Posted by Matt Egan 01 May 2014
The hidden cost of moving to Google
Public/private. Personal/professional. We all have to compromise, all the time.
Cute and cuddly Tech Advisor Blog may be, but we are merely a tiny pawn in a huge corporate entity. Skynet for words. Not really. But we are a small port of a global business. Recently that business took the decision to move from a physical email server in the office, and Microsoft Office on desktop, to GMail and Google Docs.
It's the sort of decision being made by businesses small and large every day, and it makes perfect sense.
From a business perspective an annual fee per user means that we can budget the cost of software and servers a year in advance. We won't suddenly have to buy a new server if the old one explodes. Tech support moves from one guy trying to understand everyone's needs to one guy having the phone number for the Google Mail call centre.
Our colleagues were already sharing Google's online calenders and spreadsheets because they are so easy to use in collaboration. This way that info will belong to the company.
And it also means more control over BYOD. Everyone can now have their email on their phone, and if they lose the handset a simple change of password locks down the account without giving away our serverside details.
That's the good stuff. The only real downside is asking people to change - never easy.
Or so we thought. Actually there is a further down side that wasn't considered. Previously I have written about how people don't care about privacy. I believe that we all choose convenience at the cost of sharing data.
I still think that is the case, but there is an interesting psychological difference between me choosing to use a personal Gmail account, and that decision being made by my employer.
For me personally I am onboard for all the reasons outlined above. But one colleague strongly objects to being - in his view - forced into Google's clammy embrace. This individual actively eschews all Google services and was concerned not with contextual advertising from Google scanning emails (this doesn't happen with the professional version), but with associating his name and the devices he uses with a Google account.
I don't share it, but it is a valid concern. And it raises an interesting point.
Is it okay for an employer to insist that an employee uses a service that will at least tangentally harvest information about that employee? Is that even the case?
No-one seems sure on either point.
We've reached an agreement about the individual concerned, in that he will use Gmail but from an address that doesn't include his name. It's not ideal but both sides have compromised and it is workable.
I also feel that the very idea of holding back from Google is a little King Canutian.
But this is the kind of public/private, professional/personal issue with which we will all have to contend as the world becomes less private.