Breaking Google Drive's corporate scepticism

Google Drive's launch has been greeted with some scepticism in the enterprise sector but one Australian CIO likes what he sees.

With Google entering the cloud storage wars through Google Drive, CIOs are now spoiled for choice when it comes to finding the right cloud storage solution. The trick of course is to find the product that gives them the best balance of providing easy access to employees without compromising control. This juggling act between access and control lies at the heart of how enterprises are evaluating services like Drive and its more established rivals – Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud.

The long awaited release of Google Drive was welcomed with a healthy dose of scepticism with analysts and potential users raising the red flag about the privacy of data. Drive falls under Google’s overall terms-of-service agreement, which has plenty of critics, and allows the internet giant to view and use all customer content for its own purposes. Many CIOs have understandable reservations on that front, although allowing a third party to take a peek at your data is pretty much standard practice when it comes to using cloud storage solutions.                                  

Another potential headache is the fact that Google Drive is buggy, especially if you are a Mac user, but Windows users have also experienced difficulties, ranging from lost data to slow sync times. 

A reference to these potential problems was made during the launch of Drive with rival cloud storage provider SygarSync’s director of Robb Henshaw telling PCWorld  that average users will have trouble with Drive’s requirement “for users to convert their files into the Google Docs format if they want to work on their files.”

Almost every product that hits the market comes with certain peculiarities and bugs that are ironed out over time. No one is immune from this phenomenon - not Google, Microsoft (remember the Vista nightmare) nor Apple - and I don’t think it will make or break the fate of Drive as far as enterprises are concerned.

The real challenge for CIOs is to ensure that employees aren’t going behind their back and looking to sync their Gmail account or GoogleDocs all under the Drive umbrella.

CIOs already face problems in dealing with staff or franchisee who ‘go rogue’ with their data services, opting to use a third-party service rather than one that is recommended by the company’s IT department.

One man with plenty of experience when it comes to making the move to Google is Mortgage Choice’s CIO, Neill Rose-Innes.

Rose-Innes pioneered the financial services firm’s move from Lotus Notes system onto Google Enterprise systems in 2009. The firm has signed onto the agreement with Google to receive its enterprise services and now actively encourages its franchisees to use the service.

With these issues in mind, I asked Rose-Innes to share his first impressions on Drive and whether the product was the right fit for the mortgage broker.

“We think that Google Drive is a great way to centralise some of these core franchisees and users will adopt, regardless of whether we provide it or not,” Rose-Innes says.

Rose-Innes says in the current climate of technology there is a temptation for employees or franchisees to purchase and use their own service if the current system doesn’t meet their needs.

He adds that this temptation may be amplified by the fact that Mortgage Choice operates within a franchise model and other franchisees may seek their own technology solutions outside of the company.

“If we can bring more of these services back into a realm in which we control [Google’s services], we would have better monitoring control over its use application, and ultimately [control over] the risks associated with any utility or cloud based service,” he says.

It’s this level of control that will see Google Drive eventually adopted by Mortgage Choice when it is fully rolled out into Australia.

“We’re going to trial it first, and identify any of the risks associated with it,” Rose-Innes says.

“We will then be encouraging our users to use that service, perhaps over and above the independent relationship they have with [another] provider.”

Google Drive’s launch has left one burning question on the lips of many CIOs: can I trust Google?

For Rose-Innes, it’s not so much a question of trust as it is a question of risk

“Our policy is that we don’t implicitly trust any provider,” he says.

However, Rose-Innes says that his company has entered into a formal enterprise agreement with Google for the use of its service, which adds an extra level of security. In addition, Google agrees to other data principals, such as data liberation which Rose-Innes says is paramount in relation to companies feeling secure within the cloud.

Rose-Innes’ is confident  that Google’s cloud offering can be catered towards the corporate domain, but warns that others may be “masquerading” commercial offerings, when in fact such products offer the same level of security as their consumer products.