Software

Will the world run on Gmail?

Google's messaging service is becoming more popular, and the Google Apps option to have hosted e-mail is becoming a viable option. IT pro Rick Vanover breaks down this cloud strategy.

Managing e-mail technology is by itself not too difficult. Complexities arise when determining costs, setting archival requirements, ensuring it's being used for its intended purposes, managing storage, determining licensing costs, and keeping in mind other finesse elements of a technology that is now critical to nearly every organization.

Google's Gmail beta product is out to make this easier for some organizations. Gmail, while still in beta after five years, is the third most popular e-mail provider on the Internet by most reports. I don't use Gmail for my primary e-mail; yet like many others, I have an account.

Google offers a piece of off-premise cloud computing that can make some e-mail headaches go away. The Google Apps messaging offering allows organizations to host their e-mail with Google to eliminate a lot of the on-premise issues with managing e-mails. The Google Apps offering is also cost beneficial to many organizations. Take a moment and determine how much each mailbox costs internally when running solutions like Microsoft Exchange. The Google Apps messaging product for business is $50 per mailbox per year for the entire solution, excluding labor. Check the cost calculator that is provided online at the Google Web site.

Now, I am not saying that the world should rip out their on-premise e-mail systems and switch to Google. But, I like the direction this is going. I think the small and medium business has a clearer cut decision that this is a good idea, and the larger enterprise may need to mull decisions for a large move like this.

Recently, a couple of situations where this transition is happening can be found in academia. Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, will have the class of 2013 use Gmail in this fashion reported here. Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, also is using the Google Apps messaging for student e-mail access.

The truth is Google will win and be successful in this endeavor, but how far it reaches into the larger organizations is yet to be seen. There have been issues migrating to this model for some of the early adapters, but this should improve and get smoother as time progresses. What are your thoughts on this topic? What do you  think of the security/privacy implications? Please comment below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

53 comments
dardello
dardello

All of these platforms are nothing more than training grounds to test your hacking skills. Your personal ISP would be a much better, and secure source for off site email. Why create such a large attack surface as G-Mail. If all you do is trade music, or ask how Aunt Peg is doing then have at it.

smcdonell
smcdonell

Been using cloud-based e-mail since 2004. As a non-profit, I was excited about "free" G-mail and Google apps. I looked into this for my company when G-Mail first went up and at the time they had no means for us to capture and archive all incoming and outgoing messages for archival/electronic discovery purposes. Given this, we had to pass.

dwdino
dwdino

Collaboration and integration ...

jeff_oconnell
jeff_oconnell

My hat is off to Google for comming up with what I beleive to be the first successful cloud computing endevor. However, I have a real propblem with Google becomming such a dominant player as a middle-man company. At some point they will have the power to dictate what info is seen around the world if not already.

adolphsn
adolphsn

Work up a good password, some hackers broke in to my Gmail profile, and I got lambasted with junk mail returns, they reset all my settings.

slavelle@khviii.net
slavelle@khviii.net

Yes it will i work in education and we have just moved to gmail all the same apps as exchange but for little or no cost what can i say :-)

gregfeenstra
gregfeenstra

Policy will dictate what an organization will choose. It will not take over the world's email. The competition in this space will drive market pricing of other products down at some point to remain competetive. There will always be those that pay a premium for privacy and the such.

chris
chris

it's just that we have one is the point. Gmail is a bad idea for companies.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

on site e-mail storage, off site backups, power of the google network. Easy...next....

bfpower
bfpower

Yes and no. It is safest for businesses without competency gaps. So should the fix be 1) eliminate the competency gaps, or 2) outsource your email services? In this case, outsourcing is a workaround, not a solution. The competency gaps will still be there in some measure. And as to your last statement... no. I don't think that's the case. Centralization is far too important to some companies. Perhaps many will, but to say that 'all businesses' will farm out their email services is jumping to conclusions.

awhammond
awhammond

Company policy, Secret and Internal info. Will all this still be internal or secret if Google hosts these 'mailboxes'? What about guaranteed service(SLA's)- Will this be individual or based on a Gmail release. Too many unknowns around this concept.

neil.wright
neil.wright

Would you trust Google? Given their brown-nosing to the Mainland Chinese Government and their disingenuous attempts at hiding it once it became public I wouldn't trust them with the left-overs from yesterdays lunch.

