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Summary:

http://www.youtube.com/v/KQcwW9hNRMk&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1 Up until two years ago, I swore by a hosted Microsoft Exchange account. For under $100 a year, I had the security and reliability of my email on a solid Exchange server. I also enjoyed direct push email to my handset. At that time, that […]

http://www.youtube.com/v/KQcwW9hNRMk&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1

Up until two years ago, I swore by a hosted Microsoft Exchange account. For under $100 a year, I had the security and reliability of my email on a solid Exchange server. I also enjoyed direct push email to my handset. At that time, that was a Microsoft Windows Mobile device.

Fast-forward to today. I’ve been using Google’s Gmail for both personal and work mail over the last 18 months. Google Sync is now supported on various handset platforms like S60, BlackBerry, iPhone and more. And now Google has fit another piece to the puzzle with its Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. With the free plugin for Google Apps users, it’s offering a potentially effective replacement for Microsoft Exchange. You can keep running Microsoft Outlook but use Google Apps Gmail as the back-end, which saves time and money, both in infrastructure as well as support costs. I’m sure not all of the Exchange bells and whistles are in there, but give it time. Google is able to capitalize on its web platform by iterating often. That’s its secret sauce, which really shouldn’t be a secret after all these years. Here’s a high-level rundown of the support:

  • Email, calendar, and contacts synchronization. For email, the plug-in uses the offline Gmail protocol, which is much faster than IMAP or other methods.
  • Free/Busy lookup and Global Address List functionality, which makes it easy to schedule meetings with your colleagues, regardless of whether they use Outlook’s calendar or Google Calendar.
  • A simple, two-click data migration tool which allows employees to easily copy existing data from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps.

Semi-related: I’m watching a developing trend take place in relation to Microsoft. It seems like it’s really starting to fight battles on multiple fronts from different competitors. A few years back, only a few contenders were in the mix, but now it appears like attacks are coming in from all sides on a daily basis. Apple, Google and others are hitting it hard on the mobile handset front. Various Linux platforms are attacking on the netbooks. Zoho and Google are challenging on the productivity side. And now Google is landing a firm uppercut on chin with the once untouchable Exchange. The question now: Will Microsoft withstand the barrage or will a glass chin appear?

  1. Guess it’s time for a JKOTR MobileMe, Gmail, Exchange deathmatch feature!

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  2. As cool as this is there are still a lot of companies and government agencies that cannot go to these solutions for security reasons. Exchange provides the ability to control the entire system and for that reason will continue to rule in these environments.

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  3. I use GMail to sync my G1 and iPhone (via nuesync). I use Gmail to fetch my comcast emails.

    The more I use it I am realizing that I do not control when Gmail pulls my email and pushes it to me. Some times it can take more than an hour before my emails are pushed to me. There is no settings to tell gmail poll emails at given frequency.

    I am afraid gmail may have scalability/ reliability issues for business where you rely on receiving emails in time.

    Did you notice the same?

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  4. To expand on what Jason said above, few real businesses will switch to Gmail because of data protection issues. No sensible business would let Google control and scan all their email, just like no sensible business would use Google’s productivity software.

    I also think that Microsoft have successfully seen off any challenges on the Netbook front. Consumers have voted with their wallets and shunned Linux based netbooks and there’s no reason why this trend won’t accelerate once Windows 7 comes out.

    I don’t think that Apple have really harmed Microsoft much either. Mac sales are dropping back to the insignificant levels that they’ve traditionally maintained and Snow Leopard is turning out to be a fairly pitiful release that’s unlikely to be able to compete with Windows 7. iPods never took any business away from Microsoft and the iPhone is still being outsold (barely) by WinMo phones. iPhone 3GS doesn’t bring anything new to the table and presents Microsoft with a great opportunity to make a strong comeback with WinMo7 early next year.

    All in all I’d say it’s a bit early to be looking for signs of Microsoft’s impending demise. If anything, I’d say that Microsoft are currently improving their position while a backlash forms against Google and people tire of Apple. Windows 7, Zune, Office 2007/2010 and XBox 360 are all doing well at the moment and getting loads of well-deserved good publicity.

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    1. I didn’t say anything about Microsoft’s demise. I pointed out the fairly undeniable fact that they are facing more competition on more fronts than ever.

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    2. Sorry Kevin. I know you didn’t say that and I didn’t intend to twist your words if that’s how it came out. I was just following the argument to its conclusion.

      It’s 2am over here. I tend to go into rant mode if I don’t get enough sleep :)

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    3. Jake’s comments that “few real businesses will switch to Gmail … No sensible business would let Google control and scan all their email, just like no sensible business would use Google’s productivity software” is naive to the realities of “real” businesses and governments.

