I was recently charged for a second year’s subscription to the Premier Edition of Google Apps and that event brought me to a meandering consideration if the punch is still worth the purchase price.
I have been a big fan of Google Apps, but business and expectation must always move forward and in looking back at year one on Google Apps, there are some stinging disappointments and some hoped-for future fixes.
My biggest complaint is sometimes email goes missing. I know I sent a reply but it never shows up on the other end. Sometimes people send me important documents that never arrive. Those messages are not caught in my severe Spam filters — I check and clean them daily — they just never arrive. Since email is the basis of my Boles University enterprise, it stings when silence fills niches instead of sent information.
I also live by — and die for — the Calendar App and it regularly barfs on me with error messages. I have lost days of work and appointments due to timeouts and “loading” times that can take all day. One day my calendar server completely died and when I contacted Google for a fix, they fixed it, but they didn’t explain why they didn’t catch the server failure until my data was forever lost. The arrogance of the Google support reply left a bitter aftertaste because the person I was trying to convince of my point: If Google monitors server health and sees a server is failing, they should proactively move that server out of live rotation instead of waiting for it to irreparably fail — was purposefully misconstruing my argument. Experiences like that breed hatred and despise for a product.
Google Docs is also unreliable. It is tempting to move all your local Docs to the Google cloud, but I often get timeouts and errors that make serious use of the product an exercise in whimsy and not one of business practicality. There’s nothing worse then working on deadline and having an unpredictable and unreliable product like Google Docs deciding if you sink or swim based on the behavior of their servers. I have one Doc I edited “offline” and even thought I’ve edited it several times “online” the file is still pocked with the “edited offline” label that just won’t go away. If that is a design choice — it makes no sense. If it’s a mistake, it needs to be fixed.
Finally, the Sites product is entirely wanting. It could be a great collaboration competitor for Basecamp but it is really only built for children and ponies and not serious business work. Sites is not a comprehensive Wiki product even though it could be based on its provenance. The promise is there, but entirely undelivered.
Google Apps is still a great idea, but it must begin to exponentially grow with the ongoing needs of an expanding business community.
We should also get much more specialized features on the Premier Edition than we do because we pay so much more but get so little in exchange. We should have 100% more features than the .EDU or free versions. We do not. That basic fact must change if Google ever hopes to rope us in to future years of paid service.