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Google Apps intrigues IT pros, but security fears remain

By Jon Brodkin
July 29, 2010 11:32 AM ET

Network World - Google likes to boast that more than 2 million businesses run Google Apps, but IT pros harbor concerns about security in the cloud and the limited functionality presented by Google tools such as Gmail and Google Docs.

Cloud computing was one of the main topics tackled this week at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in San Diego, but interviews with attendees suggest that Google and other cloud providers have a ways to go in convincing tech pros that their security model is robust.

Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office

Still, the same technology pros are impressed by Google's Web-based collaboration capabilities, even though Google Apps lacks some of the advanced functionality found in Microsoft Office.

"My wife and I use [Google Docs] for everything from budgeting to vacation planning. It actually works great," says Jonathan LaChance, the global network and telecom manager for National Instruments in Austin, Texas.

The ability to collaborate on documents in real time has been useful at work, but LaChance says the limitations of Google Docs become apparent quickly for anyone who needs pivot tables and other specialized spreadsheet functionality.

National Instruments is a Lotus Notes shop when it comes to e-mail, and LaChance himself isn't responsible for the company's e-mail and collaboration systems.

But other IT pros at Catalyst said security concerns related to Gmail would prevent them from moving away from in-house e-mail systems. "There's a lot of good things with Google for our students, but for our faculty and staff, because of security concerns, we've elected to keep it on our own hardware," said Eddie Sorensen, senior director of infrastructure services at Utah Valley University.

Utah Valley is moving from Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Office and Exchange right now. Sorensen says his security concerns are less specific to Google than the cloud in general, and "not having the total comfort with what type of data is going to be out there."

Security questions also seem to be at the heart of delays in a massive Google Apps implementation in the city of Los Angeles, where the police department has expressed concerns about entrusting data to Google.

At Catalyst, one IT pro who works for a major financial services firm but declined to be identified by name in a news story, said Gmail wouldn't fly at his organization because of worries about security.

Brent Starnes, a regional director in Dallas for Logic Trends, a consulting firm in the identity access and management area, said only a few of his company's clients are adopting Google Apps at the moment. Security is the main reason "why we haven't had a lot of momentum," he said. "It's early discussions right now."

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Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2012 Network World, Inc. All rights reserved.
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