We sometimes get asked why Google, a consumer-focused company, is involved in bringing the potential of the cloud to the business world. The answer is straightforward. Consumer applications are evolving much faster than business software. It used to be that you got the best technology at work. Now the tools we have in our personal lives are much better- think of the iPhone, or your 10GB Gmail inbox compared to your 500 MB inbox at work where you’re constantly deleting emails to free up space. Employees are consumers too, and they now expect – and in many cases demand – the same ease of use at work and flexibility of access as they have with applications in their personal lives.
Inevitably, some people have reservations about the cloud. The biggest challenge to the cloud is the resistance to change -anything which represents a fundamental shift in the way things are done is going to take time to understand. Indeed, there remain some notable misconceptions out there about the risks, like system security and reliability. Software security should always be a concern when discussing critical business data, wherever it’s kept. In many ways, cloud computing can be more secure than hosting data yourself. For example, it generally takes 30-60 days for businesses to patch a vulnerability in their own computer systems. During that time, the corporation’s IT infrastructure is at risk. With the scale of cloud computing, we can fix everything quickly and ensure their infrastructure is safe.
Then there is reliability. It’s true, there have been some high profile outages among many of the companies that offer hosted services, including ourselves. However, it’s important to put these into perspective. The average monthly downtime of Gmail over a period of a year comes to 10-15 minutes per month. That mostly represents small delays of a couple of seconds here and there. According to the research firm Radicati Group, companies with on-premises email solutions averaged from 30 to 60 minutes of unscheduled downtime and an additional 36 to 90 minutes of planned downtime per month. On this basis, the cloud is a whole lot more reliable than in-house email. You just don’t hear about outages that occur with traditional software, because they happen behind closed doors. All cloud vendors know that they need to have strict Service Level Agreements and be transparent on service disruptions if the model is going to gain traction.At Google we’re serious about transparency and getting all this right for the 5,000 businesses that are signing up to Google Apps everyday.