Home Can Google Solve the Cloud Security Problem for Enterprises?

Can Google Solve the Cloud Security Problem for Enterprises?

Last week we wrote about Google‘s long term strategy to win over enterprise customers. But MarketWatch reported Friday on a short-term setback for Google enterprise ambitions: the company missed the deadline to deploy Google Apps to Los Angeles municipal employees. The delay revolves around security, that ever-present cloud computing concern. In response, Google announced Google Apps for Government today. Will Google be able to assuage enterprise concerns over cloud security?

Google’s trouble in LA began when the Los Angles Police Department complained that Google had not demonstrated compliance with security requirements such as segregation of City of Los Angles data from other data maintained by Google and background checks for Google employees with access to city data. Google and its implementation partner Computer Sciences Corp agreed to pay the costs of the delay, which could be up to $415,000. But the greater concern for both Google, and the cloud computing business writ large, is the damage the delays could do to government and enterprise adoption of cloud computing services. Hence: Google Apps for Government.

Google has acquired Federal Information Security Management Act certification will segregate government data on servers located in the US. Google Apps also rolled out a couple additional security features recently: user policy management and mobile security policies. The new security features could be connected to Google’s ongoing difficulties in LA.

Google seems confident that its new service will win over government contracts, and satisfy the City of Los Angles’s requirements. CNET reports Google’s enterprise president Dave Girouard as saying “We’d love to rolled out to [sic] 50 smaller cities ahead of LA…but in the end, LA will be a great success for the city, and for Google.” But first Los Angles Police Department will have to sign off on Google Apps for Government.

The real test, however, for Google Apps for Government, is whether it can win the contract to provide cloud based e-mail for the General Services Administration – the same agency that issued Google its FISMA certification. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Microsoft and Google are locked in a bidding war for the contract. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 90% of federal government uses Microsoft Exchange, so landing the GSA would be a big win for Google.

There’s no word yet on whether Google will offer data segregation services to private enterprises as well, but those types of assurances would probably go a long way towards improving trust in cloud computing. Other companies, such as Trend Micro, are working on creating ways for enterprises to encrypt data before places it in cloud service providers hands – but it’s not clear that a solution like that would work well in conjunction with Google Apps.

Many enterprises wanting to take advantage of virtualization and web-based productivity applications have opted for on-premise “private cloud” solutions. That’s the approach Google and Microsoft’s lesser known rival Zoho has offered for some large clients such as GE. However, Zoho’s Raju Vegesnatold told us by e-mail:

We believe cloud applications will go bottom up – this means, smaller companies will adopt cloud apps first and eventually move to the enterprise. This is going to be an evolution/transition and is going to take some time. While this happens, the applications, security, confidence etc will evolve and improve. Note that Salesforce.com has been selling CRM for 10 years now (started with SMBs too), but only recently it is being adopted at the enterprise level.

Vegesnatold may be right: according to report released last week by SPI Research, 46% of professional services providers now prefer SaaS solutions to on-premise solutions – up six percent from a survey conducted just six months before. For the time being, SMBs will lead the way for cloud computing. But as security assurances improves, or fiscal realities necessitate, the enterprise will follow into the cloud.

Image credit: Bichuas (E. Carton)

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