When Paul Driscoll, IT manager at construction industry services provider Erith, decided to pilot Google’s online email and desktop applications, the project was met with ambivalence from many employees.
But when, in September 2006, a bonfire lit on land adjacent to the company’s headquarters got out of control, burning Erith’s office and everything in it to a crisp, the decision proved prescient.
The fire, started innocently by a neighbouring business, grew even more disastrous when it came into contact with some illegally stored oxy-acetylene containers, one of which torpedoed Erith’s boardroom. The company’s server room and is contents was utterly obliterated.
Those employees with Internet hosted and delivered Google Apps could let their customers know that they were still in business, which proved invaluable for the company. “Google Apps saved us a lot of money,” recalls Driscoll.
And it has continued to do so since that time. By reducing the need for servers, licences and email management software, the move to Google Apps has saved the company £20,000 a year over three years, Driscoll says.
The majority of the cost saving has come from the replacement of Microsoft’s Exchange email software server, explains Driscoll, and employees still use the Office desktop application range. They occasionally use Google Docs, the online equivalent included in the Google Apps bundle, for its collaboration properties but it is an inferior product in Driscoll’s estimation. “I wouldn’t pay for Google Docs on its own at the moment,” he says.
In fact, while many speakers recommended software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications as a way to lower the capital cost of IT, not all attendees at the IT for the M Business conference had positive experiences to recount.““We signed up for a SaaS HR package,” explained one. “We’ve saved a lot of money, but the application itself is crap. We can’t change it to our needs, because we don’t have ownership of the code; it’s their application not ours. We’re a starting to regret going down the SaaS route.”
Nevertheless, Erith’s experiences demonstrate two powerful drivers for SaaS – reduced cost and built-in disaster recovery.