daviesgersom
daviesgersom

Another cost aspect to consider is manpower. A lot other points have already been mentioned above.

harriskam
harriskam

now my concern is what about guys like us who are supporting mail systems like exchange?? do we really need to rethink?? but as for Google definitely they are really smart.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Still, their client being in beta for so long with no signs of a release date doesn't inspire confidence in me.

dark_star_wolf_007_1
dark_star_wolf_007_1

Its going to be like all of google's services, google's search engine is the top search engine, google's "Google Chrome" is one of the best web browsers out there and in my opinion the best. The way google's going its going to be a big main stream service when it comes out of beta.

marcio.guerios
marcio.guerios

I think the world will run on Gmail, mainly because the costs per mailbox of the others e-mail messaging solutions, like Exchange, Notes,etc... are too high. Google mail is very simple and easy to use solution, and the prices are very affordable.

greg.hruby
greg.hruby

Until there is a better model for how data on a service providers (Gmail in this case) servers is treated, there is massive privacy issue. Are the e-mails retained in the system permanently or removed on a schedule tailored to each company/users data practices requirements? If Google retention schedule to meet legal liabilities is different from your companies - which governs ? Assume Google retains data 5 years, and company wants maximum of 3 years to meet a statute or other requirement. A lawsuit is filed after 4 years and the company says - "policy states the data is not available" - but the attorneys for plaintiff argue - Goggle/Gmail has the files - produce them !. Simplified to be sure - but until there are federally established and state coordinated laws and rules for data management - putting your corporate e-amil solution in the hands of a separate business entity has some issues that may catch you later on.

rdisney
rdisney

GMail Premier Edition $50/user x150 $7500/year 1st year $7500 2nd year $7500 total for 5 years $37,500 Exchange Server Standard is a onetime price of $614 plus $58.93/user. Server hardware is $5,000 with OS. 1st year $14453.50 2nd year $0 Total for 5 years 14,453.50 Expecting a 5 year deployment for Exchange, our company will save $23,046.50 with Exchange Server instead of GMail Premier Edition. All I do now with Exchange is backup, and add & remove accounts. I would still need to add and remove with GMail. GMail would not free much admin time.

osehjb
osehjb

I think this becoming the trend especially now when organisations are cutting IT budgets. Oseh J

alamsyah.achmad
alamsyah.achmad

not too far a head from our requirement..mobile access also cheaper not required fancy peripheral for access google sevices...

toby1959
toby1959

Our university (27,000 accounts) switches in June

mushtaq_naik143
mushtaq_naik143

This is true that Google is wining successfully with its latest products and one of them is Google Apps. Our company is also using the same for mailing purpose. And i am agree with you that that the Google needs more improvements on security/privacy implications.

ellery-newcomer
ellery-newcomer

I hope not. University of Tulsa recently switched over to Gmail. Yeah, it makes sense for the IT department; one less thing to deal with and all, but since then email here has been SOUL-WRENCHINGLY slow, plus issues with my [somewhat outdated] version of thunderbird. Spam filtering has much improved, though; so I don't completely hate it.

tech
tech

I do quite a bit of discounted consulting to non-profit associations and smaller academic accounts. The hosted Google apps, particularly email, have been an excellent solution for them. I now assist in the management of email, calendaring, and document sharing via Google apps for over a dozen of my accounts. The service is "integrated" to their domain names with just a few MX record changes, provides excellent spam protection, a nice web interface, and pop/imap access as well. The support for CNAME-aliased addresses for web access to the services makes it second-nature for even my least-techie clientele (most of them can remember http://mail.mydomain.org to check the mail via web). I say kudos to the service -- for the right size organization. Ultimately, I dont' see any particular reason it couldn't be a winner for larger customers as well.

chris
chris

I think one thing that could hinder usage by companies might be the feeling that they cannot truly set and enforce a particular email retention policy. After a number of people have been taken down by emails, we were advised to set a policy that we permanently delete our emails, therefore the lawyers can't get at things. It also keeps us from having to deal with stuff on backups and storage. I doubt anything I actually "delete" with my personal gmail account is actually deleted. I'd bet it gets stored and mined, therefore could be subpoenaed

