Read the fine print of Google Office

  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.

 

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.