From the get go I should point out that these days I have a bias against Microsoft and the way it operates its business. In fact, I have a bias against any large business where you can spend years with as a ‘valued’ client but you just get treated like a number when it comes to actual service.
I had a situation a few years ago where I had invested over $1000 on upgrading my computers to Windows Vista. Basically what I did was upgraded from XP and purchased a few upgrade versions of the new product. The product itself was like any Microsoft product, worked fine as long as you put up with bugs and driver incompatibility issues (not always Microsofts fault).
Over the years I learned one thing about computers and operating systems, they need to be refreshed at least once a year to keep the computer running smoothly, this is because of constant upgrades to software, files and devices and because you find you desperately need some software to do a task – only to find you never use it again, in one short word – clutter!
Because of this I would do a fresh install once every 6 months or so. This was usually a full days work, but once I had backed everything up, installed all of the software again, my computer would work like near new. However, it was after I purchased the upgrade I ran into some serious problems. Here is what happened.
I purchased a new hard drive and wanted to backup my data and then do a fresh install. So I loaded my Vista upgrade disc and begun the process. What happened next stunned me. Not only did it want to know that I had a previous version of the Windows Operating System, which is pretty common practice, but it wanted me to install Windows XP first and then install Vista over the top of it. Why would I want to install a crappy old version of Windows and then install a slightly less crappy version over the top of it? This was ridiculous!
This could not be right, so I called Microsoft and they informed me that as I only purchased upgrade versions this would be my only option. I told them that this was a stupid policy. What was I to do? I had no option but to install XP and then Vista.
Then I had a revelation, who the hell do they think I am? Over the years I had purchased every version of WIndows and every version of Office multiple times and usually on release, Microsoft had relegated me to a cheap dime hooker and this got me started on my quest to rid myself of any company that did not value me as a client.
So here is what I did – I started researching alternatives. What are my alternatives? There is Linux, but this was going to be too much hassle, then I went to Apple, and after doing some digging around decided that my next purchase would be an Apple. Apple is a company that gets lauded for their products beauty and style, however until the early 2000’s they really didn’t have much style, most of their products were awful, it wasn’t until the iPod that Apple really understood that they were onto something special. Today Apple make beautiful products and although their practices are not much better than Microsoft’s (but they are better) at least I was not lining one companies pocket that made me pay the price for the small percentage of people that pirate their software.
My one real problem with the transformation was MS Outlook and Word, I considered this my most important piece of software. If I purchased the Apple version I was still lining Microsoft pockets, so I researched further and rather hesitantly decided on Google Premium Apps.
Google Premium Apps costs around $50 USD per user per year (basically per real email address). Now everything I do is securely available online under my own domain name, my mail, my documents, my spreadsheets, my bookmarks, my business – everything!
So let’s look at what I get, you should be able to work out what it replaces.
- Google Documents
- Google Spreadsheets
- Google Presentation
- Google Drawing
- Google Forms
- Google Wave
- Google Video
- Google Bookmarks
- Google Calendar
- Google Chat
- Google Mail
- and more
Google make it a simple task to transfer all of your mail history into their app, I had around 5 gigabytes of mail and it only took an evening and its was all there. Once I got setup it was just a matter of configuring everything and added all of my mail and signatures. Now I get all of my company email, my Hotmail, My Yahoo Mail, My Gmail, My AOL Mail all into one account. I can also respond with emails, create canned responses and more.
I can access all of these from any location on any device at any time I have Internet access. I can also share many of these things with colleagues, partners and friends.
Google also allow you to build online apps that can communicate with many of these services. You can have shared contacts, calendars, documents and even host data online.
The one thing I thought I could not do without or replace, ended up being the one thing that I would never go back to. In a world where access to information for business is of the utmost importance, Google actually walks all over the competition.
Yes, there is a moral to this story, if your supplier treats you any less than you deserve, remember there are always alternatives, you may feel like they are irreplaceable, but for a little pain you will be surprised at what alternatives are out there.