[LINK] Google and business

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Sun Nov 27 18:34:08 AEDT 2011

Ten reasons to be wary of Google in business

By Justin James  October 21, 2011.

Without doubt, Google is playing a larger and larger role in business IT. 

But as many have found out, doing business with Google requires certain 
expectations to be set up front. 

This is not to say that doing business with it is awful, or, that other 
companies do not have many of these issues as well, of course. Still, 
there are some good reasons to be wary about doing business with Google.

1: Customer support is not its forte

The biggest reason to think twice about doing business with Google is 
that its organization is simply not designed to provide support for 
customers. Google has recently opened some phone numbers for customers to 
reach them, but by and large they prefer support to be email only (if 
they provide it at all). This is a perfectly fine approach for a free or 
ad-supported product. But if you are hoping to run a business built on 
Google’s offerings, you’ll want to check out the support options first.

2: Leadership has questionable views on privacy

Eric Schmidt (executive chair of Google’s board) recently joked about 
whether your Android contact list and most recent calls should be used to 
customize advertising. Whether Google is heading in that direction or 
not, no one wants to think that Google takes these matters lightly. Time 
and time again, Google’s executives (particularly Mr. Schmidt) have made 
it clear that they will get as much data generated by your online 
activities as legally and technically possible. Is that necessarily bad? 
No. But their attitude seems to be that if you want any kind of online 
privacy, you need to go through extreme measures.

3: It makes its living by leveraging information about you

Most users never stop for a moment to ask themselves how Google can do so 
much for no cost to them. Of course, the answer is advertising, and that 
is nothing new. But what makes Google’s advertisements so valuable is not 
just their wide reach but the selective targeting. You see, Google has 
taken the same engineering that produced its excellent search engine and 
applied the effort toward linking ads to people, based in no small part 
upon the data harvested as a result of your daily interactions with them.

Of course, seeing ads on Google Search based on previous searches is not 
a shock. But it’s a bit creepy (and occasionally embarrassing) when you 
go to a site and look at products there, and then ads from that site 
follow you around to every site you visit for months. If you want to know 
what other users do with their computers, just look at what ads Google 
displays for them.

In addition to the inherent privacy concerns (”What if a hacker gets a 
hold of this?” and “What if other sites figure out how to use this?”), 
there are legal concerns. As the government continues to subpoena 
Google’s data, it is quite possible that data concerning you will end up 
in a government database, and who knows where it will go from there.

4: It’s too willing to yank products and APIs

Google is famous for rolling out new products on a regular basis. 
Unfortunately, it is also famous for pulling the plug on them. Sure, 
other companies do the same thing. But Google’s threshold for failure 
feels a lot lower. Even more frustrating is when it does this with APIs. 
It has become clear that Google opens APIs to study usage in the wild, 
but once it has learned what it wanted to, Google shuts down the APIs. 
This may work great for Google, but it is a nightmare scenario for 
companies that depend upon its products and services.

5: Quality is sometimes lacking

Overall, the quality of Google products is high. But there are some 
exceptions, and those exceptions (especially Android’s issues) are quite 
visible and damaging. Google’s “perpetual beta” was cute when it was 
Gmail or Orkut. When the same mentality is applied to your phone’s OS or 
your business email, it is an entirely different story. Google seems to 
currently view its target audience as consumers or small businesses for 
whom its applications are not mission critical.

6: It has minimal contact with real-world users

Google takes an extremely data-driven approach to deciding how to do 
things. For example, its usability changes are driven by massive amounts 
of data. It will roll out a change to a “small” group of users (which 
could be millions of people), observe how usage patterns change, and then 
make decisions from there. Google is lucky to have one of the largest 
user bases in the world for its applications, so it can take this 
approach and have tons of data.

Google doesn’t like user feedback, in large part because it is hard to 
quantify. The problem is that it believes the data, not users. While this 
isn’t terribly surprising (IT professionals have plenty of horror stories 
about how they did what users wanted, and it was a mess), it can be very 
frustrating to work with Google or to hope for a particular feature or 
change to be made. There just isn’t a way for the voice of the customer 
to be heard.

7: There are no SLAs

Google doesn’t do SLAs because, for the most part, Google doesn’t have 
any contracts to use its services. Now, that said, Google’s track record 
with uptime has been pretty good; better than most, honestly. If you look 
at its history over the last few years, an SLA is more a security blanket 
for you than anything else, and it would not change how it runs its 
business one bit anyway.

8: It has a consumer focus for features

One of the big reasons why Google has done so well is that its solutions 
cater well to consumers, and by extension, small businesses. At the same 
time, large companies have needs as well, and Google just does not meet 
them. For example, where is the federated Active Directory authentication 
for Google Apps for Business or the central management of Android phones? 
Those are the kinds of things that businesses need but consumers and 
small businesses do not. And until Google expands its focus a bit, these 
needs will not be met.

9: You are not important to Google

If you are part of a business, the traditional customer-vendor 
relationship is familiar, comfortable, and normal to you. But this is not 
in Google’s DNA. Google’s main currency is actually your clickstream 
data. Why does it give away Google Analytics? So it can collect 
clickstream data? Gmail? Search? Same thing. Its APIs? More data to feed 
the machine. Google’s true business is to run a commodities market where 
it is both the market itself and the sole producer of the commodity. In 
Google’s eyes, it is seller’s market. You have no other choices, and 
there are plenty of other people happy to buy that same commodity. Where 
other vendors would work hard to keep you happy, Google does not even 
bother to tell you to take a hike.

10: Google does not cater to business expectations

Google is really good at getting individuals and small businesses the 
products they need for free or nearly free. But it struggles when doing 
business with enterprises because the expectations are different. Google 
succeeds with the smaller companies because they understand that you get 
what you pay for. They don’t feel that a service that is free, or nearly 
so, is worth complaining about.

An enterprise, though, is often willing to pay more money to get certain 
things, like no ads, preferential treatment, a dedicated account 
executive, and SLAs. These are not bad things. But again, Google just is 
not set up to do business like this (with the exception of Google Apps 
for Business). Because it has such minimal interaction with you as 
client, it isn’t going to understand your needs, let alone try to cater 
to them. If what it delivers is fine with you, that’s great. But if you 
want the handholding, customization, support, etc., that a traditional 
vendor will sell you for an upcharge, Google isn’t going to provid it.


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