Read the fine print of Google Office

Read the fine print of Google Office

Summary:   Update at end of post: Google may undercut Microsoft Office with its business apps subscriptions for a mere $50 per account a year, but there are a few fine print items to consider.   Screen Gallery: See the screen gallery that walks through the Google Apps Premier set up as well as some of the trouble spots.

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TOPICS: Google
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Update at end of post: Google may undercut Microsoft Office with its business apps subscriptions for a mere $50 per account a year, but there are a few fine print items to consider.


  Screen Gallery: See the screen gallery that walks through the Google Apps Premier set up as well as some of the trouble spots.  

The blog love (see Techmeme) for these Google hosted apps is somewhat amazing. Especially when you consider Google Apps are unlikely to dent Microsoft Office's juggernaut. I just don't see Fortune 1000 companies doing this. As for smaller companies and sole proprietors there's a market for Google. Overall though, Google Office seems like a nice way to distract Microsoft from closing the search gap than upending Redmond's cash cow.

I signed up, but there are a few items that worry me.

Worry 1: You need a domain name. I can hear you now: "Dignan, who doesn't have a domain name? You moron. My grandmother has a domain name. Actually she has 10 of them." Well I had one and let it expire. Now my choices are to take a domain name I don't want (unless I want to spell my name incorrectly or become an "official" dignan.com). Or tell Google I have a domain name with plans to verify later. I opted for the latter, but as the gallery shows, I'm stuck.

Why am I stuck? The entire premier account implementation rests on having a domain. From an email after I bought the account:

To start using the services, you will need to activate your domain by verifying ownership. Once you have activated your domain, you can then set up email, calendar, and other services. You can also customize your start page, a dynamic homepage where your users can find relevant information for your organization, preview inboxes and calendars, jump to recent documents, and search the web.

I'm willing to bet the masses (those folks that tend to buy Microsoft Office) are going to trip over the domain name issue. As one CEO recently told me: It's easy to get funding. And if you know what you're doing you can build a company. Good luck getting a nice domain name though.

Worry 2: Service level agreements. Since I put Microsoft Office on my PC I know it's going to work. For a hosted service, even one run by Google, I want to see what the SLA  looks like. The issue: When I read the terms and clicked on the SLA link I got a 404 error. For this experiment, I overlooked that small item and continued the sign up. If I were a small business I wouldn't have. Donna Bogatin did find some Gmail SLA items though. 

Worry 3: My employees can't call Google for help. From the Google Apps Premier terms.

Google shall provide Technical support services for End Users solely through the Google.com Help Center, which is accessible at http://www.google.com/support/ or such other URL as Google may provide from time to time. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, Google shall provide Technical Support Services (“TSS”) to Customer's designated administrator(s) during the Term in accordance with Google's Technical Support Services Guidelines then in effect for the Service (“TSS Guidelines”). TSS Guidelines (including information on how to access TSS) are password protected and may be accessed at the following URL: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/tssg.html (or such other URL as may be provided by Google). Google reserves the right to make changes to the TSS from time to time, provided that any such change does not materially adversely impact Customer. Prior to making any support request to Google, Customer shall first use reasonable efforts to fix any error, bug, malfunction, or network connectivity defect on its own, without escalation to Google. Thereafter, Customer's designated administrator(s) may submit a written request for technical support as described in the TSS Guidelines.

As an administrator (even though I don't have a domain yet) I got a 1-800 number. From the email:

"Phone support hours are Monday-Friday, from 1 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. Outside of those hours, you will be able to leave a voicemail and let us know if your situation is urgent. When calling, you will need to provide your support PIN to access the system, and your domain name and customer PIN."

Worry 4: Uh oh. I just got to this part. Am I in trouble?

Publicity. Customer agrees not to issue any public announcement regarding the existence or content of this Agreement without Google's prior written approval. Google may: (i) include Customer's Brand Features in presentations, marketing materials, and customer lists (which includes, without limitation, customer lists posted on Google's web sites and screen shots of Customer's implementation of the Service); and (ii) issue a public announcement regarding the existence or content of this Agreement. Upon Customer's request, Google will furnish Customer with a sample of such usage or announcement.