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

If you use google. First sign of that and the company will collapse. Users would run.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Do you use https with gmail? It defaults to "http" when logging in but you can change your setting to stick with https. That counter the threat of someone sniffing your login off the network. Are your security questions strong or answered truthfully? Most people will answer the questions truthfully stating that there great aunt really is Sally. If you select an arbitrary but memorable answer then you can limit the threat of someone guessing your information through the "I forgot my password" function. I'm not sure if either of those where your cause of grief but they are two things worth considering.

dwdino
dwdino

Created and needs analysis matrix - email, scheduling, sharing, access, security, retention, integration, etc. After completing this needs analysis, verify the capabilities of the proposed solutions. If you really only need basic communications, go gmail. If your requirements are much greater, go with a proven enterprise solution.

herlizness
herlizness

> I don't know; how many? I've seen far longer and more disruptive outages at a few of my Fortune 100 clients running their own email .. up to five days without ANY service

melias
melias

Google almost never comes out and says what is going/went wrong, if it may happen again, etc... During a month-long duration when most users could not upload videos to Google Video, including paying customers, it was impossible to contact anybody for information. Once in a while a post would pop-up from someone CLAIMING to work for Google on their forums,(we are working on it, really, REALLY!!) but no real information was ever released, during or after. I know many businesses do the same, but when I am a paying customer, I want more information than that. And access to a human being, whether I can get real information out said person or not. This is Google's business model, and as long as that is their way of doing business, I will never use GMail as anything other than trash mail.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It's been in beta for years. Maybe you mean 'IF it comes out of beta." Of course, as long as it is in beta, Google doesn't have to worry about service levels. "Hey, it's a beta; did you expect it to work all the time?"

cbader
cbader

Also take in to consideration the variations in laws across state lines. I live in California, so GMail would already operate under the same laws I do, but they may differ for someone in another state.

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

There are open source alternatives for e-mail servers. For example, sendmail, qmail, exim, or Postfix. Server Hardware = probably as cheap as $100 on a old low end system or totally free if out of the dumpster, right?! 1st year = $0 2nd year = $0 Total for 5 years = $0 dollars, loads of email accounts, aspirin for head-aches, and bills for electricity and internet connectivity ( your guess is as good as mine here ).

cavan
cavan

Power, UPS, contact and calendar synchronization to all of Blackberry, Windows Mobile and IPhone, Antivirus, antispam, administration, hardware and software maintenance (repairs, patches, upgrades), backups (media, offsite storage costs), a Postini equivalent for message archival, recovery/discovery (90 days included with Premier, 1 year $10 extra, 10 years $30 extra) There are, perhaps, arguments that can be made against deploying google apps. Cost is simply not one of them.

jstevens
jstevens

as you illustrated the cost saving that people are proporting would be an illusion at best. Though with the Gmail solution they would not need to have someone on staff with the MS Exchange skill set. By the same token it doesn't really do anything to lighten the number of IT staff for most organizations.

daniel
daniel

Exchange requires active directory. If a company doesn't have any windows server, then add the cost of that plus cals, backup costs, implementation and administrative overhead. For organizations that outsource their IT support, Exchange will have higher support costs. Nothing really costs $0 in a year. They both have their pros and cons, I would definitely not rule out google apps as a cost effective messaging solution for small businesses.

greg.hruby
greg.hruby

depending on the security measures at your site for internet activity (including access to sites (trusted and specific setting) , management of file/data transfer size, antivirus scanning, rules for junk/mass mailings , plus desktop based secruity solutions layerd in on top of the server-based ones and well.. - there could be a lot of other factors affecting the application "end-speed". it highlights the need for a more structured secruity model

roger.sthilaire
roger.sthilaire

I am presently doing a distange education program and the applications in G-mail form the back bone of communications with the students. Gmail has provided integration to the learning interface and document support for the students and staff alike. This has reduced the administrative overhead associated with the management and implemenation of e-mail accounts for the each new student with an annual intake of a few thousand spread over several countries gmail has provided a viable cost effective option for delivery of services in the academic sector. This I believe will continue as a trend in the academic sector especially as most instututions of higher learning are more focused on the delivery of programs via distance and are looking for solution in that area. Roger

