Issues and poor customer service with Google Apps

by Alex Kuretz on May 3, 2009 · 19 comments

in MediaSmartServer.net

Many of you will remember a couple of months ago when this site had a few days of outages due to my (now previous) web hosting provider. Fortunately my good friend “Senor Guantes” stepped up and provided me a very nice setup that has had the site running faster and more smoothly than ever before. While I’m happy managing the new server and related web components, I’m not thrilled with the idea of managing all my own email and so was looking for a provider to help make this aspect of things easier. Based on the recommendations of a couple people and some good online articles like this one from Scott Hanselman, I decided to give Google Apps a try and signed up for their premier service, figuring that a paid account would offer better service.

Unfortunately, I’ve been anything but pleased with this experience. Without going into too many details, I wanted to share a brief recap of my experience and get input from the community to see if my issues have been a fluke or if Google customer service is really as poor as I’ve found it to be. I signed up for Apps about two weeks ago, and have had two support requests into Google around domain aliases that I was unable to assign to my account due to “This domain name has already been used as an alias or domain” error message. The first support request took 5 days for a reply, though fortunately the customer service agent fixed the issue for me. I replied to that message (as I was instructed to in his email if I had further issues, which I do), and it’s been another 5 days with no response.

In addition to the poor customer service, I’m not thrilled with the email configuration options in Google Apps. The domain alias feature is nice to allow me to receive mail from my multiple domains all into my same email account, however the Nickname feature applies to every single domain, there’s no way to assign “info@domain1.com” to one user in my account, and “info@domain2.com” to another user unless I create a new Apps account for each domain. And using the Groups feature as an email alias is pretty weak, as it also applies to all domain aliases in my account.

This has left me certain that I will at least be canceling the Premier version, and I’m currently undecided if I feel comfortable staying with a company that provides this poor of customer support. I don’t expect 24/7 phone support for $50 a year, but 5 days for an email response is unacceptable. I’m also unhappy with the features that Google provides for configuration of email, and so I’ll be continuing my search for another email provider. In my search for resolving my “domain in use” error I ran across this topic on the popular Joel on Software site which only served to reinforce the concerns I have. I largely trust Google with my email, and appreciate the Gmail interface, so I’m very disappointed that things have turned out the way they have.

Do any of you have experience with Google Apps that you’d like to share, or is there something I’m missing or misunderstanding in the email configuration? Do you have an email hosting provider you’d recommend?





Article by

I'm Alex Kuretz, and I'm the founder of MediaSmartServer.net. I was the Lead Test and Integration Engineer at HP for the MediaSmart Server until April 2008 when I moved on to other opportunities outside HP. I've kept active in the Windows Home Server community, creating several add-ins and helping users make the most of their Home Servers.


{ 19 comments }

David May 4, 2009 at 7:57 am

I use Google Apps Premier for my 20 person company. I find the customer support very poor. They are more responsive via phone than e-mail.

That said, I don’t think you will find any better service for a similar price. An IMAP interface will usually cost you a lot more. I also have a Yahoo e-mail for Small Businesses account. This is cheaper and provides more storage, but is not as powerful as Gmail. I’ve learned to live with the compromises and find it to be worth the problems. Running my own mail server was not an option.

Alex Kuretz May 4, 2009 at 10:03 am

Hi David,

Thanks for the feedback, it sounds like we’re in a similar thought as I really don’t want to run my own mail server. I do feel that once my initial issues are resolved I likely (hopefully!) won’t have to deal with their support anymore down the road but it’s really frustrating with how slow they are.

I am curious why you keep the Premier account, is there a benefit I’m not seeing over the Standard edition beyond the additional storage space?

Thanks,
Alex

David May 4, 2009 at 10:40 am

My main reason to keep premier is that my firm is in the investment management business and I didn’t think is was a good idea to tell people that we use a free e-mail system. Most of my colleagues are well below the size limit so the storage space would not be much of an issue. The phone support is nice, but I don’t think it is very good. For me, it’s really more of a perception issue than any features.

mark May 6, 2009 at 9:08 am

I have been giving the Standard Edition of Google Apps a try for one of my domains for about a month. I was lucky, the setup went well, I just followed the directions and everything worked without a hitch.

I am planning on moving a group of my domains to Google Apps for email hosting. For me the package is pretty compelling.

7 GB per account is great
IMAP and/or POP3
Google is likely to have push email via ActiveSync sometime in the not too distant future.

I don’t know of any other inexpensive ways to get all those email service features. With internet connected smartphones in the family, things like HTTP email desgined for mobile devices, IMAP support, and the potential for ActiveSync push email are really compelling to have.

I am still stunned that the Google Apps Standard Edition is free.

I hope you get your difficulties resolved.

marc May 15, 2009 at 5:06 pm

im also using Standard Edition as a pilot for my company but IMAP and POP3 are not part of the standard…just a FYI

mark May 16, 2009 at 5:13 am

Marc -

I’ve been using an IMAP client (on a iPod Touch) to access my Google Apps Standard Edition email account. I’ve just checked the “Settings” when connected to the email account in a web browser, and just as in GMAIL I can turn on/off POP or IMAP for the account.

So, you have these options, enjoy the newfound capabilities!

