Google Apps first in telco’s cloud applications suite.
Optus said its OfficeApps bundle, centred on the Google Apps productivity suite, was for small business owners who wanted “a very simple way” to access IT business tools, said Mark Baylis, Optus’ general manager of SMB products.
“One of the biggest things we’ve found with the small business market is that there’s a lot of interest in cloud but the understanding of how to make that first step is actually very low,” Baylis said.
“We’ve created an envinroment for them where we can help them get up and started in a very simple way.”
The move by Optus counters Telstra’s T Suite cloud application suite, which signed an exclusive deal with Microsoft for Office 365. Both telcos had added software and support to a single bill that already included landline, mobile and broadband products.
The Optus OfficeApps bundle started at $10 per user per month and included domain registration and management for the name of the business, online training in Google Apps for employees, and online chat, phone or remote access six days a week, from 8am to 6pm.
Optus also carried out migration from certain mail servers to the Google Apps platform as part of the service. Optus waived the cost of data traffic from Optus mobile devices to its OfficeApps suite.
The $10 per user per month bundle included a $150 connection fee per user, which was dropped in the $20 bundle.
A $25 bundle added 24×7 support and a TrueLocal.com.au advertising package valued at $435.
Baylis said the most expensive service was in the most demand due to the 24×7 support.
“It shows there is a real need for that handholding,” Baylis said.
Optus had created a portal for each business to access the Google Apps suite. Baylis said the telco would add other cloud software to the portal such as CRM and accounting packages, which could be accessed via a single username and password (or single sign-on).
Optus said there was no timeframe for adding more applications to the OfficeApps portal.
Baylis said more technically minded small businesses might sign up to Google Apps directly, but Optus OfficeApps was aimed at companies “that don’t know how to”.
Users could log their own support requests directly with Optus’ support line by using a small ticketing application that could be installed on PC and Mac computers.
“Every customer gets full remote support – people on the ground, if necessary. if something isn’t working that person can remotely log into their environment and fix the problem,” Baylis said.
“It’s a key differentiator; to help companies take that worry and pain out of IT.”
Customer support was limited to issues relating to Google Apps. Other problems relating to hardware or networking would be passed onto Quick Knowledge, an IT services organisation, Baylis said.
Optus would register a company domain name for its OfficeApps customers so businesses didn’t have to worry about it every three years, Baylis said.
“Two-thirds of the small business market don’t have their own domain name, it’s a very under-served market. If you’re a small business trying to compete with big business, not having your own domain name behind your email can mean the difference between getting a sale and losing it,” Baylis said.
In a dig at the Microsoft-Telstra alternative, Microsoft Office 365, Baylis said small businesses wanted to have a cloud-only environment because it was simpler to manage.
“We believe in moving customers across to this and not leaving bits of desktops and bits of cloud and making IT more complicated. That’s certainly not what we want to do,” Baylis said.