For years, Microsoft and IBM Lotus battled each other for enterprise customers, each claiming wins for Exchange or Domino seats. But today, the fearsome email predator is Google, with its own free migration tools and pricing that undercuts the competition.
Small and-medium-size cost-conscious IT shops that don't want to manage email servers have been easy targets for Google, but this month, the company has added some enterprise-friendly offerings to attract larger companies.
The Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange tool lets IT pros move hundreds of mailboxes simultaneously while end users continue to use Microsoft Exchange without interruption, according to Google. The tool moves email, calendar and contact data from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps in four steps and works with either on-premise or hosted versions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007. This is a free download for Google Apps Premier and Education Edition customers.
Google also acquired a company called DocVerse this month that lets Microsoft Office users edit their documents collaboratively on the Web. It also launched Google Apps Marketplace, which has products and services that appeal to large companies.
Google also addressed the product unfamiliarity issue Microsoft users might have by letting them use Outlook with Google Apps. "Google is doing all the right things to attract enterprise customers," said Michael Cohn, CEO of CloudSherpas, an Atlanta-based IT services firm that moves companies onto Google Apps.
Cohn, whose clients are a mix of Exchange, IBM Lotus/Notes and GroupWise customers with on-premise systems, expects to see increased movement from larger Exchange shops now that Google has closed the gap with its Apps Marketplace and migration tool.
Google's enticing pricing
Michael Cizmar, president of Chicago-based MC + A said most IT shops move to Google Apps from other hosted email offerings such as Microsoft's Exchange Hosted Services and Intermedia's Hosted Exchange, or from POP3 email systems, because it offers better value.
One of Google's biggest wins was the City of Los Angeles, which moved 30,000 users from Novell's GroupWise email system to Google Apps in October in an effort to cut costs. Google beat out a number of other bids, including one from Microsoft.
IDC, the Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm, did not have hard data on Google Apps email business, but Robert Mahowald, an IDC analyst, noted that Google has made some headway with customers that already outsource Exchange, companies that don't have good Exchange administrators on staff and those that simply need to lower costs.
Google Apps Premier Edition gives customers 25 GB inboxes, a 99.9% uptime service-level agreement (SLA) and other features for $50 per user, per year. A comparable package from the Exchange hosting company Intermedia would be the Enterprise Plan, which offers 10 GB, 25 GB mailboxes for $120 plus $9.95 per user, per month.
"The cost difference between Intermedia's ala carte program and Google Apps is so significant that the cost savings is immediately obvious," Cizmar said.
Microsoft also charges for its Exchange Hosted Services to the tune of $50 per month for 10 Exchange mailboxes, according to its online cost calculator.
In addition to higher cost, Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services is less mature than Google's product; Cizmar said he has clients who switched off of it due to issues such as email going into the wrong inbox. Despite this, Microsoft's email is still a better fit for many organizations.
Steve Goodman, a senior server engineer for a university in Birmingham, U.K., and a tech blogger, was ready to move off of a Unix Dovecot system last year and considered Google Apps, Outlook Live (Live@EDU version of hosted Exchange) or Exchange on-premise. He ultimately went with Microsoft.
The APIs for management automation in Google Apps and Outlook Live were both good, so the IT team based its final decision on end-user feedback as well as migration and integration tools from both services.
"There was a split down the middle of whether it should be Gmail or Outlook Live; we were expecting a clear Google win," Goodman said. "In the end it came down to discovery, monitoring, message tracking and data location issues. Outlook Live beat Google on all of those requirements with self-service discovery and message tracking and guarantees our data would be in EU data centers."