Worry 5 (and my biggest worry): What if my data disappears somehow? This passage below isn't soothing. As Mary Jo Foley points out storing data offsite is a big issue. From the terms (Google's all caps):

IN NO EVENT WILL GOOGLE OR ITS LICENSORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, EXEMPLARY OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO DAMAGES FOR LOST DATA, LOST PROFITS, LOST REVENUE OR COSTS OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, HOWEVER CAUSED AND UNDER ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CONTRACT OR TORT (INCLUDING PRODUCTS LIABILITY, STRICT LIABILITY AND NEGLIGENCE), AND WHETHER OR NOT SUCH PARTY WAS OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARE OR ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE AND NOTWITHSTANDING THE FAILURE OF ESSENTIAL PURPOSE OF ANY LIMITED REMEDY STATED HEREIN. IN NO EVENT WILL GOOGLE’S AND/OR ITS LICENSORS’ LIABILITY FOR ANY CLAIM ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT (WHEN AGGREGATED WITH GOOGLE’S LIABILITY FOR ALL OTHER CLAIMS ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT) EXCEED THE NET AMOUNT GOOGLE HAS ACTUALLY RECEIVED AND RETAINED UNDER THE AGREEMENT DURING THE TWELVE (12) MONTHS IMMEDIATELY PRECEDING THE DATE ON WHICH SUCH CLAIM ARISES.

Now I'm no lawyer, but it sounds like Google can lose my end of quarter closing data and I'm out of luck. Any lawyers in the house feel free to advice on this one. And if there are any Dignans out there that don't want their domain names give me a shout.

Update 9:16 PT:

 

Ran off to GoDaddy and got some dignan-ish domain names for my test. Much to my chagrin it's not easy to change domain names for Google Apps.

From Google help:

Can I change the domain name associated with my account?

At this time, you can't change the domain name for your control panel. Instead, in order to sign up with a different domain name (in case you made a typo or need to sign up a subdomain), please resubmit an application.

That only sort of helped me out. From there I had to call Google tech support. A fine chap in Europe answered the phone (I'm a bit surprised it wasn't offshore) told me that there's no way to change the domain. The solution: He wiped out my original account and I have to start from scratch. On the bright side my credit card was never charged.

Overall, however, this does seem to be a lot of work and if you're not motivated to ditch Microsoft I'm not sure you're going Google Apps Premier.

 

Topic: Google

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40 comments
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  • That's Google?!

    Wow. I'm a big fan of Google, but that seems like the sketchiest agreement that I've ever come across...
    kpbslu06
  • Liability clause

    The liability clause you see there is no different (or very little different) than what you will see in your MS Office license. No software vendors take any liability beyond the cost of the software or data guarantees. And given how often (not very often, but enough) I hear of coworkers losing data to corrupted Word documents, MS couldn't afford to take liability, either.
    mdielmann
    • hehe

      Good points.
      Larry Dignan
      • Fundamental difference though...

        Big difference here however. Yes, Microsoft doesn't accept liability for lost data, but if you did have something catastrophic happen to your PC, you do have the option of pulling out the hard drive and taking it to a data recovery vendor. That definitely is not an option when you're data is in the cloud.
        BFD
        • But it's still no guarantee

          sure, it's an option but even the data recovery vendors don't guarantee they can recover your data. The overarching point is, NO ONE can afford to guarantee the integrity or recoverability of your data.
          DPM44
          • who's in control

            The biggest difference is who is in control of the data storage. Yes you can have logical corruption of data in the "cloud" and the PC software, but the end-user chooses their own adventure for physical corruption or loss if the data is resident on the local drive. I can put together a 99.999+ system with data redundancy and even off-site mirroring if I care to, but what guarentee do I have from GOOGLE. I think that is the question of SLA the author aludes to.
            LinuxHippie
          • Hit the nail on the head

