Google has launched a new incentive program for businesses that are on the fence about migrating to the company's suite of productivity apps.
Starting this week, Google will let any business that has an existing enterprise agreement with another software vendor try out Google Apps for free for the remainder of their contracts.
The company will also contribute to the deployment costs and put enterprises that need help in touch with Google for Work Partners, Rich Rao, head of global sales, Google Apps for Work announced Oct. 19.
"Once your current EA [enterprise agreement] is up, we offer a simple contract with no traps or gotchas," Rao said in a blog posting. For a lot of businesses, moving to Google Apps is cheaper than alternatives, he said. "Our estimates suggest that businesses with basic EAs and no dependencies can potentially unlock savings of up to 70% by switching to Google Apps for Work," he said.
The Google incentive program comes with a couple of caveats. Organizations can sign up to a maximum of 3,000 users for free under the program with a cap of $25 per user. Enterprises also have to commit to one year of Google Apps at the end of their existing enterprise agreement with their current vendor.
Google's incentive program appears to be a response to reports showing that Microsoft is surging ahead of the company in the market for cloud email and productivity apps. According to a recent cloud adoption report by security vendor BitGlass, Microsoft's Office 365 currently holds a 25.2 percent share of the enterprise market, compared with Google's 22.8 percent.
While that might suggest a tight race between the two companies, Microsoft has grown much faster than Google in the past 12 months in the market for cloud productivity applications. BitGlass' report shows that Microsoft tripled its market share from 7.7 percent last year to its present 25.2 percent share while Google Apps' share grew more modestly from 16.3 percent to its current 22.8 percent.
"The global report shows a dramatic coup by Microsoft Office 365 (O365), which overtook Google for the lead in cloud email and productivity since last year's report," BitGlass explained in its report. According to the vendor, some 48 percent of enterprises, and nearly 60 percent of companies with more than 1,000 employees, currently use cloud-based productivity and email apps.
Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst at Constellation Research, described Google's program as likely of interest to those looking to switch to Google from a competitive suite. "This program could provide the incentive to start their testing now, rather that waiting until the end of their existing [enterprise license agreement]," he said.
Though Google claims to have more than 600 customers with 10,000 or more employees, this particular offer is geared more toward smaller companies, Lepofsky added. "With a cap of 3,000 users, this offer is aimed at the medium business market," where it is important for Google to remain in the vendor-selection process.
"Licensing is always a tricky part of vendor selection, as companies should choose based on usability of the vendor's current product, faith in their roadmap, and size of the partner ecosystem." Lepofsky said. "Licensing discounts from one vendor can be a leverage point for contract negotiations with existing vendors."
Jim Nielsen, manager of enterprise technology planning at carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries, a Google Apps customer, said the incentive program could help organizations that have been reluctant to move away from Microsoft to at least test-drive Google Apps.
"Organizations that are a little bit more open to future possibilities and can believe in a world without Microsoft could take advantage of this and see this as an opportunity," to try something new, Nielsen said.
Businesses that can get past the difference in interfaces between Microsoft and Google have an opportunity to reduce costs by switching to Google Apps, Nielsen said. For instance, when Shaw industries was looking to move away from its legacy Lotus Notes platform to a new productivity suite, the company analyzed projected costs over a 10-year period. It found Google Apps to be about 13 times cheaper than Office 365, Nielsen claimed.
As a result, Shaw Industries has migrated more than 11,000 employees from Notes to Google Apps and enabled access to the suite for another 12,000 line workers in the past few years, he said.