by Rodney Gedda

Specsavers goes Google, adopts Android

Mar 04, 2011
Cloud ComputingInnovationIT Management

In a win-win for Google, national retail optometrist Specsavers has ditched an in-house e-mail and groupware server and moved to Google Apps with BlackBerry handsets now being replaced by Android-based smartphones.

Specsavers is based in the UK and has been operating in Australia and New Zealand for more than three years.

A significant pull factor was the collaboration tools integrated into Google Apps

The decision to migrate to Google Apps locally is in keeping with Specsavers’ global strategy announced in January.

Specsavers CIO in Australia and New Zealand, Simon Baxter, said the move is the company’s first foray into cloud computing.

“We were using Scalix for e-mail, but we have just gone Google for about 260 users,” Baxter said.

“As this is our first big move into the cloud, going with Google seems to be the safest option and we are comfortable with Google’s strategy.”

Baxter cited the lack of support for the previous product and less downtime due to software upgrades with SaaS as major drivers for the move.

Conversely, a significant pull factor was the collaboration tools integrated into Google Apps.

“The collaboration toolset is interesting with chat, video and documents for collaboration,” Baxter said.

Google Apps was piloted before Christmas last year and the roll out was completed by the first week in February. Google Apps has been in production for about month now.

“W haven’t had any downtime and it’s all been fine,” Baxter said. “It is also in our normal band of intranet usage so there are no issues with the pipes. There has been a small lift, but it’s not significant.”

Specsavers joins mobile phone retailer Mo’s Mobiles which announced last month it is using Google Apps.

“Today it is a better solution,” Baxter says. “We have seen upgrade roll out so Google is doing constant improvement.”

“We wanted to move on from on-premise architecture so that’s why we didn’t move to Microsoft Exchange.”

See this recent CIO feature Going Google for more information about what CIOs should consider when moving to the search giant’s hosted applications.

Android attacks BlackBerry’s enterprise turf

In addition to the move to cloud services for messaging and collaboration, Specsavers will deploy Android-based handsets to its staff.

“We’re also moving to Android phones (HTC Aria) and the whole Google mail experience on HTC is brilliant,” Baxter said.

The HTC Aria is available in Australia through carrier Optus.

Android has risen to become the number one consumer smartphone platform in just a few years, but the enterprise market remains largely dominated by BlackBerry and, more recently, the iPhone.

“We replace about 70 phones a year as part of our refresh cycle [so] the next 70 will be Android and by 2012 we will be fully android,” he said.

“The user experience versus BlackBerry is Android’s Internet capabiity, the access to cheaper plans and very good integration with Google Apps. You can do pretty much everything on the phone. I can receive an e-mail on Android and archive it like it was on the desktop.”

Baxter said the only downside is Android’s touchscreen versus BlackBerry’s qwerty keyboard which is quicker at typing text messages and e-mails.

Specsavers has been running Androids in its mobile fleet for three months and Baxter says a positive is the variety of service plans available compared with those for BlackBerry handsets.

“Androids are cheaper to run as they have access to more plans than Blacberry and you don’t have to install BlackBerry Enterprise Server,” he said.

Regarding security, Baxter says since no data is being kept on the device it is less of a concern.

“We know it’s not as heavily secured as BlackBerry, but we’re not seeing any issues,” he said.

“With our Blackberry Internet Service we didn’t have remote wipe. If a device is lost we will change the Google password.”

In a sign Android is gaining more traction in the enterprise, last month a number of Android handset makers announced support for Motorola’s 3LM security software.

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