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Google Apps vs. Microsoft Exchange – switch from exchange to google apps?

When Google Apps first entered the email market in 2008, it was looked at as another one of Google’s pet projects. But, this beta picked up steam in 2009, 2010 and today.  The $50/year user account for up to 25GB of storage is easy to handle on the budget.  Plus, it’s nice knowing that all your email is stored in the cloud, safe and sound if your computer crashes and you have a hard drive failure.

But, is Google Apps the right email solution for your company? We have set up lots of our clients’ companies with Google Apps.  For the most part, it has been a hands-free tech support process where the email just works well.  However, we have gotten complaints as of late regarding the lack of functionality as well as some glitches.  Is Google Apps still the way to go?  Is there another email solution to look for?

If your company is coming from a Microsoft Exchange environment where the server is onsite, then just keep in mind there will be no outsourced or online email solution that compares. Microsoft Exchange essentially allows your Exchange administrator to do whatever you’d like.  Do you want to share calendars, contacts, and email inboxes?  How about setting up public folders to share for your conference rooms or projects?  Do you want to keep your 15GB+ emails on the server, but want to only access them upon demand so your emails are still lightning fast?  Microsoft Exchange can grant all of these wishes.

What about Google Apps?  Well, Google Apps can share contacts and calendars and give you access to emails.  But, it’s not big on showing you all your emails if you’re above 4GB.  That’s when you’ll notice a slow down on your computer.

Let’s get to the biggest deal breaker:  folders. Google Apps has a search mentality.  Can you blame them?  This is Google people!  What this means is if you’re an organization freak and like to save everything to folders, that’s sort of thrown out of the window with Google Apps.  Yes, you can migrate your Exchange folders, but it really isn’t possible or at least easily workable if you want other email users to move emails to those folders too.  And for yourself, it doesn’t make sense since Google Apps pushes for you to only see your most recent emails; thus, not allowing for you to see older emails to organize in folders.  If you don’t mind getting away from Outlook and using just the Gmail interface, then you’ll have a little less aggravation with working with labels.  Labels will tag emails to assign them to a certain group.  Basically, labels is a way Google tries to make it look like Exchange folders, but fails miserably.  Further, there are no public folders in Google Apps.  If you like sharing calendars for projects, conference rooms, attendance, or phone conferences, there is no way to set up a public calendar for this.

How about the almighty calendar? Can Google Apps compete with Exchange?  Not really.  Yes, you can share calendars, but if you are heavy into requesting different types of meeting features, such as optional and required attendees, this isn’t for you.  Also, although Google Apps says it can set up hidden meeting details, it really cannot.  For instance, if you want an assistant to see when his or her boss is busy, but not to be able to look at the meeting details, Google Apps cannot do this.  It works mostly on the Gmail web interface, but it doesn’t sync over to the Outlook client which is most important.

The bottom line

If your company has 10 or less email users and only needs simple calendar and contacts functionality, then Google Apps is for you.  I recommend going with Google Apple Premier which has a built-in Postini anti-spam feature.  However, if you’re are tied down to your folder organization method; love public folders; and use extensive Exchange calendar and Outlook funtionality, then don’t get rid of your Exchange server just yet.  If you’re looking to get rid of the annual Exchange server expense, then you should consider moving to an outsourced Exchange hosting environment.  This will give you the closest replication of an in-house email server, but will store your emails online.  There are pros and cons to this which will be explored in a future blog.

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