bfpower
bfpower

My major point is - Gmail needs enterprise level plans if they want to support enterprises. But for SB or academia, they might be a good bet. Still, if there will be financial or otherwise private information transmitted over it, I would want to be completely sure that it was not being mined (or retained outside of specific policies I set). It's just safest for larger businesses to retain their own email, so they can be sure 1) it's accessible to them, and 2) it's not accessible to anyone else. Especially to ensure it's not accessible to a company with as much interest in data mining as Google. I wrote a longer post containing my opinion on the subject of Gmail in the business. Have a look: http://bfpower.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/gmail-becoming-a-monopoly/

edthered
edthered

reply I've ever read on this site. Sorry for the off-topic post, but making sure you delete emails to subvert possible legal prosecution should be considered a criminal act, if it isn't already. Back on topic now, there are quite a few privacy/mining/security issues with GMail that I would think would keep most organizations from using it (Google owns your mail for eternity would be the biggest for me). It should keep individuals from using it too, but eh, it's their life to give away if they want to. I just wish Google was more up-front about what they are actually doing with their 'free service'. I doubt it would be as popular as it is if they were.

adolphsn
adolphsn

Thanks Neon, I change the setting to https.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Also, if I'm a small company operating in one city or state, I fall under the business laws of that state or municipality. As soon as I start using Gmail, I'm subject to federal business laws since I'm now operating over state lines and using federally governed communications systems.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

An administrator's salary and benefits, backups, storage, and a pro-rated portion of an Internet connection if you want web access via OWA. I wouldn't consider Google Mail as a corporate solution, but rdisney is not showing all the costs.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

for all Internet based services (Spam aside)

stend.techrepublic
stend.techrepublic

From the Google TOS: Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. Of course, they have the right to use it forever, which includes ignoring your request to remove it. As for "delete emails to subvert possible legal prosecution", there is provision in the law that if legal action is ongoing, oy you reasonably should know that a suit will be forthcoming, that you have to retain relevant documents, and that sanctions apply if you fail to do so. And for being "considered a criminal act", in the United States there's this little proviso about not being required to provide evidence against yourself for criminal cases. In most cases, for example, you cannot be required to provide a decryption key for encrypted documents (although http://volokh.com/posts/1235508933.shtml discusses an exception).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Where have you been? Many large companies have a corporate policy dictating how long e-mail will be retained. If the subject isn't already covered by a government-mandated retention policy, many companies require deleting the message. What some of them forget is require erasing the backups. When the trial comes, the backups are subpoenaed and Bob's your uncle, to borrow a British phrase.

chris
chris

The point is not one of morality, pullleasse. You have just assumed we're criminals. Thanks for taking high road. Welcome to the dictatorship I guess. Our system allow people (like disgruntled employees) to bring law suits that we are required to comply with and spend thousands of dollars to defend. if we're found innocent, guess what we get? nothing. maybe a counter suit, against some dude? how likely is he going to pay us thousands or hundred of thousands back because he has taken this actiion? none. An email policy can help mitigate that by limiting the damage that can be done through our "oh so perfect" system.

edthered
edthered

but once it's on their server, it's theirs to do with what they want. I believe that is in the TOS, so it's a matter of semantics. It's never deleted, it's added to their 'global glob of permanent data', is linked to you so it's PII, and, like you said, they can ignore any request to permanently remove your mail from their servers. As to the deletion of emails, it sounds like they know they are either doing something wrong, or they think they might be doing something wrong (since obviously they were doing something wrong in the past). In either case it sounds to me like willful destruction of evidence, and Nixon's ghost might be able to tell you what that could get you. No matter what the law says though, I believe that it's a morally wrong practice and I guess those involved will have to determine whether or not they can live with themselves. I know I wouldn't be able to.

stend.techrepublic
stend.techrepublic

It applied to paper documents - since it is not practical to keep physical documents indefinitely, 'unimportant' documents are disposed of. However, if an organization is targeted by a lawsuit, and some people have 5 year old memos, while others have nothing over 3 months, it looks suspicious. As a result, it's important to have a document retention policy, specifying what types of documents should be retained by whom for how long. Applying this to email is just an extension of the practice, as documents are documents. Obviously, the term is something of a misnomer - it's a document destruction policy as much as a document retention policy, but it's all about keeping, or not keeping, documents for the benefit of the organization. Even the most innocent seeming document might be misconstrued into something malign if persons with personal knowledge of the context are unavailable.