Is google’s gmail ready for enterprise use?

Genchi Genbutsu approach for enterprise architect is an apt approach in some cases and this approach is apt for validating the viability of gmail for enterprise use. As a cost saving opportunity, the enterprise email infrastructure is one of the frequently visited area for potential saving  by practical enterprise architects. It is often studied by hiring external infrastructure architect specialist in the email infrastructure area to perform a business case and cost benefit analysis and internal enterprise architects lead that study by providing the necessary internal information. To perform the initial study, generally, it cost enterprise not a negligible money and time.  For an organization of size 10,000 employees, migrating an email infrastructure from Lotus Notes or Outlook to new email infrastructure will take at least 5-6 months (my estimate before I did this project) and requires coordination and training. Before the trigger is pulled to migrate the email infrastructure for cost saving opportunities, the business case and benefit analysis should be strong.

Recently, I lead and managed a team to study the gmail  for enterprise use by following Genchi Genbutsu approach and my results are summarized below.

Team Size: 3
Duration of the project: 6 hours
No. of email users:100
Cost: $5020 ($5000 is refundable if pilot results are concluded as not successful before 30 days)

Steps followed to establish the Google app’s gmail

  1. Tried to use the free gmail for 100 users. Selected 100 users in the organization and tried to create 100 free gmail accounts. Gmail has strong spam protection measures. It didn’t allow to create more than 20 users. gmail is performing lots of user traffic analysis on their side and predicting the creation of multiple users. Even though, we wanted to create  valid gmail viability using 100 legitmate users, google has build intelligence to prevent us creating more ids. Tried quickly to flush the cache in the browser, changed the browser, changed the PCs, changed the sub net still did not work. Google must be analyzing the user traffic by looking into the public ip (ie. web proxy to reach internet cloud) of our network. No customer service or support available for gmail. All the support material are available in the site and forums. No one available to talk to regarding the problem.
  2. Decided to use the google apps gmail to validate it.
  3. Bought new domain from godaddy.com (cost around $10)
  4. Configured the email gate way of the domain in registrar (godaddy.com) site by creating the MX records and setting up the priority. Good documentation available in the google app web site.
  5. In the online, bought 10 ids  from google apps (using google’s checkout)
  6. Used their mass upload of ids to create all 10 ids. CSV file contains the user name, user id, initial password and provision to reset the password after their first login.
  7. All ids were succcesfully created.
  8. Took one id and send and received email.  MX record took around 30-40 minutes to complete the configuration. After 30-40 minutes after the ids were created, we were able to successfully send and receive emails.
  9. Used the same format and added additional 90 ids to the CSV file.
  10. Used google check out to buy additional 90 ids ($4500). Additional 90 ids were not immediately added to the account after successfull completion of the transaction. Waited 40 minutes and tried to reach google check out support. There is no support/help desk number available. No contact information for sales.  I felt, may be, my credit card company is not authorizing the transaction since the amount is considerably large. Called the credit company’s support and found out the transaction didn’t reach the credit card company yet.  Waited for additional 20 minutes and assumed  google checkout is not authorizing consecutive  legitamate transactions in a short time (less than 60 minutes)
  11. Meantime, sent emails to their corporate support email address, google apps support email address, google checkout support email address screaming for “HELP”
  12. Repeated step 3-4 for a different domain and bought 100 ids this time. Transaction was complete and ids were not added to the account.. Got stuck again!!!
  13. Got a call from Google’s check out support. Told them what I wanted and second transaction was cancelled and additional 90 ids were added.
  14. Deleted all 10  ids I used to perform end to end test
  15. Tried to upload the 100 ids at one time.. Failed!!! Tried different combination, removed special character in the password, removed white spaces and few others. Nothing worked and everything FAILED!!!
  16. Tried to upload ONLY new 90 ids at one time. Successful!!!
  17. Once the ids were deleted, it can not be created immediately. It will take 5-7 days to recreate the same id. Strange!!
  18. For those 10 ids, had a different format ‘_’ instead of ‘.’ after the first and last name of the gmail address
  19. Loaded the 10 ids and it worked.
  20. Personalized the first page with company name, logo and etc.

Finding:

  • It took less than 1 hour (once the ID’s are successfully bought) to create all 100 ids.
  • Each id has 25GB mail box size
  • Administrator can manage all users, implement security policy, configure mail relays easily using the gmail console, restrict the traffic and etc
  • Quick training material was developed easily
  • SSL enforcement can be centrally done by the administrator
  • Calendar, docs sharing, chat are part of the gmail
  • It is apt for a small size (less than 1000 employees) company
  • Fast, inexpensive, sufficient email space

Is google’s gmail ready for enterprise (10,000+ employees) use?

Short answer: No

Fuzzy answer: Almost there but not quite yet

Detail Answer:Support is the big concern. I could not talk to any one whenever I had a problem. I understand their support strategy. Provide all necessary information and empower the user to resolve the issues by them self. That is good strategy from google stand point. Not a customer friendly strategy. I had legitimate support issues during the check out and recreating the deleted ids. I had to wait for their support teams mercy whenever I had problem. Google is over analyzing the traffic and stopping the legitimate traffic. I can’t make 10,000+ employees depend on this infrastructure, when there is a problem, we need to wait for mercy of their support team to call us. Here is the screen shot of the 404 error received during the pilot (removed the company logo!!)

 

 gmailerrorConclusion:

Wait for Google’s revised support strategy or ask your 10000+ employees to use free gmail for one or two years for their personal use before you transfer the corporate email infrastructure infrastructure to google app’s gmail.

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