My team and I at Moor Insights & Strategy use G Suite, Google Hangouts and Meet (now named Google Meet), on a daily basis. Since all our employees and contractors WFH (work from home) or remotely, it is one of the primary solutions we use to interact, before and during the COVID-19 lockdown.
While many of us in tech take it for granted, most businesses, governments, and schools haven’t had to WFH or remotely until now. G Suite, Meet and other video call solution use has increased dramatically due to coronavirus and everybody having to WFH. Along with the rest of Google’s G Suite portfolio, Google Meet has seen a plethora of improvements over the many years it has been around.
Javier Soltero, Google’s General Manager & VP of G Suite, wrote an interesting post on the status of G Suite and Meet. According to Soltero, the company surpassed a new milestone of more than 2 million new users connecting on Google Meet every day. Let that sink in for a second. Also, Google Meet users are spending 2 billion minutes or 3,800 years on Meet in a single day. This is an incredible milestone for Google Meet, and I would like to discuss how Google made this possible, and the progress that Google has made with Meet to make it one of the most secure and reliable video call solutions for enterprise and consumers.
Google Meet’s cloud-based infrastructure
Google Meet, as a part of G Suite, runs on what I consider Google’s secure cloud-native infrastructure. As Google continues to build onto the security and reliability of its Google Cloud Platform (GCP), G Suite scales with it. I believe G Suite benefits from GCP’s defense-in-depth approach, including a purpose-built infrastructure, a Google-controlled hardware stack, a private encrypted global network, layered data center security, internal privacy and security expertise, and a robust security auditing/certification program. As an enterprise-level video call solution, Google Meet should have an impressive level of reliability and security due to its cloud-based infrastructure. Google says it also has Site Reliability Engineers (SREs), who are trained to find and address potential issues with Google Cloud Services like Meet before they arise and, in the event of a disruption, recover as quickly as possible. I could imagine these SREs were incredibly busy during the week that everybody moved from the office to WFH.
Unlike some video call solutions, Google Meet appears to be able to handle the massive influx of users during COVID-19. Google hasn’t issued any specific reliability numbers, but given the 2M new users per day, I must at least vouch for its massive scalability. Google Cloud relies on massive amounts of compute and storage hardware to power services like Meet. Google says that since much of that hardware is proprietary, it can forecast capacity forward many months to build ahead of demand. I think it also indicates that Google built ahead as lead times for new hardware are at least 90 days out of China.
Google’s global infrastructure obviously enabled Meet to scale efficiently with the demand that has come from COVID-19. Another milestone that Google achieved recently is surpassing 6 million paying businesses and 2 billion active users. Because of COVID-19, Meet’s day-over-day growth surpassed 60%. As a result, Meet’s daily usage is more than 25 times what it was in January.
Security & Privacy
A critical part of having a video call solution is ensuring the privacy and security of its users. Zoom, a competing enterprise-level video call solution, has taken criticism for not taking measures to ensure the privacy and security of its users. In short, I believe it has possibly been dishonest about its encryption, compromised the privacy of its users, allowed breaches into private meetings, among other things you can read about here. Along with G Suite’s Cloud-based security, as mentioned above, Google has taken steps to ensure the privacy and security of Google Meet.
To keep from something like “zoombombing” from happening with Google Meet, it has security controls turned on by default. If this isn’t an obvious “feature” all video call solutions should have on by default, maybe I should start my own video call solution. When using a video call service, you would assume that you have the highest level of security, to begin with.
Google also rolled out several education features that make it easier for teachers and classrooms to use Meet as their video call solution during COVID-19. Here is the list of new classroom features from Google:
- Only meeting creators and calendar owners can mute or remove other participants.
- Only meeting creators and calendar owners can approve requests to join made by external participants.
- Meeting participants can’t rejoin nicknamed meetings once the final participant has left.
I believe all these features are to ensure the safety and security of teachers and students when using Meet. They prevent student from disrupting and compromising and video call and give the teachers control of the virtual classroom.
Google also says it makes it difficult to programmatically brute force meeting IDs by using codes that are 10 characters long, with 25 characters in a set. This is so that meetings have a rarer ID, and it isn’t easy for hackers to guess the ID of a meeting. Even if a hacker guesses the correct ID to a meeting correctly, Google has designed it so that external participants need either a calendar invite, need to be invited by in-domain participants, or need to request and be accepted by the host of the video.
Google Meet does not require a user to download or install any software or plugins for web browsers or smartphones and can be used directly from the web browser. All data is also encrypted and supports multiple 2-step Verification options. It is a feature that needs to be turned on and can use hardware and phone-based security keys and Google Prompt. Google uses 2-step Verification options for its other G Suite solutions like if you logged onto a new computer with your Gmail. I use Google’s 2-step Verification for a lot of my devices. Google also says users can enroll in its Advanced Protection Program (APP) to prevent phishing and account hijacking for higher-risk accounts.
While Google’s consumer arm does use PII for advertising, the company is very clear that it doesn’t do any of that for school and business accounts. I believe the company as, unlike Facebook and Zoom, it hasn’t repeatedly screwed up privacy time and time again.
In the future, I do believe it will be important for Google to add the options for end to end encryption, some kind of hybrid Meet solution leveraging Anthos, and 256-bit encryption.
Google has made a video call solution that is worth using on every level. I believe it has privacy, security, scalability, and reliability for all most cases, including enterprise, government, healthcare, and education. It benefits from a massive, cloud-based infrastructure and its defense-in-depth approach that all of G Suite benefits from. It is scalable depending on the network needs and appears to have had no problem scaling up to the COVID-19 demand.
We have heard a lot recently about what not to do with Zoom. It is always good to hear when a company does something right and Google has met incredible milestones with its Meet video call solution. As Google continues to improve on Meet and add new features, I will be using it.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.