Google Inc.s enterprise business may be just a small piece of its expanding empire, but the search company is aggressively courting corporate customers with a variety of offerings designed to challenge rival Microsoft Corp. for enterprise wallets and desktops.
Google is leveraging time-tested methods of breaking into the enterprise, including the use of partners and deep discounts. The company this fall launched a partner program for system integrators and ISVs to extend Googles enterprise search tools; inked a partnership with IBM to integrate Googles enterprise desktop search tool into IBMs enterprise search tool; launched a promotion to give away its Google Mini search appliances to businesses that deploy its Google Search Appliance; and started providing Google Analytics, its hosted Web analytics tool, free.
Google says it has about 2,500 business search customers, a number that is likely to grow quickly in the coming year, according to analysts.
But Google, of Mountain View, Calif., faces a number of obstacles to its enterprise push. IT managers cite concerns about privacy, security and support as the chief reasons for not considering Googles tools for business. Current users of both Googles search and analytics tools, however, say theyre satisfied with Googles support levels and trust the company with their data.
Canadian building product retailer BuildDirect, which has been using Google Analytics for more than a year, realized immediate benefits from the tool, according to Dan Brodie, director of operations for BuildDirect, in Vancouver, British Columbia.
"Within the first three months that we implemented it, we saw online sales increase by 50 percent, overall conversion rates increase by 37 percent, and we also were able to reduce by one-third our marketing resources," said Brodie. Data privacy was an initial concern for BuildDirect. "But, since then, weve gained a very high level of comfort that they wont use that data," he said.
Not all businesses are ready to rely on Google for Web analytics—or anything else.
"Having worked with AdWords with Google, although we get decent traffic and leads, there is always a concern about support. If we needed to get ahold of someone, it was always a pain," said Brooke Draper, marketing manager for The Sant Corp., a 40-person company that provides proposal and sales document automation software, in Cincinnati. "And just the idea of working with an analytics tool coming from Google, it seems like there is a conflict of interest. Im not all that comfortable with importing some of the data from some of our pay-per-click campaigns."
Google officials acknowledge users concerns about privacy but say trust is the backbone of the companys business.
"I can understand the concern, but one of the ways to look at this is [that] Google has a trust relationship with consumers and advertisers. The value we provide is based on that trust. If we abuse that trust to the consumer or advertiser, we would rapidly lose them as customers," said Richard Holden, director of product management at Google.
As for Googles business search appliances, some users expressed concerns about security and support.
"As you tap into a lot of enterprise systems, there are a lot of security layers that have to be honored," said Paul Stewart, manager of business process engineering for Siemens Power Generation, a division of Siemens AG, in Munich, Germany. "A lot of systems have access controls, and you have to have the mechanisms to honor those and only let the right people access those."
Google says it is addressing these issues with Windows-based authentication, single sign-on and APIs to connect with existing security products. For all of Googles progress in the enterprise, Google officials acknowledge that the company still has plenty of work ahead of it.
"We have an ongoing initiative to expand our reach into data silos. We have partners adding connections to mainframe systems; we dont believe were going to do it all ourselves," said Dave Girouard, general manager of Googles enterprise unit.