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Should Google Host your Corporate e-mail?

(first published in Parramatta Business Access)

By Dexter Duncan

A recent company we spoke to is paying $120/year per user for e-mail hosting with Antivirus protection.   It is a simple POP account with no strategy for back-ups.   He has been paying these rates for years and we thought it sounded like a rip-off based on the service he was getting.    At minimum of 40 users, one would pay about $15,000 over three years.   Setting up an on premises Microsoft Small Business Server, which includes Exchange (mail) costs around $15,000 to $18,000, excluding on-going labour costs, so if control over your data is not important, a hosted mail solution works out better since it cost around the same and is less hassle.    With cloud computing now a rage, hosting e-mail is starting to look like a good option.

Businesses should consider Email hosting, especially those based on Microsoft Exchange, but should they consider Google?   Google has been trying to move into this space as part of their plan to dislodge Microsoft as the technology king at enterprises.    In order to get support, you need Google’s Premier edition which costs $50/year per user.      Based on cost savings alone, one would think that corporate and government houses around the planet would be exiting Microsoft in droves to sign-up with Google.   However, businesses around the world continue to make decisions to use Microsoft as their technology of choice for e-mail.   Why is this?

The short answer is that businesses, even small ones, do not always make a decision on up-front costs savings.   There are many features, benefits and security advantages of Microsoft, but Google is catching up fast.   First let’s explain E-mail Hosting versus an on-premise solution.  Then we can compare Google with Microsoft Exchange Hosting.

Email Hosting

In a previous article, I explained a recent trend called Cloud Computing.  Email hosting is part of this trend.    As seen from above example, the main advantage of a hosted e-mail solution is a lower upfront cost since hosting allows you to turn it into an operating cost.   No hardware is needed on premise and the service is “in the cloud”.     Email hosting has been around for years, although the pressure from Google forced Microsoft to rush in improving their hosting offer.

Some of the traditional problems associated with hosted mail solutions are:

–          Email Pop accounts – Back-up is stored on employee computers

–          No clear access to data back-ups.   What if employee deletes all the mail?

–          Domain Names –limited number of domain name’s supported

–          No shared mailboxes and calendars and or Public Folders.

–          Limited or no control over your own data

–          Regarding privacy, hosted solutions could release your e-mail to authorities without your consent (called “sealed subpoena”)

Google vs. Microsoft

Now let’s compare Google to Microsoft Exchange hosting.

Strengths of Google:

–          Focus on End-users

–          Free applications (office, video, calendar, etc.)

–          Price – Very Low cost offering

–          Limited support of Blackberry phones and Outlook and getting better

–          Great support on Google’s Android phone

–          Single sign-on across all Google Applications

–          99.9% uptime (e.g. maximum of 9 hours down-time per year)

–          With Postini, can obtain fairly good administration and back-up

Strengths of Microsoft

–          Focus on balanced support of end-users, administrators and company needs

–          Option for on-premise solution, hosted solution or combination of both

–          Great support of Blackberry phones at extra cost of a server

–          Smooth integration with Microsoft Office suite, Active Directory and Sharepoint which simplifies day-to-day operations

–          Brick level back-up allows you to easily regain employee files after they deleted them.

–          99.999% uptime (e.g. only a few minutes of downtime per year) with 100% guarantee possible

–          Mature eco-system of local support partners

Google has been rapidly improving their service so some of the above technical limitations could be minimized in a short time-frame.  However, if you are a current Exchange user, the migration of your mail contacts and existing mail to Hosted Exchange is easier.    Google also lacks a clear public product road-map to plan against when compared to Microsoft.

In short, Google or Microsoft hosted e-mail are good offerings which a small business should consider.     Medium to large companies will likely continue using on-site based Exchange solutions, however, the improvements available with hosting is worth a look, especially if you prefer making e-mail services part of your operational expenses.

To find out more about Hosted e-mail solutions, contact your local technology partner.

3 thoughts on “Should Google Host your Corporate e-mail?

  1. We just converted ourselves from Exchange/Outlook to Google Apps in May, 2010. We have slightly less that 100 users. It will probably save us about $75K/year, and people are starting to like Gmail better that Outlook. Plus it works on my PC, my iPhone, and my iPad, plus at a friend’s house when I am on vacation. (And on the Macs that most of the rest of the company uses, plus our Linux servers.)

    My company’s service, Ping Connect, makes SSO into Google Apps a snap.

  2. Pingback: eCommerce and Cloud Computing | Cloud Nerve Network

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