Google Apps is a powerful web based Internet communication, productivity and collaboration tools which includes word processing, spreadsheet, calendaring, email and instant messaging capabilities. Google Apps has been available for free to the public since August 2006 with initial service coverage (now become free Standard Edition) includes the large storage-capacity email service Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and the Google Start Page feature, with additional inclusion of Docs & Spreadsheets and Page Creator, all compatible with the BlackBerry version of Gmail’s mobile application.

Google Apps Premier Edition (GAPE), which charges $50 annual fee per user account, upgrade email storage space to 10 GB, offers APIs for business integration for user provisioning and management, single sign-on, and mail gateways support, comes with 99.9 % uptime Service Level Agreements and 24×7 support and email migration tool. All services will be hosted by Google, with no hardware or software to download, install or maintain. With all features pack into one package, Google Apps has effectively became Google Office productivity suite that can be substitute and replacement to phase out Microsoft Office and Exchange Server.

PC World (dead link) has a first look into Google Apps Premier Edition and concludes that given all the features and tools that come with the free Standard edition of Google Apps, businesses may have a hard time justifying $50 per user per year for the Premium edition. For 100 users, that’s $5,000 a year, basically for some phone call support (which you probably won’t need, the interface is so intuitive), guaranteed e-mail uptime, more e-mail storage and an API or two. Leave it to IT departments to decide if that’s worth it for them.

SeekingAlpha (dead link) has a hand-on on GAPE and has a few problems such as a domain name is needed, no service level agreement (SLA) can be found, employees can’t call Google for help according to the Google Apps Premier Edition terms, no publicity, and there is no guarantee on the safety and availability of data stored on Google server. Finally, “I had to call Google tech support. A fine chap in Europe answered the phone (I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t offshore) told me that there’s no way to change the domain. The solution: He wiped out my original account and I have to start from scratch. On the bright side my credit card was never charged. Overall, however, this does seem to be a lot of work and if you’re not motivated to ditch Microsoft I’m not sure you’re going Google Apps Premier.”