Heading into 2011, Community IT Innovators had high hopes and expectations for what Google Apps could mean for non-profit organizations. Google waives the already modest $50/user annual fee for any qualifying non-profit with less than 3000 staff. (As we later learned, qualifying can become a not-so-trivial factor in process of “Going Google”.)
The Google concept is compelling: reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) For those of you unfamiliar with TCO, it is meant to capture the entire cost of an IT system. TCO is comprised of not only the initial costs of deployment (hardware, software, labor), but also the ongoing costs for maintaining a system (which could include replacement parts, support contracts and labor, training, lost productivity, etc.)
When planning for technology, organizations need to look at the Total Cost of Owning the technology. This provides a fuller understanding of how much ROI (Return on Investment) an organization can expect to gain from their IT, because it captures the full range of the investment.
The basic premise of the Google Cloud is that the current approach to Information Technology (IT) is unnecessarily costly, and that by Going Google, organizations can dramatically reduce their TCO. There are other reasons to Go Google, such as added features and functionality. As we will see in future blog posts, the functionality benefits can be marginal, by comparison.
How does Google lower TCO?
The most obvious savings are with the data hosting itself. It can be expensive for a small organization to build a server farm sufficiently complex for hosting email, files and domain information. Furthermore, the data security and disaster recovery are often minimal or even non-existent. Google, on the other hand, has vast server resources that can be easily leveraged for small organizations. Through massive economies of scale, non-profits can store their data in SAS-70 certified data centers at no cost. This represents savings on the order of $10k-$100k for most organizations.
There are also savings at the other end of the technology chain. Significant resources are spent maintaining end-user workstations. The equipment itself is expensive, as is the software. Even for non-profit organizations which can obtain donated software from Microsoft and Symantec through TechSoup Stock, someone has to install it and maintain it over time. For organizations that fully embrace the Google approach, the expensive workstation can be replaced by a low-cost Chromebook. For $20/mo, end-users have access to a browser which, if you’ve gone completely Google, is sufficient for everything you need to do.
Finally, managing and maintaining a Microsoft Windows-based server environment (or any Microsoft product for that matter), can be complicated and require extensive training and time. Google has attempted to simplify this task through an improved user interface and simplified information architecture.
This is the theory, at least. And it is a compelling concept. Move your data into a massively leveraged secure cloud, and reduce your end-point device footprint so that it effectively becomes maintenance free. And, finally, simplify your information systems so that they become simple and easy to manage. With these 3 elements in place, organizations can reduce their TCO in dramatic ways.
How well does Google deliver on this promise?