      Google does not scan Google Apps Premier/Education Edition content — doing so would violate the Service Level Agreement and SAS 70 Type II audit compliance. Google’s security extends beyond data-center, network, and server, to the application and data levels. Sharding and replication mean that should there be a server-level or data center level breach or failure, your data is obscured. Redundancy and global access are core to the service.

      In comparison, most business IT departments do NOT provide formal SLAs and do not certify SAS 70 Type II against internal applications. With exchange, redundancy is complex and expensive, as is secure global access. Add the cost of backups, spam and virus protection, and scheduled maintenance (hardware and software) to in-house solutions.

      In our practice, I have not seen business concerned about the security and privacy of Google Apps running data centers and applications as security as Google (Yes, I know they are out there).

      The issue most businesses have with Google Apps is functionality. Google Docs are not mature enough to replace MS Office or Open Office, but augments the office suites well. This is particularly true as companies look at the cost of web conferencing from within their walls.

      Until gadget developers catch up, Google Sites only match simple Sharepoint sites (document libraries, wikis, discussion forums, to do lists, link libraries, calendars, etc).

      Gmail and Google Calendar, with the newly integrated Contacts and Task features provides a more robust set of capabilities. Add secure IM, free PC-to-PC VoIP, and Video chat, and the functionality balance is not cut-and-dry in favor of the in-house solution.

      Finally, keep in mind that business decisions are made against cost/benefit analysis. The more complex the in-house email and collaboration solution, the greater difference in cost. As the cost difference widens, the perceived functionality gap narrows.

      I AGREE that Google Apps Premier Edition is not for every business. Some enterprises and government agencies will want and need to keep in-house solutions. For many, if not most, businesses, however, Google Apps is or can become an extremely cost effective and viable alternative.

      Regards,
      Allen

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  5. I haven’t noticed what Rajesh talks about, but Google hasn’t replicated all the features of Outlook yet, with a major emphasis on tasks and categories. I live by those, and know Google has tasks working in a way that appear in Gmail and on iGoogle, but again, there’s no categories.

    CompanionLink uses multiple Google calendars to sync Outlook to the Pre, and calendar for tasks. Pretty creative, but still not like having the single calendar with color-coded items that cross reference with emails and tasks. The thought of going through my Outlook to create multiple calendars to accommodate my categories sounds like a nightmare.

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  6. To me you can’t understate the importance of Windows mobile 7 to Microsoft. Pre, Apple and Android all seem to have the upper hand at the moment.

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  7. Hotmail and Outlook Connector have been doing this for years. I think Google is challenging this more instead of Exchange.

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  8. I am a Palm Pre owner experiencing Outlook Exchange issues. I do, however, have Gmail (IMAP) running perfectly on the Pre. Am I crazy or does this program offer a (temporary) solution for me? More specifically, couldn’t I install this on my work computer (which handles my work email through Outlook) and then have all of my work email “synched” to a GMail address which I then add through IMAP to my Pre. This may all seem crazy, but I need a temporary fix to get my work email on the Pre until palm fixes the problem with an update.

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  9. The installation of the Google Apps Sync plugin disables Outlook’s ability to search all of your Outlook data. Did anyone encounter this issue? When I was in search for the fix, I found the solution at the URL: http://blogs.msdn.com/outlook/archive/2009/06/17/google-apps-sync-disables-outlook-search.aspx . Hope this helps.

    The remedy I found there is as follows:
    the only remedy is to change the registry key that was modified by the plugin (click the link for more detail on the registry key):

    1) Press the Windows Key + R on your keyboard, and type “REGEDIT”. This will open the Windows Registry Editor.

    2) Browse to the following: “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search”

    3) You will manually have to reset the value of “PreventIndexingOutlook” to “0” (without the quotes). To do this, right click on the “PreventIndexingOutlook” key, select “Modify…”, then change the value data to “0”.

    4) Close the registry editor.

    Thanks.

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  10. Google still suffers from some shortcomings, for which we cannot quite call it an Exchange alternative. Mainly, its problems are:-

    - A lack of experience in the enterprise messaging domain. The recent “serious” bugs exhibited this.
    - A drastically different design which creates problems for it integrating with the preferred enterprise messaging client – Outlook. For example, there is no inbuilt task management system inside Google Apps, because of which it cannot offer task synching. There are no group contacts in Gmail.

    One solution to watch out in the “Exchange Alternative” domain is HyperOffice. They’ve been operative in this domain for many years and have got it right.

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