Come on Google, Answer the Phone (with updates)


2/27/07 1000: I decided to send Google another request today in case my first one wasn’t clear enough: This is my second attempt to contact you. I am the CIO of an organization with 11,000 users. Can someone contact me about the feasibility of migrating from our existing Exchange 5.5 platform.

2/27/07 1030: I received this email from Google after my second contact: We did receive your inquiry… thank you for your interest. Blair Reuling s your point of contact given the size of your organization. Blair is in he field and often traveling, and might be delayed in responding. Please eel free to contact Blair at…

2/28/2007: I phoned the Google enterpise dude 6 or 7 times today and could not reach him in his office or on his mobile phone. I left him a voicemail with a request to contact me so I can give him a bunch of cash. No contact yet. He has n are code in the Chicago suburbs. Maybe we will become best friends and go to White Sox games together – I have opening day tickets. Come on Google, answer my calls.

3/6/2007: Today I had my second conversation with Google – this was a WebEx (yes, Google uses WebEx).  I will create a new post when I have something to report.  But, I can confirm that they answered the phone and they have kept my interest enough for a 3rd meeting.   Of course the thing about meeting with Google is that you know they are going to Google your name.  When they did, this little post popped up.  But, they seemed to take it in stride by accepting my baseball offer below.  Hi Blair.
Original post

This month, for the first time since 1996, I started believing that there may be alternatives to Microsoft Exchange. Recently, Google announced their enterprise offering: Google Apps Premiere Edition for Enterprises.

Since we are the verge of beginning a project to rebuild or email system, I quickly jumped into the Google web site completed a web form telling them that I am the CIO for a $1B+ organization with 11,000 users and I wanted to buy their service. Of course there are no phone numbers posted, which indicates to me that Google has not created an infrastructure for supporting enterprises. They are treating their enterprise customers like their freeloading search and gmail users – here is the offering, don’t call us – ever. That is a good strategy for Aunt Agnes who cant figure out ho to open an attachment from her knitting club, it doesn’t work when you hope to close multi-million dollar deals.

While I waited for a response I started checking out the information Google had posted online. In general, I wanted to know if this would be an enterprise class service.

I got mixed feelings from reading the promotional material. On the one hand they have developed APIs for directory integration, user provisioning and onsite backup (good, good and good). But the information was not very deep and there was not of service to support an enterprise offering. Migrating to an email system would be a massive undertaking and there would have to be a ton of resources to assist us with the planning and testing.

While I applaud Google for including a service level agreement, it really isn’t enterprise class. 99.9% uptime for email is not acceptable in today’s world.

Even the pricing isn’t geared toward the true enterprise user either. $50 per user per year is great for a small company. But it really doesn’t scale to a large organization. At 11,000 users we would be forking over $550,000 a year. I am not sure how much we spend on messaging now, but I suspect it is less than half a million annually. Google’s service does give our users access to documents and spreadsheets, but most users that need Office already have it. This would be the case in most enterprises.

It is 4 days after begging Google to take my half million dollars, and I still have not heard from anyone. Apparently they are processing a backlog of CIOs willing to risk their job on such a venture. I am thinking this is more evidence that there is not a lot of enterprise support and their offering may be more suited to small businesses.

Still, I am very intrigued. I really feel that I have been overcharged by Microsoft for years because they could. So, I am primed for a change. Also, a managed service has a lot of appeal.

In the mean time I have downloaded the latest version of OpenOffice on my home PC. The improvement over the earlier versions that I have tried is remarkable. I can’t imagine why anyone would buy Office for their home when this works exactly the same. Folks, it is a free download (via bittorrent).

Maybe Microsoft’s iron grip is loosening. Maybe Google can get a grip.

I will keep you updated.

Y2K7 Bug

Hopefully you realize that the start of Daylight Savings Time (DST) is changing this year thanks to US Energy Policy Act of 2005. Software vendors have been unbelievably slow to get out software patches to accommodate this. We started seeing bad calendar entries in Outlook/Exchange before we could get all of our servers and desktops patched. Only today did we get a patch for our BlackBerries. This cam in the form of a firmware upgrade, which is difficult to roll-out.

If you haven’t been working your mitigation plan you are behind the 8-ball. I have to recognize our tech team, they have done a fantastic job of analyzing the problem and putting together an appropriate response.

This problem really has not gotten the press play that it deserves. The problem is probably more of a real problem than the Y2K problem, but we are spending less than 1% of the effort to mitigate it. Of course we blew that silly thing so far out of proportion 1% is probably the right level of effort.

I have put together this communication to educate our organizations: Y2K7 Communication to Leaders

I would be curious to learn what others are doing.

Goodbye CHIME

I have decided to let my CHIME membership lapse. I really never got any value out of their discussion groups. There were a lot of operational questions. It really seemed to be more of a service to the vendors and I don’t have time to participate in that.

Furthermore, why would I want to belong to an organization that would have me as a member?

Password Madness

Passwords are such a week security mechanism. It is so typical for people to use one or two passwords for every online account they have. If someone gets that password (perhaps a sysadmin at a web site that you use) they could use it to open all kinds of doors.

Having recognized that, I am not a big fan of web sites that try to prevent that. Today I was reviewing an account I have with GMAC Finance. They require a password with two numeric characters. I cannot imagine anything with two numbers that I can easily remember. Especially at a sit that I visit infrequently.

However, I can top that. Ministry’s Retirement Savings vendor, Diversified Investment Advisors, requires an 8 character user name. What is the sense in that? I can see an 8 character password, but the user name is the part that should be really easy to remember.

In the hospitals we have hundreds of applications. Buying products that plug into our Active Directory authentication scheme is being more and more critical. When you ask your users to remember a lot of complex passwords that change frequently will result in people writing down passwords in places they can find them.