Paying Google, but what about trust?

The announcement of new storage pricing by Google has certainly set off a flurry of chatter. Zoli Erdos doesn't think it's a rip off, while Larry Dignan is more than a little confused.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

The announcement of new storage pricing by Google has certainly set off a flurry of chatter. Zoli Erdos doesn't think it's a rip off, while Larry Dignan is more than a little confused. Earlier in the year, Jeremiah Owyang took the polemic view, asserting that:

Online Data Storage will be similar to ‘free checking’, some web companies will offer online data storage as an additional ‘value add’ service. This model will start at the consumer level, move into small business, then elements will climb into larger business segments. It’s unlikely in my mind this will happen for all storage, some data is way too valuable to be released, profiled or shared.

Whether we end up paying for storage or the providers pay us is a moot point but certainly one worth pursuing. Last week for instance, in discussing the relative merits of GMail and Notes, IBM knowledge management expert Luis Suarez said to me that he would not trust Google with his data when there is a secure, controlled alternative. At first glance, Google's statements on email privacy seem unequivocal:

1. Is Google reading my email? No. Google scans the text of Gmail messages in order to filter spam and detect viruses, just as all major webmail services do. Google also uses this scanning technology to deliver targeted text ads and other related information. This is completely automated and involves no humans.

2. Will my Gmail messages appear in Google search results? No, the contents of your email will never be included as Google search results.

3. What does Google do with my personal data? Google uses this information to provide you a reliable service. Google does not share or reveal email content or personal information with third parties, other than in certain exceptions dictated by the law and common sense.

This is not a new debate but as far as I can tell, there has been no substantial update to those terms since 2004. Since then, Google's algorithms have become more powerful and Google's business has become a lot more complex. While humans many not be reading my email, Google machines most certainly are parsing every bit and byte. That sounds to me like my 'data' has become 'information' and it is the contextual link that makes my data valuable - to someone. If I'm an enterprise CIO, that has significant potential consequences in a SOX driven world.

Google thinks that its recent acquisition of Postini will quell people's fears, especially in enterprise land. Commenting on the acquisition, Larry Dignan said:

Postini provides services–encryption, policy enforcement and archiving–to secure Web-based communication such as instant messaging and email. In other words, Postini complements Google as it tries to get enterprises to use Google Apps...[which includes GMail]

With Postini, as well as its recent partnership with Salesforce, it’s clear that Google sees itself as an on-demand enterprise applications provider. The big question is whether enterprises will see Google that way.

I don't know though the thought leaves me vaguely queasy. I can see plenty of SMBs not caring less and being lured by Google's convenience and predatory pricing or taking on alternative services like Zoho Office suite. But for enterprise scale businesses? I can imagine significant skepticism. Interestingly, this was NOT a topic of discussion among the Enteprise Irregulars Google Group when we talked about the new pricing implications and possible alternatives. I can however imagine that the first time there is a sniff of a genuine enterprise deal, this story will take on a fresh flavor.

In the meantime, I'm not taking too many chances. I've just paid $200 for a 500GB USB drive from LaCie. via eBay.

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