OzHosting competes with Optus for Google Apps SMB customers

The cloud hosting provider is now offering Google Apps for Business, and is targeting the same market as the telco service provider.

OzHosting has become the first cloud hosting provider to offer Google Apps for Business in the Australian market, targeting the SMB market that Optus has been competing for since 2011.

Optus added Google Apps for Business to its products portfolio in early 2011, aiming to reel in SMBs with its new offering. The telco later bundled Google Apps in Optus' OfficeApps Email and Collaboration Suite, which includes complementary services for its target market. The telco has made a great push into offering business IT services, and began taking advantage of its overseas datacentres to expand cloud services in Australia .

OzHosting is going both direct and through the channel with Google Apps for Business. While the company is still experimenting with the direct sale model, it hopes to support its network of IT consultants and resellers to push Apps for Business into the SMB arena.

OzHosting sales and marketing director Doug Endersbee conceded that Optus is stiff competition, but is confident that the cloud hosting provider will do well in the SMB space, because its reseller partners can give customers a more personalised service.

"The key thing is our resellers are actually on the ground, on the customers' premises, setting up networks, and understanding how their businesses work, what needs to be done in terms of efficient use of technology," he told ZDNet. "That gives them a huge advantage over a big organisation like Optus that I don't think can get into a business in the same way our resellers can."

OzHosting can take existing Google Apps for Business resellers under its wing, but the hosting provider is more interested in getting resellers that aren't already involved with Apps for Business onboard.

According to an Optus spokesperson, the telco is currently offering Google Apps through business channel partners, retail, direct sales, online, and telesales.

Parallels is OzHosting's technology partner, and its built-in support for application packaging standard (APS) allows OzHosting to configure Google Apps for integration into cloud delivery systems.

While OzHosting has had Microsoft products for a long time, Telstra's exclusive arrangement with the vendor cuts the company out from selling Office 365.

"In the Australian market, the alternative to [Google Apps for Business] is the exclusive deal with Microsoft and Telstra," OzHosting CEO Anthony Banek said. "We can't offer the package of Office 365, so this is the alternative we are offering our clients."

According to Parallel's SMB Cloud Insights for Australia report, only 5 percent of SMBs are currently using paid business applications, so there's plenty of pie to go around for both Optus and OzHosting.

Telsyte analyst Rodney Gedda agreed with this sentiment, and said that both OzHosting and Optus shouldn't be threatened by each other.

With Google killing off its free offering of Google Apps at the end of last year, it's too early to say whether the decision will stifle the uptake of Apps for Business, according to OzHosting.

While Gedda acknowledged that the free version of Google Apps is a great marketing tool to eventually push customers onto paid versions of the offering, he doesn't believe that the scrapping of the free Apps for Business would damage OzHosting's chances with its target market.

"The types of customers these hosting companies go after are typically ones that already use paid apps," he said. "Companies like OzHosting generally didn't build their business on the 'freemium' model, so they are going to take these to customers that are willing to pay."