I was sitting down for a pleasant morning coffee with the boys from WaveAdept, a New Zealand based company that, among other things, is a reseller for Google apps. Our discussion got on to the barriers to adoption for Google apps and specifically what can be done to increase uptake among small businesses.
It’s an area that I spend a lot of time thinking about – primarily because my focus is entirely user-centric, I appreciate the “realities on the ground” for small businesses and realize that they’re busy enough doing the day to day tasks, to not have time to spend being a sysadmin.
Our talk got on to my own situation and I explained what I’d really like – here’s a quick synopsis;
My consulting company, Diversity Limited, uses Google apps (email, docs, calender etc) with Google hosting our domain. It works pretty well for us and we’ve got no real issues with this part.
Another one of my businesses, Cactus Climbing, uses another cloud email hosting service, but also makes significant use of Google for documents and calenders. We have a dozen or so individual calenders – set up by various people, some under standard Gmail accounts, some under Google apps accounts and some shared from external calendar applications.
We’ve got hundreds of documents that are shared across multiple scenarios, resulting in approximately 15 sharing scenarios – some internal, some external and some mixed.
Add to that the fact that I have an independent Google account with which I use Google reader, Google groups and Google Wave which, as an aside and quite bizarrely, is not yet supported for hosted domains.
So you’ll see there’s quite a degree of complexity there – the ideal way to reduce the complexity? Move the Cactus Climbing email through to Google hosted domains, do some smart things with domain aliases to allow one account to be integrated with the other, ensure all mail is held in the primary account and so likewise with all the various documents and calendars – all the while ensuring that the various sharing, permissioning and authentication scenarios are seamlessly copied.
Yes all this stuff is do-able but it requires a reasonable amount of time and drudgery – on one end there are all the MX changes and aliases to be set up, on the other there is the not insignificant task of potentially moving years worth of email, documents and calendars from one place to another.
So what do I want? WYSIWYG, pure and simple. I want to be able to link a Google account to another, once this linking has occurred I want Google to understand that they are cross-authenticated. I then want to go to an overall dashboard in which I can visually see the various Google services across all my different accounts. I then want to be able to drag and drop services – I want my reader account linked to my hosted domain one? Drag and drop and it’s done. I want my Diversity email to become an alias of my Cactus account? Drag and drop and it’s done. I want all my documents and calendars to be accessible from my primary log in? Drag and drop and it’s done.
I’ve reviewed a number of enterprise level authentication and permissioning services that tie Google apps to LDAP and provide for overall control of this side of things. What I’m seeking is little more than a SMB flavored version of the above. I don’t care if it comes from Google or from a third party provider – but I just want it.
So there ya go… (oh and if anyone thinks they can solve my conundrum with minimal input from me, feel free to drop me a line).
Addenda – One of my issues (bugbears if you will) was the fact that my Reader account was linked to a Gmail account I set up simply in order to have the Google Reader service. Team WaveAdept told me in a couple of easy steps how to disable that Gmail account and “link” Reader to my primary Google apps account – and yes, it was easy. But if I’m a long-term and reasonably tech savvy user of Google apps and I can’t find stuff, how hard is it going to be for the mass market. 2010 to be Google’s year of the enterprise? These are issues that need sorting if that prophesy is to eventuate.