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Google Makes Moves Against Office 365 in Enterprise

Google is readying a slew of enterprise-focused features for its G Suite productivity platform in a bid to cut into the subscription base of rival Microsoft Office 365.

The new features will bring new management and security features to G Suite, and are expected to roll out this month to organizations with G Suite Enterprise edition licenses.

G Suite, which comprises productivity, collaboration, messaging and voice communication services, remains the most direct alternative to Office 365. By most accounts, Office 365 has made strong inroads among enterprises of all sizes, as Microsoft moves to shift many of its on-premises Exchange and SharePoint customers to the cloud. However, the upgrades Google is adding to G Suite Enterprise promise to make it more appealing to businesses by addressing critical data retention, corporate policy and security requirements.

Google claims it has 3 million paying customers, including PwC, Whirlpool and Woolworths. For Microsoft's part, the company reported nearly 24.9 million consumer-based subscriptions of Office 365 -- up from 20.6 million a year ago -- during its second-quarter earnings call last week. Microsoft hasn't revealed enterprise subscriptions, though it said its overall cloud business, which includes the Azure platform, grew 93 percent year-over-year.

The G Suite updates announced this week aim to close the gap between the two services by improving management controls and security. "Having greater control and visibility when protecting sensitive assets, however, should also be a top concern in today's world," wrote Reena Nadkarni, Google's product manager for G Suite, in a blog post announcing the upgrades. "That's why starting today, we're giving customers the critical control and visibility they expect (and their CTOs and regulators often require) in G Suite."

The new features include:

  • Extended access control for administrators with Security Key enforcement, allowing IT management to require the use of these keys. Admins will also be able to manage the deployment of Security Keys and view usage reports, according to Nadkarni.

  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP) now extended to Google Drive with DLP for Gmail. Building on the DLP features launched in 2015, Nadkarni said it now allows administrators to configure rules and scan Google Drive files and Gmail messages to enforce policies.

  • S/MIME support for Gmail. Customers will have the option to bring their own certificates to encrypt messages using S/MIME, while administrators will be able to enforce usage and establish DLP policies based on the requirements of specific lines of business.

  • BigQuery integration with Gmail, aimed at offering extended analytics. BigQuery aims to allow IT to run custom report and dashboards.

  • Support for third-party e-mail archiving. In addition to Google Vault, customers will now have the option to use other archiving services, including HP Autonomy and Veritas.

Whether these additions will move the needle on Google's market share remains to be seen. But these features certainly up the ante by offering key data protection services that many IT decision makers are demanding and should be welcomed by existing customers.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.