

References:

Image courtesy of freefoto.com licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License