More and more of our clients are unloading the burden of running their own Exchange server within their office and moving their email hosting to a full-service provider in the cloud. I know that many, many very large companies have been outsourcing their email hosting over the past 5 years.
The two major competitors in this market are clearly Google Apps and Hosted Exchange. (Whether or not Office 365 will make a dent in this space is yet to be seen.)
Depending on the Exchange provider, we have had very different experiences with Microsoft Exchange Hosting depending on the company – a lot of times it seems that the bigger companies are harder to work with since they have so many clients that no matter how large you are, you are just a number. I remember when one multinational company that we support had a serious DNS emergency which was preventing email to be delivered to the domain. After waiting on hold for 1 hour (it was a Friday night) one of the technicians actually told me on the phone “…look, we’re the biggest Hosted Exchange provider in the world, this is just one of our customers…” Meanwhile, smaller Exchange Hosting providers are easy to get on the phone, 24/7 and they provide better pricing along with easier access to admins.
Meanwhile Google Apps is run by Google across the board, there are no 3rd party providers so, the experience is always the same. It’s an excellent service and it’s free for businesses with less than 10 users.
So, the question on everyone’s mind is – which one do I choose: Google Apps or Microsoft Exchange?
And the answer is not simple. Every company must be evaluated and their current behaviors and needs must be taken into consideration.
For instance, one of our clients had an Exchange server that was aging quickly, they were interested in Google Apps because of their experience with Gmail and how well it filters spam. However, they were primarily using Microsoft Office and they used individual shared folders amongst their teams to store emails relating to particular clients. Interestingly, there is no direct equivalent of shared folders in either Google Apps or in the newer versions of Microsoft Exchange… In the end, we recommended Hosted Exchange with Sharepoint since it would fully integrate with their current Outlook.
With the introduction of Office 365 this year and the increase in people choosing Google Apps, even more companies are going to be looking into SAAS hosted email solutions.
One thing that I’ve told my clients for a long time is that if they want to have less email problems, they should use OWA or web mail. It eliminates the mail client from the equation, that’s why it’s always the fallback when Outlook, Entourage, or Apple Mail aren’t communicating correctly with the server or have database corruptions…
Google Apps can be fully run within your web browser, there is no need for extra programs such as Microsoft Office – in addition, there is only one pricing structure = $5/user/month. On the other hand, I’ve read that Office 365 has several pricing structures and that it’s capabilities are limited if you do not have Office installed on your computer.
These are just some of the positives and negatives of Microsoft Exchange VS Google APps.
Given all of the considerations involved in such an important decision, it’s important to discuss the choice of putting your enterprise email in the cloud with people who are familiar with the limitations of the different cloud-email solutions as well as the experience with different providers of the services.
Which one are you using or thinking about? Feel free to comment and let me know.