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At Foundry Group, we have now completely switched to Google Apps. This started in August when I decided to Try Gmail For A Week. Five months later I am ready to declare this experiment a complete success.
As every day passes, I find a new magic happy thing that ties my life together better. Today it was Google rolling out a bookmark importer for Delicious. Amy and I have been heavy delicious users, although I stopped a while ago when it was uncertain what delicious’ future was. Amy kept asking me what the long term solution was now that we are on Google Apps – it turns out that the answer is “import your Delicious tags into Google Bookmark and keep on going.”
About once a week I’m stymied by something, but the +1 each day nets out to +6 for the week. That’s fine for me – I figure out a work around and usually, voila, as if the $GOOG could read my mind, the thing that didn’t work right or didn’t exist suddenly appears.
Yesterday’s magic was finally connecting up my Youtube account (which was connected to my personal Gmail account) to my Google Apps account. Ahem – it did exactly what I wanted it to and now my Youtube life is smooth and happy again.
And even when I publicly criticize Google, they react amazingly well. A month ago I wrote a post titled Time For Google To Get Serious About Enterprise Tech Support. Within an hour of it going up, I got an email and a call from the head of Google Enterprise support. We talked through the issues, he acknowledged certain weaknesses, talked about what they were doing to improve things, and listened carefully to my very specific feedback on a few things. He connected up with our IT guy (Ross) and they spent some time going through our experiences. Again, he listened to the feedback. And we’ve seen real improvements based on what we told them. Oh, and now that we are through the migration, we almost never need support.
If anyone still doubts Google’s intention in the enterprise, you shouldn’t. Count me impressed.
We are in the final stages of completely switching Foundry Group to Google Apps. This began as an experiment in August 2010 when I decided to Try Gmail for a Week and evolved into an actual plan after Gmail Won Me Over in September 2010. We took it slow to make sure it was actually possible to easily switch from a legacy Microsoft Exchange environment where everyone’s brains were hard wired with Outlook and Windows and shared calendars managed by multiple assistants were a critical business function for a relatively small number of people who travelled constantly.
It’s been a huge success. Oh, and a bunch of Mac’s crept into the organization at the same time. I’m now 100% Mac and am amused by myself whenever I try to do something on a Windows machine (after using Windows or DOS for my entire professional life.) And the integration / proliferation with iPhones and iPads is entertainingly sweet.
For all of the success with the migration to Google Apps, there is one very big obvious thing missing. Google doesn’t have an enterprise support approach. We are lucky in that we have lots of friends at Google so when we need to do weird things (like – ahem – port my Google Voice number from my Gmail account to my Google Apps account) we are able to find someone to do the magic for us. Or when the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange tool crashes in the middle of the night on a mailbox migration that is 10 hours into its conversion, we can find our way to someone that actually works on this tool who makes some changes to the backend processor that fixes the problem. And, when this happens on another mailbox migration, we can get to them again to help us fix the problem while they debug the tool for our error case.
Now, there is a Google Enterprise Customer and Partner Site and there is plenty of Google Apps enterprise level help on the web. But that’s not the issue. At 7am, when the guy doing the migration checks in and sees a error message that says something like “Failure: While migrating Email for email@example.com to Google firstname.lastname@example.org Error:80041065″ you kind of want to call 1-800-HELPMERIGHTNOWBEFOREANYONESHOWSUPATTHEOFFICE.
There are nice, well proven pricing models for either (a) per instance support or (b) per user annual support. And, if Google wants to be price disruptive, just charge 10% of whatever Oracle or Microsoft charges. Or be like WordPerfect and charge nothing. But put a real enterprise level support organization behind this with humans to call.
The really cool thing about Google Apps is that once you are migrated, there doesn’t seem to be any need for support. I’ve been using Google Apps for four months and I don’t believe I’ve had a single issue that I couldn’t figure out myself. I’ve seen a number of new features automagically roll out and I’ve just started using them. Basically, the post conversion / deployment experience has been superb. And, someday, when Google finishes a real single sign on approach between my Gmail and Google Apps account and finishes their migration to their new infrastructure so I can really use things like Youtube on my Apps account without having to log out of apps / log into gmail / logout of gmail / log into apps to save stuff, I probably won’t even notice that there is any complexity.
Regardless of if and when Google ever gets around to this, I want to thank all of my friends at Google for their help whenever issues came up. You guys are awesome.
About a month ago I wrote a post titled Trying Gmail For A Week. I haven’t thought about Outlook, Entourage, or Mac Mail for a month and I don’t think I’m ever going back. It took about a week to rewire my brain for how conversations worked and what the keyboard shortcuts were, but not that I’m there it’s just awesome.
A few weeks ago Fred Wilson wrote a post titled Inbox Zero. In it he mentioned two Gmail services he found indispensable – Priority Inbox (from Google) and Unsubscribe.com (from James Siminoff who created Phonetag, another great service.) I agree with Fred on both of these, but have discovered a few extra things that are killer. I’ll list them below and for balance talk about a few shortcomings.
