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New partnerships, SLAs make Google Enterprise services a UC option

Consumer Google services like Hangouts weren't always an option for enterprises. New partnerships with UC providers are making Google Enterprise Solutions more appealing as UC tools.

Google has been busy trying to legitimize itself as a secure and reliable unified communications provider for the enterprise. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is forging partnerships with enterprise voice and video providers to give business customers the level of service they are looking for.

Many workers use free consumer services from companies like Google for voice and video conferencing, instant messaging (IM) and presence, but these services were never a viable option as part of a business-grade unified communications (UC) and collaboration strategy. Enterprises need secure and reliable communications, preferably backed by a service-level agreement (SLA). Google has been working to make Hangouts, Gmail and Apps -- like Google Docs -- more appealing to business users.

Google's strong placement in the consumer market has paved the way for success as a business tool, said Miguel Pino, an IT Manager at Eventbrite, a global online ticketing service that uses Google Apps and Hangouts for its UC needs. "Google has long been a respected tool for personal use, which easily translated into a powerful business tool. The Google platform offers a unified ecosystem of applications [that] address the majority of business needs around team communication [and] collaboration," he said.

Google Enterprise: Partnerships with UC providers, tighter integrations needed

Google is aligning itself with established UC providers to legitimize its Google-for-business ambitions. "Google's strategy is to ramp up their enterprise business and push further into this market, and I think it's trying to change how people view them as strictly a consumer offering," said Rich Costello, senior research analyst for UC and enterprise communications infrastructure at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "There are certainly willing [UC provider] partners who see the value in partnering with Google and are jumping at the chance."

Google has partnered with InterCall, a subsidiary of West Corporation and global UCaaS provider, to bridge Google Hangouts to corporate telephony systems. InterCall for Hangouts, available at the end of the month, will allow businesses to add an Intercall bridge to a Google Hangout session, in order to bridge the session to a deskphone. The service will enable enterprises to connect up to 150 callers through Hangouts, regardless of the device or system they might be using, said Dennis Collins, director of product marketing for InterCall.

Google also recently partnered with Blue Jeans Network to extend Hangout video sessions to room-based video conferencing systems. The Blue Jeans service is compatible with H.323 and SIP-based video conferencing systems. "It's really about making Hangouts a hub for communication," said Rajen Sheth, director of product management for Google's enterprise business line.

Hangouts is particularly useful for businesses that need to communicate and collaborate with partners, customers and other third-parties because it's available to anyone with a Google Chrome browser, according to an account manager employee at of a global hardware manufacturer who requested anonymity. The manufacturer is using Google Apps -- including Gmail, Calendar and Hangouts, alongside Cisco Jabber for IM -- as part of its UC strategy. "It's very flexible, even if you're on a mobile device and not at your desktop, and you can communicate with people who might be using Lync or [Cisco] Jabber, too," he said.

While some of the recent partnerships fill gaps in the Google for business portfolio, Google still has work to do, particularly regarding integrations within its own suite of tools, the account manager said. The ability to automatically set presence status, for example, would be a helpful feature for business users. "In Hangouts, you're green when you're online, and then when you're not there, you're not online. In a business world, it make sense for [Hangouts] to be able to access your calendar and know that when you're in a meeting, you're status should be "away" or "busy," and move you to another color," he said.

Google for business: The importance of performance guarantees

Because Google's cloud-based services had its roots in the consumer space, SLAs weren't always on the table. As more companies adopt Google for business use and Google partners with more enterprise UC providers, it will need to offer guarantees around reliability, uptime and security. "Google is going to run into customers that would like to have an SLA, [and] I think it's something they will look at because it's certainly part of doing business in the enterprise market," IDC's Costello said.

Eventbrite uses Google Apps -- including Gmail, Calendar and Drive. The company is currently using Hangouts as its primary means of video conferencing for desktop video conferences with remote employees, as well as in its conference rooms.

Eventbrite has phased out many other UC tools in favor of consolidating the majority of UC on Google, but offering performance guarantees could make the provider more appealing to other enterprises, Pino said. "Google has a good track record of uptime, but allowing insight could only improve the relationship between Google and its customers," said Eventbrite's Pino.

Google currently offers a 99.9% SLA for its Apps for Business customers, and as of this summer, Hangouts is now being covered under the same SLA for business customers, Google's  Sheth said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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