Google Apps

Google Apps is now an Exchange-replacement; Users can even keep Outlook

On Tuesday, Google announced a new feature of Google Apps for its enterprise customers that allows users to sync their mail, calendar, and contacts with Microsoft Outlook. This enables Google Apps to replace Exchange on the backend.

On Tuesday, Google announced a new feature of Google Apps for its enterprise customers that allows users to sync their mail, calendar, and contacts with Microsoft Outlook. This enables Google Apps to replace Exchange on the backend.

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I've always thought of Google Apps as an product that's trying to replace Microsoft Office with a simpler, cheaper, Web-based solution. However, on Tuesday Google unveiled Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, a new plug-in that allows Premier customers to access their Google Apps mail, calendar, and contacts using Microsoft Outlook, while also being able to have full Web access to all of our their data over the Web just like any other Google Apps customer.

This move changes the game. It pits Google Apps against Microsoft Exchange, the business world's most popular email groupware platform. And, in many ways this makes a lot more sense for Google and allows the company to play to its strengths in building Internet-scale backend systems.

The challenge, of course, is uptime. In 2009 alone, Google has already had several highly-publicized outages of Gmail, which some companies are already using as their primary messaging system. Google promises at least 99.9% uptime for its Premium customers or else it will refund them the cost of the service. Nevertheless, it's a leap of faith for an organization to turn over it's backend services to Google.

It's clear that Google is making a strategic bet on winning over business customers. Besides the new Outlook plug-in, Google has recently added a number of business-oriented features to its messaging platform, including:

For the companies that take the leap of faith with Google, cost is usually the primary motivator. Google charges its Premium customers $50 per user per year. Even hosted Exchange plans cost about $500 per month plus about $6 per user per month. For a smaller company with just 100 users that would make the cost of Google Apps Premium $5,000/year vs. $13,200/year for the hosted Exchange solution. And an in-house Exchange solution will typically have a total cost of ownership (TCO) that is even higher than the hosted solution.

For more insights on Google Apps and other tech topics, follow my Twitter stream at twitter.com/jasonhiner

Take a look at the new Outlook feature in action in this video demo from Google:

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

24 comments
TBBrick
TBBrick

Know of one organization that got a new IS mgr that was big on connections but had next to nothing IS experience. Went from server solution to Google Apps without discussing with experienced IS staff. Since the newbie did not factor in the added traffic on the internet pipe, it didn't take long for the system to bog down. Last I heard, experienced IS staff (and a few others) had gone elsewhere.

vprashar
vprashar

I love Google, but Exchange is such a solid product I would have a hard time going away from it. When we typically think of Microsoft products, things like they are buggy, crash, require reboots, blue-screen of death, patch updates, etc. come to mind. But Exchange is the one product that I have been very impressed with for years. It would be hard to replicate the LAN speeds of in-house exchange, the reliability, and stability of the product. I think Google is a great alternative for smaller firms in tech, marketing, advertising, etc. I wouldn't rely on it for a financial institution, law firm, etc. If I had a start up, sure, it's cheaper than Exchange. But I wouldn't want to tell the head of a financial institution that Gmail's down and there's NOTHING I can do about it.

neilb
neilb

And you could use Outlook 2000 onto a GroupWise 5 back-end. Next version of Outlook and Microsoft had slammed that door.

goudreas
goudreas

What about the increased internet connection most companies would need to use this "service"? Sending gigabytes of Data on a local network or WAN is fine, but on one bottlenecked internet circuit, ridiculous. And correct me if I am wrong but Exchange comes with Outlook CAL's, take away Exchange and now you buy Outlook CAL's, 100 users at $50-70 a piece and all of a sudden that price isn't so good. The numbers may get you in the door but they won't keep you there. This may be a good option for a very small company other than that it is just more overly hyped Google nonsense!

eyesonyou2
eyesonyou2

Close , but isn't there a size limitation ? and what about tasks ?

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

I agree completely. For an company of any size, droping from a 100 Mbps or even 1 Gbps link from the PC to the mail server down to a 1.5 (T1 or so) Mbps link will be a show stopper in a hurry. Even doubling up 3 Mbps is expensive, and there's still the background of all the other internet traffic from the company. Up through Exchange 2003, each Exchange CAL included a license for a copy Outlook (Outlook has never incuding an Exchange CAL so far as I know). This linkage is broken begining with Exchange 2007 - you have to buy the Outlook license as well as the Exchange CAL. That said, for any MS Office user, this is really a non-issue because all the versions, except 2007 Home/Student, include Outlook.

