Google Gets Enterprising

By Shelley Solheim  |  Posted 2005-12-02

Google Gets Enterprising

Google Inc.s enterprise business may be just a small piece of its expanding empire, but the search giant is aggressively courting corporate customers with a variety of offerings designed to challenge rival Microsoft Corp. for enterprise wallets and desktops.

Google is using 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. It also inked a partnership with IBM to integrate its enterprise desktop search tool into IBMs enterprise search tool.

On top of that, the company launched a promotion to give away its Google Mini search appliances to businesses that deploy its Google Enterprise Search appliance. And finally, the search giant started providing Google Analytics, its hosted Web analytics tool, for free.

Google says it has about 2,500 business search customers, and that number is likely to grow quickly in the coming year.

New Google feature puts advertisers on the line. Click here to read more.

"We see [enterprise search] as a huge growth potential for Google; it is growing 100 percent year on year, and it is very profitable," said Dave Girouard, general manager of Googles enterprise unit, in Mountain View, Calif.

But Google faces a number of obstacles in its enterprise push. IT managers cite concerns about privacy, security and support as the chief reasons for not considering Googles tools for business.

But current users of both Googles search and Web analytics tools say theyre satisfied with Googles support levels and trust Google with their data.

Canadian building product retailer BuildDirect, which has been using Google Analytics for just over 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 increased by 37 percent, and we also were able to reduce by one third our marketing resources," said Brodie.

"We were able to reduce non-performing keywords and focus more on performing keywords, remove search engines that werent converting at all, and identify pages on sites where we saw high drop-off rate and improve stickiness of those pages."

Like other businesses considering Google Analytics, data privacy was an initial concern for BuildDirect.

"Absolutely it was a concern … but since then weve gained a very high level of comfort that they wont use that data. Our feeling is that if they did do that the backlash in PR would be so great that that in of itself is a huge deterrent," said Brodie.

Robert Reneau, senior manager of Web business marketing for National Semiconductor, in Santa Clara, Calif., has been happy with Googles support levels and privacy assurances.

"Theyve been very supportive in responding to any questions or technical inquires," said Reneau, whose company started using Google Analytics a couple months ago.

Next Page: Not everyone trusts Google.

Not Everyone Trusts Google

"We have received assurance from Google that data will be used strictly only for Nationals viewing, and if Google has access to it, it will be very private and they wont share it."

Yet not all businesses are ready to rely on Google for Web analytics.

"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 a hold of someone, it was always a pain," said Brooke Draper, marketing manager for the Sant Corp., Cincinnati, a 40-person company that provides proposal and sales document automation software. The Sant Corp. is currently using Santa Cruz, Calif.-based ClickTracks Inc.s Web analytics tool.

"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."

Microsoft testing its own Google Base. Click here to read more.

Google acknowledges that users may have concerns about privacy, but said that the backbone of its business relies on trust.

"I can understand the concern, but one of the ways to look at this is 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.

Googles business search appliances, which have not gained much of a base in the enterprise, also stir security concerns among some potential customers.

"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 Group, a division of Siemens AG, based 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. Thats really where corporate search engines like Verity have more robust solutions than what Ive seen from Internet search."

Google says it is addressing these issues.

"In that particular area of authentication, weve done a whole lot out of the box," said Girouard. "We have Windows-based authentication forms, single sign on, and weve implemented APIs so that whatever security solution youre using you can quickly integrate it if its not one of those that work out of the box.

"We continue to do more. We recently added client-side certificates, another approach to making sure the right people get access to the right content," Girouard added.

As for services, Google says it provides support for customers, but plans to leave the professional services to third parties.

"We think of support as different from professional services. We have a worldwide support organization, and we support customers when they have questions or issues, but we dont offer professional services.

"Our products are designed to ship out to customers, where they can plug it into the network and get it up and running with no help from us. Thats not the case with most search software."

Click here to read about Google bringing Froogle to your neighborhood.

Girouard continued: "Having said that, were adding more features and capabilities and APIs to allow people to do other things ... weve begun to develop relationships with third parties, and were using our partner program as the vehicle for this."

Some customers say that despite some shortcomings and areas that need attention, Google has made the jump from Web search to enterprise search fairly well.

"Weve been able to take advantage of the fact that theyve done such great job on consumer search and adapt that for what we needed for a business perspective better than what we could do in-house or what weve seen in competitive products," said Terri Lynn Reden, director of corporate communications for PLATO Learning, Inc., in Bloomington, Minn.

PLATO has been using the Google Enterprise Search Appliance for two months to build search into PLATOs Intranet, corporate Web site and customer support site.

Google is already looking ahead at what other areas it can address inside enterprises.

"Inside a company there is a lot of data or information you want that is locked up in different silos … we have an ongoing initiative to expand our reach into those data silos. We have partners adding connections to mainframe systems; we dont believe were going to do it all ourselves," said Girouard.

"There is no question in my mind you could go to guys who have been doing this for years and they have ten to twelve features we dont have," added Girouard.

"But we are very focused on providing one thing, and thats very good quality search results. They might have 20 other features, like taxonomies, that we dont believe add value. Its a different philosophical approach. We want to reshape how people think about this."

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