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Docomo interTouch trusts the cloud

An executive from the hospitality technology provider relates how a large merger prompted the company to move its 1,100 employees to the cloud.

Mergers and acquisitions present a major pain point for disparate IT departments which have to consolidate data. For Docomo interTouch, which consolidated operations from five subsidiaries late last year, the answer was the cloud.

Darren Murphy, director of internal systems development at Docomo interTouch, said the hospitality technology provider decided to sign on with Google Apps, a subscription-based SaaS (software-as-a-service) bundle which includes e-mail, calendaring, and document management functions for its 1,100 employees.

Speaking to ZDNet Asia in an interview, Murphy said the initial proposal to go with Google raised some eyebrows with the executive board. "There was an initial negative reaction... People associate Google with their personal [Gmail] e-mail accounts," he said.

But the appeal of a hosted offering which took the load off the IT department tipped the scale in favor of the Google bundle, which the company compared against competing office productivity products from the likes of Microsoft and open source vendors, Murphy said.

"Our core business is not provisioning of e-mail and calendaring. We needed a plug-in solution," he added, estimating a saving of 30 to 60 percent over three years of the total cost of ownership.

"We don't need replicated servers because the infrastructure is taken care of," he said.

Other savings have come in the form of fewer support issues. Murphy said the IT department is less taxed to create internal sites because of tools within Google Apps which allow enterprise users to create and collaborate on documents.

He offered an example of the company needing to collect data on its call center quality testing: a document was created "in 10 minutes" with a form wizard which collated some 1,000 responses onto a spreadsheet. Traditionally, this operation would have "tied up a developer for half a day" in the creation of the Web form, he said.

Is the cloud truly ready for the enterprise?
But the journey on the cloud so far has not been completely without its hitches.

Docomo interTouch was affected by the Gmail outage in August, which prevented some 10 percent of the company's workforce from accessing their e-mail for "half a day", said Murphy.

In July, Google App's document management platform, Google Docs, went down for an hour.

But Murphy isn't fazed. He said: "We don't have concrete plans to counter reliability issues... It's important to us that Google is a big name."

Southeast Asia head of sales Tan Bee Loon of the Google Enterprise division, pointed out that outages are not unique to the cloud. She reiterated Google's SLA (service level agreement) assurance of 99.9 percent uptime for paid Google Apps accounts. "Enterprises need a very deterministic SLA and support service, which Google Apps Premier Edition is able to provide," she said during the interview.

Nonetheless, businesses worried about having their data hosted outside of the company walls has presented a barrier for mass migration to the cloud. Industry commentators have forecast reliance on cloud computing to grow within enterprises, but this has not come without a measure of caution advised against handing data over to a third party.

Murphy said the company currently relies on a function within Gmail which provides e-mail archival up to 90 days, although it is considering lengthening this period.

Docomo interTouch's legal team is deliberating on the length of archival time regarding compliance issues, Murphy said. "They have agreed for now that 90 days is enough," he said.