Google adds 24-7 phone support for all Apps business customers

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Addressing a major source of complaints with its Apps suite, Google has announced that it will now offer around-the-clock phone support for the core components in the Apps for Business version of the hosted collaboration and communication suite.

This means that Apps for Business customers will be able to call Google for technical assistance whenever they run into trouble with suite applications like Gmail, Calendar, Sites, Docs, Talk and Video.

“All support cases are handled directly by trained Google Apps experts,” wrote Jocelyn Ding, vice president of Google Enterprise Operations, in a blog post.

Google also improved abilities for Apps administrators to manage mobile devices and broadened availability of a cloud-based data analysis service.

Right now, 80 percent of Apps business customers report being “more than satisfied” with their Apps support experience, according to Google customer satisfaction surveys, but the company wants to bring that satisfaction rating to 95 percent, she wrote.

Google Apps, launched in 2007, was originally aimed at small companies seeking to hand over the hosting and management of their workplace e-mail to Google. Phone technical support has so far been limited to certain customers and for certain suite components.

However, Google in the past two years has been aiming to attract large enterprises to Apps, packing the business version of the suite with IT management, security and software features that this type of customer requires.

In doing so, Google Apps has become a major threat to Microsoft, which is trying to counter with its Office 365 cloud-hosted suite.

Administrators of the Business, Government and Education versions of Apps will now be able to manage not only Android but also iOS and Windows Mobile devices from the suite’s control panel at no extra charge and without special hardware or software.

“In addition to our existing mobile management capabilities, IT administrators can now see a holistic overview of all mobile devices that are syncing with Google Apps, and revoke access to individual devices as needed,” wrote Hong Zhang, a software engineer, in another blog post.

From the control panel, administrators can establish different password requirements and roaming sync preferences for individual user groups, according to Zhang. Administrators also get access to mobile usage trends and analytics data.

Google also is expanding the preview program for its BigQuery Service, which it introduced to a limited number of enterprise users and developers last year.

This data analysis system has also been upgraded with a new user interface, a revamped API and simplified functions for managing and sharing data tables, as well as for exporting query results, product manager Ju-kay Kwek wrote.

The announcements were made at Google’s Atmosphere event, where the company is hosting 350 CIOs from around the world to discuss the role of cloud computing in the enterprise.

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