Friday, January 25, 2008

The Skinny on Google Apps

Every few years, there is always a major need for change within internal IT Departments, particularly for the messaging and collaboration systems. In this Blog post, I'll discuss my recent experience with Google Apps, and how we are integrating it into our company strategy to deliver a choice for our customers: ASP hosted Mail vs Internally hosted.

I have been working with Exchange since Version 5.5 and have seen the progression from 5.5 to 2000 and finally to 2003. I would say that the biggest change is not in Exchange itself but how email is used. Before, email was simply a medium used for communicating. However in the last 3 years, email has been used for compliance, lawsuits and just about everything else: From sending pictures to emailing documents; not to mention all the SPAM.

Because of this drastic change, storage requirements for email have become enormous. Everyone wants to keep everything forever, so not only is it harder for IT departments to keep up, the storage and backups required to maintain this become extremely expensive for SMBs.

If you are like me, you get a ton of email and hate to sort it. I have been using Google Apps for about a month now and personally, it is a nice and welcome piece to my portfolio of recommended technology solutions. Their philisopy is "search it, don't sort it" which I have done for the last month and have been very happy, but you still have the option to sort with Labels.

Everything about Google Apps is win-win if you don't care to keep your email in house (as in physically at your office.) However I have had a few major annoyances.

1) Outlook 2003 & 2007 - I guess the first time you download folders from Gmail if you already transfferred all of your email over IMAP, you may get the dreaded "Too many IMAP Connections" or as I experience more recently "lockdown in sector 4 (failure)".

So far this is the only real issue I have had with Gmail, otherwise I am very happy. Though I still have to play with the Synching of Calendars and Contacts.

The benefits so far outweight the downsides, since the premier edition has the postini service for archiving (for exchange we had to use symantec enterprise vault with exchange) + 25 gigs of email space. I have made a list of all the best features:

Premier Edition

1) 25 Gigs per Mailbox for Email Only!
2) 99.9% Guarantee Uptime
3) Redundancy and Mail Replication
4) Postini Message Recovery and Archival service for up to 90 days (Message Management)
5) IMAP Migration tool to migrate existing mailboxes.
6) Google Calendar – Sync with Outlook!
7) Google Docs – strictly for Documents, spreadsheets and Presentations
8) IMPAP4 – so you can use your favorite email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Outlook Express)
9) New Additional Features (Documents, Calendar, Search)
10) Reduced overall IT Cost
11) Better SPAM Protection

I am thus quite happy with the product and I really do believe this product will give exchange a run for it's money, and I actually have enjoyed not using outlook so much anymore. However, there is still a long way to go for this product. Support for one is very poor but what do you expect for $50.00 a year. One of the reasons I picked Google Apps at the end of the day is to provide the customer with different options, but I will probably continue to work with and Exchange Deployment and look at both options.

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