            [i]The biggest difference is who is in control of the data storage[/i]

            An External Drive for your PC using WindowsXP Backup software or some other free or purchased software garantees your data is backed up, if you wish it to be.
            John Zern
          • we seem to be talking about two different things

            no where in the liability agreement does it say Google will not employ data backup and retention procedures to ensure your data can be restored in the event their system goes down. What they are clear about is that they cannot guarantee that it will always be recoverable. Those are the same risks you take on internally. You can employ all the backup policies and procedures you want, but will your backup hardware and software vendor guarantee recovery of your data if something goes wrong with the software or hardware you use to employ your backup procedures? That, I think ,is sort of the point here. No software vendor, shrinkwrapped or not, will sign up for that liability
            DPM44
          • Backup IS the way to go!

            Although I think you are assuming that Google will use some sort of backup. Ultimately, if your data IS that important, you will find a way to back it up yourself.
            ewingdweller
    • But....

      I'm not on M$ side, (neither on Google's side) but al least when you have a corrupted doc, you have it, and can try to recover it or recover the .bak or do something.

      When and if you lose a document with a online application and storage you have.... NOTHING... NO THING... to try at least a crap shot to recover part of it..

      NICE... I dont see any advantage and i see many risks (specially about the privacy of my documents) about having them WHO KNOWS WHERE ... on line. Good luck.
      rdelaplaza
  • Online storage

    I would guess that Google backs up its data better then most small businesses. Sure Google could lose your data, but I would trust them more then most in house back ups, Fortune 500 companies excluded.
    DarthRidiculous
  • Do No Evil My Ass

    Sergey and Larry are such hypocrites. Do no evil, what are they, 3 years old?
    AnonymousBugMeNotUser
    • It's the general rule

      Those who proclaim they "do no evil" are so lacking in self-knowledge that their doing excessive evil is a certainty.
      srdiamond
      • "Do No Evil" more of a guideline than a rule

        ...
        Too Old For IT
  • I think this is the wrong approach for Google

    I think this type of product would be much more attractive, if it was available as a locally installed appliance like Google Enterprise Search.

    This way the system can be properly administered by IT. There would also be more opportunity to integrate the productivity suite with other enterprise applications like document or knowledge management systems.
    joshdcohen@...
    • Why?

      I mean what you are describing is just another (and not very good) office suite.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • That's true...

        But presumably a cheaper one...which is one of the main reasons folks might be thinking of switching. Doing it as an appliance could put to rest the fears of data security...who could be viewing it...but still keep the cost down since it would be intranet apps, rather than installed on PCs. Personally, I'd just as soon go with OpenOffice as with any web-based productivity solution, no matter whether hosted inside or externally. Has the same cost benefit (even better, it's free for licenses...your costs are for install & support), and gives you closer to what people are used to right now.
        Techboy_z
    • *locally* hosted

      I think that the way to sell this is as a server-client package. Sell the licenses for $50/year, develop and maintain the software, but let the companies host it on their own servers to serve their employees. Then nobody has to worry about data storage and loss, at least not in the context people here are talking about.
      dhclapp1@...
  • A Question

    Ok, I sort of understand the liability limitations for last data. But what I don't see is any statements about protecting sensitive information from;

    A. Hackers

    B. Google Employees

    I mean we are in fact talking about running a business on it and most businesses have sensitive information they would not want available to anyone outside the company.

    Google seems to have not addressed this at all.
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Add 2 more

      C. Is there limitations to the amount of space used for storage and what are the costs when one needs to exceed those limits (I'm assuming it will be more that the $50.00)

      D. Where is it defined who actually owns the data, google or the business/individual. Without a good definition if the courts see Google owning the data then they only need 1 warrant to have access everybodies data. Think of your clothes being left at a friends house and a search warrent issued for your friends house. Your clothes can be legally searched.
      LinuxHippie