I’ve been a long time Exchange user and advocate. A couple of weeks back Google decided to take their Premiere Apps out of beta status and this sparked my curiosity on testing their solution. For those who need an introduction, Google Premiere Apps is a collection of applications that Google has put together to compete [...]
I’ve been a long time Exchange user and advocate. A couple of weeks back Google decided to take their Premiere Apps out of beta status and this sparked my curiosity on testing their solution. For those who need an introduction, Google Premiere Apps is a collection of applications that Google has put together to compete against Microsoft’s extremely popular Exchange server. Like Exchange, Google Premiere Apps has email, calendar and contacts management and collaboration. And thats just the start of it.
There are plenty of reasons to attract an Exchange admin to Google Premiere Apps. First of all, there is no investment in a local server so all your data is in the cloud. For every account, Google gives you 25GB of storage space which is massive compared to the 2GB or 4GB mailboxes standard on Exchange servers. On top of that, Google only charges $50 per user per year. Even if I decide to use Hosted Exchange services which does not require any software or hardware investment, I’m still looking at paying about $10-$15 per user per month or $120 to $180 per user per year.
Google isnt going after the big corporations with their Premiere Apps. Its definitely targeted more towards small or medium sized businesses that basically have hosted services or a Microsoft Small Business Server type of environment. The reason I say this is because larger organizations prefer to keep their data in their control, usually within their premises. Google Premiere Apps works on a hosted model which could be a good or bad thing- depends on how you look at it.
On the positive side, Google takes the responsibility of protecting your data which, I’ll say, is a much safer bet than doing it yourself. Every experienced admin has gone through a disaster and recovery is generally easier said than done even if you have RAID arrays and external storage pools. Google guarantees 99.9% uptime which translates to a maximum downtime of nine hours in a year. On the negative side, there will always be that ONE person in your organization wondering what would happen if Google decides to index your data.
So I decided to give Google Premiere Apps a try. Now its no secret that I use Macs everywhere- in the office, at home and on the road. I was thus quite rejoiced when the iPhone got Exchange support and had Exchange support not existed on the iPhone, I would have probably stuck to my Blackberry. On my Macs, Entourage currently does the job on syncing with the Exchange Server, however, I cant wait until Snow Leopard comes out with its built-in Exchange support for iCal and the Address Book.
I started with trying to connect my iPhone with Google Premiere Apps. Since ActiveSync is supported, I was able to sync my Contacts and Calendar without any issue between the iPhone and Premiere Apps. Email however, is not offered under Active Sync with Google and thus, you have to set it up separately on the iPhone’s mail client. No probs at all. Next, I setup my MacBook Pro to work with Google Apps which required a little more configuration than Entourage as I had to separately configure Address Book and iCal, along with setting up in Mail as an IMAP server. Again, no probs as this only needs to be done once on a machine.
It was a bit late at night when I did this so I closed my MBP and went off to sleep. The next morning I configured the apps on my office Mac Mini without issue and when I came back home, I configured my Mac Pro. My home Mac Pro and my Office Mini are powered up all the time with the display being the only thing going to sleep. The following morning, I woke up and, as usual, checked my email on the iPhone which seemed to be coming in just fine. However, when I reached the office, I realized that none of my email had been downloaded since the day before.
I tried manually checking but got a Password Error. Repeatedly typing my password didnt help and I decided to delete and recreate the account. Since it was a new account and setup as IMAP, I wasn’t going to loose any information or much time. Recreating the account solved the issue and mail started flowing in on the Office Mini. On my way back home, I fired up my iPhone and was surprised to see that no mail was being delievered to it since the morning. This got me a bit worried- I was going back home this time but what if this would have happened while I was out and about. I had never experienced something like this for almost a year that I was on the Exchange Server. Yes, the server did have a few hours of downtime, but it was never a case of the server running fine and me mot getting emails on any of my devices.
After I came back home, I sat if front of my Mac Pro which, to my relief, was working fine and had all the mail until that moment. However, when I turned on the laptop, this was not the case and that’s when I saw the real error message. It was something along the lines of “too many connections” and upon googling, I realized that Google Premiere apps only allows a maximum of ten IMAP connections to an account at a time. Not ten PCs at a time, but ten active connections- so you could technically have the mail client turned on just one computer and utilize more than half of them. I have two running all the time along with my iPhone and laptop checking mail most the time.
So for me, or someone like me that has a few Macs or Linux PCs around, Google Apps might not be a good choice- at least not until Google decides to increase the number of simultaneous IMAP connections to at least five times more. I also think that Google should include Mail with their ActiveSync setup- configuring your device with an additional step isn’t going to win extra points. This might not be a case for people using Windows and Outlook as Google recently released an Outlook connector to their Premier Apps, however, I have not tested that and thus cannot comment. For me, Exchange is working pretty good right now.