We are in the final stages of completely switching Foundry Group to Google Apps. This began as an experiment in August 2010 when I decided to Try Gmail for a Week and evolved into an actual plan after Gmail Won Me Over in September 2010. We took it slow to make sure it was actually possible to easily switch from a legacy Microsoft Exchange environment where everyone's brains were hard wired with Outlook and Windows and shared calendars managed by multiple assistants were a critical business function for a relatively small number of people who traveled constantly.
It's been a huge success. Oh, and a bunch of Mac's crept into the organization at the same time. I'm now 100% Mac and am amused by myself whenever I try to do something on a Windows machine (after using Windows or DOS for my entire professional life.) And the integration / proliferation with iPhones and iPads is entertainingly sweet.
For all of the success with the migration to Google Apps, there is one very big obvious thing missing. Google doesn't have an enterprise support approach. We are lucky in that we have lots of friends at Google so when we need to do weird things (like — ahem — port my Google Voice number from my Gmail account to my Google Apps account) we are able to find someone to do the magic for us. Or when the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange tool crashes in the middle of the night on a mailbox migration that is 10 hours into its conversion, we can find our way to someone that actually works on this tool who makes some changes to the backend processor that fixes the problem. And, when this happens on another mailbox migration, we can get to them again to help us fix the problem while they debug the tool for our error case.
Now, there is a Google Enterprise Customer and Partner Site and there is plenty of Google Apps enterprise level help on the web. But that's not the issue. At 7am, when the guy doing the migration checks in and sees a error message that says something like "Failure: While migrating Email for email@example.com to Google firstname.lastname@example.org Error:80041065" you kind of want to call 1-800-HELPMERIGHTNOWBEFOREANYONESHOWSUPATTHEOFFICE.
There are nice, well proven pricing models for either (a) per instance support or (b) per user annual support. And, if Google wants to be price disruptive, just charge 10% of whatever Oracle or Microsoft charges. Or be like WordPerfect and charge nothing. But put a real enterprise level support organization behind this with humans to call.
The really cool thing about Google Apps is that once you are migrated, there doesn't seem to be any need for support. I've been using Google Apps for four months and I don't believe I've had a single issue that I couldn't figure out myself. I've seen a number of new features automagically roll out and I've just started using them. Basically, the post conversion / deployment experience has been superb. And, someday, when Google finishes a real single sign on approach between my Gmail and Google Apps account and finishes their migration to their new infrastructure so I can really use things like YouTube on my Apps account without having to log out of apps / log into Gmail / logout of Gmail / log into apps to save stuff, I probably won't even notice that there is any complexity.
Regardless of if and when Google ever gets around to this, I want to thank all of my friends at Google for their help whenever issues came up. You guys are awesome.
Reprinted from Feld Thoughts
Brad Feld is a managing director at Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. He invests in software and Internet companies around the U.S., runs marathons, and reads a lot. Follow him at twitter.com/bfeld.