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Google Courting Cloud Apps Users with Referral Program Launch

Google on Monday kicked off a referral program to promote its Google Apps for Business product in U.S. and Canadian markets.

Under the terms of the program, Google will pay $15 per subscriber for a total of up to $1,500 per customer entity to get the referrals.

Google recently hosted more than 700 partners at its Global Partner Summit, but the referral program is open to anyone, not just partners. It's accessed from a partner portal with links to the reseller program. Participants have to sign up, provide their taxpayer ID number and agree to the fine print, but they don't have to have IT experience or be capable of managing systems to qualify, according to Google's description.

Google pays referral program participants after users sign up for Google Apps for Business subscriptions using a custom URL associated with the participant's account. If the referral is qualified under the terms of the program, then the company will transfer a payment directly into the participant's bank account.

Participants in the referral program can't enlist users who are already Google Apps for Business customers. They can't use bribery to gain referrals. It also appears that they can't recruit "government-controlled entities or any of their employees," according to the fine print.

Google is one of Microsoft's few competitors in the productivity suite market, although Zoho is another contender in the cloud space. Last year, Gartner provided analysis suggesting that Google had started to make inroads into a business market long dominated by Microsoft Office. However, Gartner made that comparison based on a very narrow definition that both companies provided cloud-based e-mail plus text processing capabilities, even though the capabilities of the two productivity suites differ considerably. Gartner's view was that Google Apps is "just good enough" for business purposes relative to the many features packed into the Microsoft Office suite.

Microsoft has fought back against Google's competition to a degree by offering Office Web Apps as part of its Office 365 subscriptions. Office Web Apps are lightweight and accessed through a browser, enabling document collaboration, much like Google Apps for Business solutions.

Google Apps for Business costs $5 per user per month under the "flexible plan," paid on a monthly basis. Alternatively, organizations can purchase a fixed number of subscriptions at a rate of $50 per user per year, billed monthly, with the ability to add users when wanted.

Google Apps for Business plans include applications such as Gmail, video chat, calendar, Google Docs (Docs, Sheets and Slides apps), 30 GB of storage and a 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement. The company also offers Google Vault, which adds e-mail discovery capability for an additional $10 per user per month.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.