Over three million businesses have moved to Google Apps, and several factors have driven this transition. While improved productivity and cost savings have long been at the top of the list, more and more customers are choosing Apps for its security and reliability benefits. Our pure and proven cloud is designed to protect our users’ data and deliver reliability at levels that are very difficult or impossible for many organizations to achieve on their own. Even on-premises, so called “private cloud” and hybrid technologies are challenged to deliver the data protection and reliability that comes with Google Apps.

Here are the top 10 data protection and reliability advantages that we hear about most frequently from customers (in no particular order):

1. Powerful administration tools give you control of your data
When business data is stored in Google Apps, administrators have powerful tools to help them manage things like users, documents and services. Reports also provide visibility into how the applications are being used and what data is in them so that administrators have the control they need without having to maintain the infrastructure.

2. Pure and proven cloud architecture
Our datacenter server infrastructure is specifically designed and built for our applications and does not include unnecessary hardware or software code such as peripheral ports or device drivers. This reduces the number of potential vulnerabilities that could be targeted.

3. Patch management
Downloading, testing and deploying patches has become a significant pain for many IT departments. Google Apps reduces this pain because there are no servers for customers to patch. We manage the servers and take care of all updates.

4. Strong authentication
Google Apps includes 2-step verification for all user accounts - at no additional charge. Businesses and organizations can easily deploy an extra layer of protection for their user accounts using devices they already have. This makes strong authentication available to many organizations that did not have it before. Google Apps also integrates with existing Single Sign On (SSO) mechanisms via open standards.

5. Disaster recovery
Google Apps offers robust disaster recovery capabilities which are commonly measured by Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). RTO measures how long before users can access systems in the event of a failure and RPO measures how much of a gap there is in the data when it is restored. Google Apps is designed with RTO and RPO goals of zero. Emails, documents and data are saved every few seconds and replicated in multiple data centers. This means that if one of our data centers becomes unavailable, we seamlessly switch the user to another data center and because it has been replicated there is no loss of data and users can continue working uninterrupted.

6. Third party verifications
Google Apps and our data centers are SSAE 16 Type II audited and have achieved the U.S. Federal Government’s FISMA certification. SSAE 16 is an auditing standard where a third party auditor evaluates the controls in place for numerous areas including physical and logical security, privacy, incident response and more. The Federal Information Security Management Act or FISMA is the law defining security requirements that must be met by all US Federal government information systems. While FISMA certification is required for U.S. Government agencies, it is also a strong validation in the private sector of the technologies and processes we use to protect the data in Google Apps.

7. Information security expertise
We employ an information security team of over 250 people with a wealth of expertise not found in most organizations. Many have advanced degrees and are thought leaders in information security. The security team regularly publishes research and contributes open source tools to the security community. They monitor our global network of datacenters and applications 24x7x365.25 (they don’t rest on leap years).

8. Secure connections for users
We automatically encrypt browser sessions for Google Apps users without the need for VPN’s or other potentially costly and cumbersome infrastructure. This helps protect your data as it travels between users’ browsers and our data centers.

9. High availability
Google Apps has zero maintenance windows or planned downtime. While we offer a 99.9% uptime SLA, Gmail exceeded this guarantee in 2010 and achieved 99.984% uptime. We did this while delivering more than 30 new features and adding tens of millions of users. The status of Google Apps is visible to administrators and users on our publicly available status dashboard.

10. Reduced risk of data breach
Google Apps allows users to work securely on their data wherever they are, using a wide range of devices. The data is stored centrally in Google’s cloud which greatly reduces the need for users to take their data with them using USB drives or similar devices, which can be easily lost or stolen. This can help reduce the risk of a data breach, something that is on the mind of many organizations these days.

Over three million businesses trust Google to protect the data they store in Google Apps and make it reliably accessible. Over the next few weeks we’re going to dive deeper into each one of these areas to provide more details why Google Apps customers trust us with their business data.