For years Google has been telling us to trust the cloud with our sensitive data. From Google Apps to Google Drive, Google dreams of a world where all our lives in the cloud.
In Google's cloud, that is.
While Google has long touted the general benefits of running one's business in the cloud, it turns out Google is far less supportive when it comes to its own IT. While Google has a strong bias toward running its own IT as cloud-based services, it has a very closed approach to competing clouds, according to Google CIO Ben Fried.
Google Hearts The Cloud
Born in the cloud, Google has long encouraged enterprises to follow its lead, in part because cloud offers Google a way to disrupt the staid incumbency of Microsoft's desktop and server empire. Just last week at a Gartner event, Google chairman Eric Schmidt declared, "Cloud is inevitable home for enterprise computing."
Not that everyone has agreed.
For years Google has struggled through Gmail outages, accusations that it inadequately protects user privacy and simple breaches of account protections. Yet its insistence that cloud is our inevitable future has not wavered.
Google Doesn't Trust Others' Clouds
It turns out, however, that Google's love affair with the cloud is somewhat provincial. As Google CIO Ben Friend told AllThingsD, he's far less trusting of cloud computing when it comes to any cloud except his own company's. On the one hand, Fried wants Googlers using the best possible tools with minimal oversight:
On the other hand, those "best possible tools" are almost always going to have to be written by Google to make the cut. Why? Because who would be crazy enough to keep corporate data in someone else's cloud? Even a cloud with 175 million users:The overwhelming philosophy of my organization is to empower Googlers with world-leading technology. But the important part is that we view our role as empowerment, and not standard-setting or constraining or dictating or something like that. We define our role as an IT department in helping people get their work done better than they could without us. Empowerment means allowing people to develop the ways in which they can work best.
Well, yes. That's kind of the point behind cloud computing—keeping one's data in someone else's data center—and Google has been selling this virtue for years. What few of us realized was that Google apparently only likes the cloud when run by Google.The important thing to understand about Dropbox is that when your users use it in a corporate context, your corporate data is being held in someone else’s data center.
What To Do?
It makes complete sense that Google would want to protect its corporate data, and it's perfectly within its rights to suspect that other clouds are less secure. Google being Google, too, it's more than able to build all the cloud services its employees might need.
But what about you? Or me? We don't work for Google, and we're now getting seriously conflicting signals from Google. It's telling us that the cloud is our friend out of one side of its mouth, but warning us that every cloud except Google's is suspect. Dropbox, for instance, would likely take serious umbrage at this notion. So would enterprises like the City of Los Angeles, which abandoned Google's cloud for email back in 2011 because it felt that the Google cloud wasn't secure enough.
Maybe L.A. was wrong. Maybe Google is right. But it's hard to accept that only its cloud is secure. And it's even harder to accept that the only way to benefit from the cloud is by going all in on Google.