Change is hard. The adult human likes what they know, and feels quite uncomfortable when they are in unfamiliar territory. Just think about when you go on holiday and you jump in a left-hand drive car (or right-hand if your travelling the other way!)

You know how everything works, but as you pull out of that airport car park the sweat appears on the back of your neck, you are looking frantically to see where other cars are coming from, and you nearly snap as the wife/husband point out some local scenery “I can’t talk now – we could die!”

For that moment you think you should probably have just gone to a local campsite at home and not had the hassle!

Across industries we come across similar sentiment when it comes to Google Apps, and indeed many Public Cloud technologies. ”I’d rather stick with what I know. I know how to install, manage and upgrade a local server, and that’s what I am going to carry on doing.”

This often comes with a follow up “And anyway – Google Apps isn’t business grade”

It’s a great phrase because it carries a powerful message of fear and doubt for any business Exec listening in. ”Well we need business grade, so if this thing isn’t business grade, then we don’t want it” It is very easy to position Google Apps as a consumer offering and retreat back to the on-premise software that has been used previously – staying at a local campsite.

But over the last couple of years Google have been keeping up a relentless pace of innovation, delivering hundreds of new releases that are visible to the user, and many more on the back-end that improve the stability and uptime of the service.

This week Google blogged about their 2010 Gmail uptime record – an astounding 99.984%. To put that into context that means just seven minutes of downtime a month over the past year – and that includes any sub-second issues that users weren’t even aware of.

Now I have worked in a number of companies in my career, and all have been using “Business Grade” on premise solutions, and the downtime that was experienced over the course of a year was significantly higher. Some was user error – a laptop was lost or hard drive corrupted, and some was technology error – server dying, connectivity lost – but either way there was a lot of time spent at the water cooler “waiting for Email to come back up”

Google’s post carried a very useful diagram demonstrating the respective downtime of leading vendors. Gmail has significantly lower downtime than the other providers, and so you have to ask what “Business Grade” really means, and whether you want that in your business.

And this leads me to think about why Google has such a hard time of convincing business about uptime, when the reality is that much worse uptime is being accepted today. This is because the Cloud is a single network covering the Globe. It is open and social. If Gmail has an outage of 1 minute – people are tweeting, and posting on forums. Journalists love to jump on this – “Gmail down – is this the end for Cloud?” The issue becomes much larger than it really is and the journalists forget to write their follow up piece “Gmail back up – no harm done”

But who do you tell when Exchange or Notes goes down? Do you invite the journalist in to write a story? Does every Microsoft or Lotus client write in each month to tally up their cumulative downtime? Absolutely not. It’s easy therefore to look at what we have today in an overly positive way and to dismiss the opportunities that lie in front of us.

Have you dismissed Google Apps because it was not “Business Grade”? Do you use Google Apps and have an opinion on whether it is or is not “Business Grade”?