Searching for a Google UC Strategy
Google’s place in the workspace is growing, and it’s inevitable that the company will play a role in shaping the future of unified communications.
I remember my very first encounter with Google. It was sometime in the very late 1990s when a coworker told me about this new search engine she had just started using. Like most everyone in those early days of the World Wide Web, I was a big Yahoo user and wasn't sure why the world needed another tool to find things on the Internet. After all, if it wasn't broke, why fix it? Well, I soon learned that this beta software with the quirky name (at least I knew what Yahoo meant) produced results that were more relevant to my needs, and within a few days, searching with Yahoo became a thing of the past.
Since then, Google has become a verb, and its reach into my life goes well beyond finding Thai restaurants and SIP documents. I maintain a blog built on Google software, ditched my yahoo.com email for Gmail, watch videos on YouTube, create meetings with Google Calendar, own an Android smart phone, and chat with friends using Hangouts. So, even though I have yet to vacate my Facebook account for Google+, or take a ride in a self-driving Google car, there isn't a day that goes by when my life isn't affected by this company that was birthed in a garage in Menlo Park, California.From Consumer to Business
Google didn't stop at creating products for consumers; since 2007, it has been offering Google Apps for Work as an alternative to the Microsoft dominance in the enterprise space. Combining the functionality of Outlook with the cloud aspects of Office 365, Google Apps for Work is being adopted by the likes of Netflix, Whirlpool, and FedEx. The latest figures I could find show a marketplace penetration of 50 million users in over five million businesses.
For $5 a month, Google Apps for Work provides:
- Business email addresses (email@example.com)
- Video and voice calls
- Integrated online calendars
- 30GB of online storage for file syncing and sharing
- Online text documents, spreadsheets and slides
- Easy to create project sites
- Security and admin controls
For $10 a month, you get all of the above plus the following:
- Unlimited Storage (or 1TB per user if fewer than 5 users)
- Advanced admin controls for Google Drive
- Audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing
- Google Vault for eDiscovery covering emails, chats, docs and files
- Easy search and export to different formats
- Archiving of all emails sent by your company
- Ability to set message retention policies
- Capability to place and enforce litigation holds on inboxes
Google and Unified Communications
Of course, No Jitter readers are undoubtedly looking at Google Apps for Work with a unified communications slant and want to know how Google is cracking that nut. After all, if Google is going after the Microsoft Outlook user, the next logical challenge is Skype for Business.
The first shot across the Microsoft Skype for Business bow came in the form of Google Hangouts and Google Voice. This gave Google users video, chat, and PSTN dialing. However, the current feature set is very limited, and it's extremely unlikely that any business will seriously base their communications on a product that provides the functionality equivalent to a 20-year-old Key System.
Thankfully, an ecosystem of business partners has stepped in to help fill the gaps in the Google unified communications story. Whether it's click-to-call from an email or a tight integration with an Avaya or Cisco desk telephone, there are available partner integrations to turn the Google Key System into a fully functional enterprise communications platform.
In Search of a Google Strategy for UC
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that Enterprise Connect 2016 is only a few short weeks away. In addition to great keynotes by the likes of Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, and yes, Google, EC16 brings a wealth of educational breakout sessions ranging from 45 minutes of deep-in-the-weeds technology to high-level business positioning. Readers of this article may be especially interested in one I am hosting, In Search for a Google Strategy for UC. Organized as a panel discussion, you will hear the thoughts, opinions, and predictions of not only me, but Switch Communications, BroadSoft, Avaya/Esna, Vonage, and RingCentral.
While it's impossible to know where the audience will take the discussion, we hope to address the following:
- What capabilities and features does Google Apps for Work support today and what's on the roadmap?
- What role do companies such as RingCentral, Switch Communications, Avaya, BroadSoft, Vonage, and the other integration partners play in the Apps for Work ecosystem? How are the various solutions similar, and how are they different?
- What are the pros and cons of Apps for Work, and how do those compare to competitive offerings, primarily Microsoft Skype for Business?
- How has Google priced Apps for Work and what are the potential cost benefits?
- What enterprises have adopted Apps for Work, and what lessons learned can they share?
With a subject as big as Google, those questions only scratch the surface, but you have to start somewhere. The 500-pound gorilla in the room is what will be said during Google's Enterprise Connect keynote speech, so be prepared for some fast thinking as the panel and I digest what we heard and how it will play in the unified communications ecosphere.
If you are like me and rely on Google for both work and personal needs, I urge you to attend what I expect to be a lively and informative discussion. Google's place in the workspace is growing, and it's inevitable that the company will play a role in shaping the future of unified communications. This session can be your introduction to Google UC or a chance to ask questions of some of the most informed minds in the business today.
Learn more about UC&C at Enterprise Connect 2016, March 7 to 10, in Orlando, Fla. View the Unified Communications and Collaboration track sessions; register now using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.
Andrew Prokop writes about all things unified communications on his popular blog, SIP Adventures.