kevinf
kevinf

I don't know that a hosted Exchange environment has any real advantages over the Google solution, what with a third party providing the hosting. Microsoft's attitude towards users is often condescending, so I welcome a competitive offering from Google. We currently still host our own Exchange environment, but for an SMB company like ours, I would consider the Google solution, and encourage more telework from our employees if we were starting from scratch.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Useless for government, we have no control over data backup with the google solution. What if we want to get email out of Joe Scmoe's email account that he deleted 3 months ago in order to cover his own tracks? I can do that easily with my Exchange and granular backup\restore utilities. Do I want the ability to hand over the information as requested (by law in my case) or do I want to go before management and explain I used a product that doesn't comply with government regulations on data retention? What if my user accidentally deletes an entire workspace or project? Will google apps have a 1-800 number I can call and recover my data from back up? Is it backed up daily and securely with snapshots stored on tape locked in a disaster proof facility somewhere like solutions most professional organizations provide? Can I restore my data for any item back to the condition it was on a random date 3 weeks ago due to user error or management requests? I still think this is neat stuff, but I still view cloud apps like this as an easy, cheap and dirty way out. It has an impressive "wow per dollar" effect on management and the average user. It is still far from professional or enterprise level and is best suited for home, school or tiny business use.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

This, plus Google's recent (frequent) outages indicate the cloud is yet to be trusted. And what happens if you ever want to LEAVE Google... No easy way out.

vprashar
vprashar

Olivier, I must disagree. Setup properly, exchange runs very well. I have had many occasions where my gmail was down- on my personal account and my business account. When I have had exchange in-house, it has been pretty much bullet proof. Now, I am not sure about exchange in the cloud as I have not experienced that. Vik.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

I agree with you. If granular data retrieval and retention aren't an issue for you; such as recovering a lost or deleted email from from a deleted account 6 months ago then google, other hosted non exchange systems or an open source solution is cheaper and easier to maintain than exchange. I have a customer that purchased exchange for a company of less than 100 people. I maintain it and charge him per hour (rather exuberantly I might add), even for maintenance. I've explained in the past I can provide him something cheaper and still use outlook, but he insists on exchange. The $$$ is great that I make off of the poor guy, but I really hate the constant maintenance.

neilvincent78
neilvincent78

If you have the postini services added with your google apps account, you can opt for a 1 year retention period or a 10 year retention period package, and you can retrieve all the messages deleted deliberately or by accident. You can use Postini for spam filtering, it's a great service..

olivier.margerand
olivier.margerand

Yes, you're right, Forum Surfer and I guess this is exactly why Valeo went Google Apps for 30,000 users or New South Wales for 1.2 million users ?... :-)

olivier.margerand
olivier.margerand

Vik, I'm sorry but you cannot take your experience for statistics... And we have statistics: just take a look at the link I've posted in my previous comment.

olivier.margerand
olivier.margerand

As you say, "with the exception of scheduled upgrades". With Gmail, you've got continuous upgrade without downtime. As you know, Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs have worked offline for months now (years for Google Docs) so why are you talking about Internet shut down? In addition, in every company I've been, when there is Internet interruption, everybody's out within minutes, looking for any help/answer, even when they've got Outlook or Lotus Notes. :-)

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

Exchange is only as reliable as the people running it. My current exchange mailserver has had 0 downtime in the 5+ years I've been employed here, with the exception of scheduled upgrades. During that time I didn't experience any lost mail. I still say gmail's weakest link is the fact it is internet based. Sometimes we lose our connection, other times we shut it down for various reasons. During those times it is still nice to have internal mail use for our employees.

jimmyvp
jimmyvp

I researched some of this late last year at my old job when the manager started to think this was a great idea. I soon learnt that the functionality of Exchange is almost completly lacking in the Google offering. Even simple things such as Global Distribution Lists couldn't be achieved easily.

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

But the backup/restoration bit is enough to stop me from even investigating into the very important features you mentioned. It has been my experience that one man IT shops are notorious for using these whiz bang cloud apps for quick solutions to make them look talented. In reality, these solutions usually lack professional features and you are depending on the provider to bring innovations, not yourself.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

Does google apps do shared calendars or delegates? Does it allow an administrator to reset the account password or lock it when a member leaves the company? Backup and restoration isn't the only considerations for replacing a local email server. Bill

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

But from a simple accountability standpoint I would never use it as a professional solution and most IT pros would agree with me. However, I can understand that many IT people have solutions such as google apps forced upon them by upper management concerned with $$$$. It is up to us to make sure they understand both the good points and bad points.

jimmyvp
jimmyvp

In New South Wales the Education Deptartment didn't deploy the full suite of Google Apps, they only deployed email and this deployment was for the 1.2 million students in New South Wales only, the Departments employees are still using the inhouse email servers

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