Priority Inbox: I’ve seen numerous tweets and blogs about how Priority Inbox doesn’t really do much. These are wrong / misinformed reactions. The trick to Priority Inbox, like many other things, is to actually use it for a few weeks. Part of using it is training it by quickly marking things up to “important” (by clicking +) or down to “everything else” (by clicking -). A small configuration change can make Starred emails (for quick follow up) a different category. I found that it only took about three days of this before I saw benefit and now (a month later) Priority Inbox gets it right 99 out of 100 times. I get over 500 emails a day – there is a long list of them that fall in “Everything Else”. I used to have to check / clear email obsessively throughout the day to stay at Inbox Zero. With Priority Inbox I’m finding solid email stretches a couple of times during the day are more than enough for me to stay on top of everything.
Unsubscribe.com: Like many people, I’m stuck in the endless “unsubscribe from email lists” infinite loop. I get vigilant for a few days and do the annoying unsubscribe drill one by one and knock a few off the list, but within a few weeks I’ve got even more. I’ve never seemed to be able to eliminate all the stuff I don’t want, especially around an election when it all escalates like crazy. With Unsubscribe.com, I simply click the Unsubscribe button in Gmail and the service gets rid of it. Don’t bother with the trial – trust me and just pay $19 for the service for a year if endless mailing list email that you don’t want is a problem for you.
Google Voice: I’ve had a Google Voice for a long time but I never fully switched over to it. The Google Voice integration with Gmail has tipped me over. I’ve been dreaming about getting rid of my desktop phone for a while – I now find myself almost exclusively doing every call from my computer except when I’m not online (where I have to use my cell phone.) More importantly, video chat and text chat is completely integrated within Gmail so from one screen I have email, my phone (inbound and outbound calling) Skype-equivalent video chat, and text chat. While I still use Skype extensively (I’m bradfeld) I find I’m using it much less as I end up using email@example.com instead.
Gist: I’m an investor in Gist and use it for my unified contact manager. Google Contacts is ok, but has a long way to go. But Gist integration with Gmail at a data level is superb. I’m still using Gmail’s consumer service so the integration is primarily at a data level, but I’m now playing around with a full switch over to Google Apps and the Gist + Google Apps integration (via the Google Apps Marketplace) just rocks. In addition, there’s a new browser-based Gist add-on coming out shortly (hint hint) that will provide direct integration into the consumer version of Gmail.
GooTasks: Since I am an Inbox Zero guy, I don’t keep anything (including paper), but I do have a short task lists of things like blog posts I’m going to write. I went through an Evernote phase recently but it’s overkill for me. Google Tasks is perfect, but I didn’t have an obvious way to sync with my iPhone. Now I do.
There are a handful of annoying things. The biggest one is that I have multiple accounts on Google (firstname.lastname@example.org as well as email@example.com) and they aren’t tightly integrated across all services. The other is the weak / inconsistent iPhone integration which keeps pushing me toward using an Android phone full time (I’m now carrying both an Android phone and an iPhone.) My dad’s recent story on the Samsung Fascinate has me seriously considering a full time switch over to Android.
My “while I’m working” migration from a full Windows / Outlook / Exchange / Office world to an almost completely non-Microsoft world has been fascinating. I’m in Seattle next week including a 24 hour stretch at Microsoft for some stuff – maybe it’ll come up and be an interesting discussion that my friends at Microsoft can learn from. In the mean time, I think the next big switch will be an organization one completely over to a Google Apps infrastructure.
Now that my Apple and Google experiments have been huge successes, I thought I’d try an Android phone one more time. I like my iPhone 4, but it’s pretty weak with all the Google apps. Specifically, I badly want better contact integration, clean email sync, and Google voice. Plus, AT&T still blows in Boulder.
Any suggestions out there for the “best Android out there today.” I was using a Sprint EVO for a while (and liked it a lot) until it was stolen by my assistant Kelly. So, I open to any choice – suggest away.
Today I concluded that my Gmail experiment is working nicely. In addition, we figured out (thanks to Dave Michels) how to wire up feld.com to Google Apps without breaking all the other feld.com users that are being served of an Exchange server. So, breaking rule #1 of all migrations, Ross and I flipped the switch at the end of the day to have my mail end up in my Google Apps account (via feld.com) rather than my Gmail account (via firstname.lastname@example.org).
All of my mail flows nicely. You can send email to email@example.com and it shows up in the right place. That was good.
But, I hadn’t thought through all my other Google services that are tied to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contacts was “so-so” – Export/Import but it still feels a little messed up and I can’t figure out why. But Docs seems like a totally parallel universe, as does Profiles. And I’ve got a bunch of other services that I use (e.g. Bookmarks, YouTube) that I don’t really feel like having two accounts for.
I searched around for an easy way to “move my email@example.com account over to firstname.lastname@example.org in Google Apps.” There are some mediocre help suggestions about migrating individual services, but nothing that just solved it.
Am I missing something obvious, or is this a non-trivial thing to do.