Much discussion has centred around on-demand apps being primarily for smaller businesses. Many enterprise folks like to remind that Microsoft is still premier in their organisation. Interesting to read about the largest implementation of Gmail in the world.
Google has secured the deal to provide for 1.5 million students at Australian schools, and replaced it with Gmail. The cost savings are pretty persuasive – apparently the Microsoft deal involved a AU$33 million contract and took four years to go live. The Google rollout is planned to cost just $9.5 million and should be live by the end of 2008.
Over on GigaOm, Om has a little rant about the seeming performance issues with Gmail. Om complains about apparent disappearing emails and system hangs. He also moans about the lack of support.
On his first list of complaints it needs to be said that Gmail is relying on a few chain links to remain unbroken – more so than with a traditional email app this is somewhat helped by having the client and the ISP rolled into one – it’s also a case that when email mysteriously doesn’t show up it’s easy to blame the application and not user error or other issues. I’ve used Gmail almost exclusively for what seems like eons and I find it pretty much 100% robust.
As to Om’s second comment about the dearth of support – it’s hard not to bring up that old Latin term Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware. Gmail is free, free services tend to have a lower level of support than their paid counterparts – while I’m the first to discuss the need for providers of free solutions to be up-front about their support provision – it is also incumbent upon the users of free apps to do their own due diligence.
I think the Gmail deal in Australia is a good thing – it’ll be a good test for Gmail, no doubt sort out some of their processes and increase the awareness of web apps.
At the end of the day – every service has pros and cons – I’m still firmly in the camp that believes that Google’s pros outweigh their cons.
I’m not convinced about the quality of support in ‘non-free’ apps, or whether its worth the price of admission. Many times I have found bugs in expensive applications, recorded the bug in the proper place, got a ticket, waited, hardly ever got a phone call, and most often been told the problem will be fixed in the ‘next’ release. And that always seemed to mean it may or may not be fixed at some time in the future.
The problem with (non-SaaS) software is fixing any bugs is normally a pretty hard process, so support is only really useful for UI or training issues, which most times can be sorted by RTFM, or getting some geek to do it for you.