Alex -

Any luck resolving your problems yet? How about an update?

marc May 16, 2009 at 7:53 am

I haven’t rolled out the mail functionality yet. the page in Google apps help was just unclear on the divide between Standard and Premier. Thank you for the clarification. the pilot will go live in the next 24-48.

alYsa May 17, 2009 at 9:47 am

I am using Windows Live Mail for 4 of my domains…set up is easy and everything works fine – on top of it – all the employees can use Live Messenger and skydrive and all other live services with the same user/password.
I am using Outlook Connector – so I get email, calendar, address book sync with Outlook and web for free. Also all Windows Mobile phones work nicely with this set up. The only problem is iPhone – I can get emails, but contact and calendar sync does not work – cause iTunes crashes all the time (still it is Apple and not MS problem).
Tried Google too – but with Live you get much more for the same price (FREE).

mark May 29, 2009 at 12:06 pm

For anyone looking for links:

Google Apps Homepage
Google Apps Standard Edition
Windows Live Admin Center

@ alYsa – The Windows Live offering is pretty compelling. The addition of Skydrive is excellent. On the Live Mail side, I like GMail’s support of IMAP instead of just POP3. Thanks for posting your experience.

I guess if anyone would offer as much (and more) service for free compared to Google, it would be MS.

alYsa May 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm

IMAP is not as good as Live Mail functionality over Outlook connector or Windows Live Mail desktop app (cause live syncs email, contacts, calendar). But of course IMAP is better than POP3.
So it depends on the mail client that you use…

mark May 29, 2009 at 10:23 pm

@ alYsa

I am a cross platform maven. So I need to be able to span Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and whatever else comes along. Obviously, MS generally targets Windows for all the best stuff first. With Google supporting ActiveSync (an MS “product” oddly enough) I believe you can get calendar and contact syncing now. But I’m sure the experience with an MS email client (Outlook or Live Mail Desktop) is much more “Exchange Server” like, and thus probably more complete.

Thanks again!

alYsa May 30, 2009 at 3:30 am

Hmm, I did not expect Google to support ActiveSync :)
That is pretty cool and it is definitely advantage for those with iPhone (like me). I guess Microsoft does not want to enable ActiveSync on Live, because then they would compete directly with Exchange…

Nic August 27, 2009 at 4:39 am

I have been evaluating mail service providers for a global not-for-profit organisation of 250 staffers. The Postini features are essential for any serious mail system, so it seems we we’d have to go with the premiere version. We are not a US based org, so we don’t qualify for the donated service. Google’s poor service reputation and thin domain and aliasing options make it hard to choose this option. For a similar price, you get a much snappier web-mailer and a suite of serious mail system tools at Fastmail.fm. These people do nothing but email and they do it very well. To my mind, Google is a very large advertising agency that does software as a hook. I’d prefer to have our email systems in the hands of email specialists who you can talk to at the other end of the phone.

MJ-India May 23, 2011 at 5:21 am

Try Windows Live Admin Center (500 email ids Free) :http://domains.live.com

Cheers

Ed December 7, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I’m having fits with Google Apps Prem. They actually do claim to have 24/7 support however, I’ve only received one email response (3 days) and it was to ask for more information…. dropped that one into a black hole.

I would love to know the support phone number as it is not listed anywhere…

Google apps customer support is so bad that they should not be selling the product.

Real bummer because I want this to work

Alex Kuretz December 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Hi Ed, this is the same thing I experienced except it was 5 days before I heard back. This is why I dropped Premium and am using the standard free service. It really is a shame, and I’ve since had similar experiences with both the Adsense and Adwords teams. :(

Peter April 22, 2010 at 12:03 am

The so called service for customers does not exsist, when finaly tracking someone down I was told that as a free service what do you expect.
Simple a lot better than I’m getting from google.

Al Mitchell November 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Google Apps is absolutely appalling. I have been without email for 5 days. Every time I try and login, I just get redirected to a page that says ‘This service is not available’. I have been e-mailing and phoning Google Apps using my support pin. They only respond to e-mails by saying they are ‘investigating’ the problem and whenever I call all they offer is to transfer me to the Google Apps voicemail. I have asked to be escalated to a supervisor, but none are ever available. Meanwhile all my work e-mails are sitting in my inbox and I am not able to respond to them. No business should ever rely on Google Apps. I hope anyone considering using Google Apps reads this e-mail. I wish I had known how shockingly unreliable Google Apps is before I transferred our whole organisation across.

MJ-India May 23, 2011 at 5:20 am

I am using Google APPS Standard for two of my domains and one for my company domains and never felt any problem. I dont think we would like to go for a premier edition. 7gb+ is enough as you would be downloading mails in your mail client as well. Unfortunately Google is going towards less email accounts free (from 250 to 100 to 50 to 10) and sometimes it gives me worries whether in future if they make it paid.

Windows Live Admin Center is more safer for an organisation. It gives you 500 Email accounts free and you can ask for more if needed. I tried the same with postfix/fetchmail and it works smoothly. So why should one search for a mailhosting provider? Yes, only problem I find with WiLiveAdminCenter, it’s Control Panel. No much options are there for a normal user but yes, you can managed your domains thru’ Windows Live Admin Center SDK from your PC. For small organisations, I would suggest, go for Windows Live Admin Center. But you dont know when Google & Microsoft will turn into a monster.

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