Is it time for Google as a business platform?

Microsoft has dominated the enterprise space, but it may be time for a new player to make its mark. Matthew David explains why it's time to consider Google as a business platform.

For the past 20 years, Microsoft has dominated the enterprise with Windows, Office and enterprise tools, such as SharePoint Server, SQL Server and Exchange Server. But is it time for a new player in the enterprise field?

The maturing of two technologies is changing the perceived notion that only Microsoft can provide enterprise offerings: Mobile and cloud make it increasingly easier to run office tools on any device. It is now time to consider using Google as a business platform.

In fact, consumers have already made the switch. More than 1 billion people have Google accounts accessing email, calendar and office tools; more than 1.4 billion people are actively using Android, Google's mobile operating system. In countries such as China, more than 90% of all smartphones run Android.

The revolution of the smartphone precipitated the first consumer technology drive in the enterprise. More than 70% of Americans have a smartphone. In 2014, 200 million people in India bought their first smartphone and, according to Ericsson, 6 billion people will have smart mobile devices by 2020. Android powers 80% of these devices. The bottom line is that Android devices are already being used in companies worldwide.

Securing Android in the enterprise

Android has received a lot of press regarding malware and viruses. How do you secure against this? There is no room for insecure platforms, and using Google as a business platform raises some security concerns.

The path for securing Android has a focus on a new technology introduced to Android Lollipop 5.1, called Android for Work. Android for Work -- now a full part of Android Marshmallow 6.0 -- is an enterprise-specific architecture that secures the Android device through some of the following actions:

  • Android for Work encrypts the whole device.
  • Android for Work provides a clear separation of corporate and personal data.
  • Companies can control which apps are installed in the Android for Work profile on the device.
  • Apps can be distributed from Google Play, giving companies access to Google's tools for effective global distribution.

The biggest challenge Android for Work addresses is the mixing of personal and professional data on devices. Today, most mobile device management (MDM) offerings will give IT access to wiping a whole device. MDM opens organizations up to potential prosecution if personal data, such as personal photos, is deleted. Android for Work gives IT a scalpel to control data on a mobile device.

An alternative to Office 365

A smartphone or tablet is only one part of the enterprise equation -- the second is productivity tools, such as Office, email and calendar. The argument for an on-premises email system rests on the cost of the support team. However, because Microsoft has moved its productivity tools to the cloud with Office 365, now is the time to consider switching to the cloud.

But do you just go with Microsoft?

Google is pushing hard with its suite of tools, called Google Apps. Essentially, Google Apps is the same as Office 365: It gives you email, calendar, contacts and document creation, as well as additional tools -- such as Hangouts, video streaming services, and access to hundreds of third-party apps and extensions. The default tools run in a modern browser, but there are native apps for smart devices.

Two features separate Google Docs from Microsoft Office 365. First, the price: Google Docs is a third of the price of Office 365. The second is collaboration: Google builds every tool around collaboration. For instance, consider working on a slideshow and having two or more people edit the slides as you work on the same deck, with updates being pushed in real time among all the editors. Collaboration is critical in a world with globally dispersed teams. It is stunning to see the increase in productivity when teams can work simultaneously on the same files.

At the end of the day, there is no choice. Corporations already support Android, albeit indirectly, but it has already happened. Unlike Windows, which runs on cost-prohibitive computers, a smartphone is very cheap. In fact, Amazon is now selling some Android-powered devices for the price of a tank of gas. Cheap technology is leading the way to a multi-platform world, where IT must support iOS, Windows and Android. And in a mobile-first world, there may be locations where IT will support only iOS and Android as a business platform.

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