If you haven’t seen, Google recently announced a new service
for Microsoft Exchange Server: Google
Message Continuity for Exchange Server.
The folks in the Exchange team posted
their thoughts about this new service.
To quickly summarize their point of view: Cumbersome and Costly. I completely agree and let me explain why.
Cumbersome: What’s my password again?
How do I connect to Gmail?
The Google solution is cumbersome. It
requires a lot of heavy lifting not only by IT but also by end users who have
to navigate to Gmail, either through the web interface or hope they can connect
through Outlook with additional client software required by Google, which
has not been well received by users.
Let me give you an example of the Google kludge from the end
user perspective. If Exchange is down and
you don’t have any high availability setup, (although
this would be strange since we’ve been shipping HA in Exchange since day 1),
the service doesn’t automatically migrate over to Gmail. Instead:
1. Your user has
to figure out the service is down since most users work in cached mode against
Exchange which shields them from transient issues. Exchange
will automatically failover if the customer has HA setup for Exchange which
most customers do.
2. The user has
to figure out how to navigate to Gmail and how to login. Your administrator has to have setup
directory synchronization with Google or bulk upload users to the Gmail system. In addition, the administrator has to provide
you your Gmail password. You read that
right, your password for Gmail is not
your network logon or Exchange Server password.
3. The user then
can work in Gmail but is limited in what they can do. Contacts,
nope. Tasks, sorry. Oh by the way,
you have to use Google Labels which is a
foreign concept to Outlook users. Plus,
when Exchange comes back, those labels may come back to haunt the user since
the sync tool will move messages to different folders in Outlook based on
labels. You see where this is going,
Simple, no. Easy, no.
Costly: Not just Money, but also Support and SLA
For the privilege of the service, you have to pay $13 per user per year. The software cost is a small part of the
total equation since the Google solution will require you to move to Google’s
anti-virus and anti-spam in addition to setting up directory synchronization
with Google and run a Google Sync Server in your environment. You cannot underestimate the complexity of
having to pay for the service and also setup the infrastructure and processes
to make this all work. In the end,
you’re better off making sure you have a well architected, native Exchange Server HA solution based on clustering, continuous
replication or 3rd party solutions.
Besides the cost, you will incur the cost of Google’s SLA
and Support. Rather than reiterating our
thoughts on Google’s SLA, I’ll point you to this SLA
comparison post. Net, net is that
it’s not financially backed and allows for 10 minutes of downtime before they
start counting. So, the continuity service you pay for could be down more than the
Exchange Server you are backing up with the service. . . without anything you can do about it since
it’s part of their “SLA”!
In terms of support,
evaluate Google’s support as part of your continuity strategy. You do not want to downgrade your support for
your backup solution. With Google, you are sacrificing enterprise
class support. Take this fact: Google
offers phone support on weekends and holidays only for “P1” (Critical Impact –
Service Unusable in Production) requests, and only if more than half of
users are affected. Google does not respond on weekends or holidays for “P2” (High Impact – Service
Use Severely Impaired) and lower-priority requests. Try explaining to your boss that his/her
issue can’t be resolved because it doesn’t rank high enough on Google’s
So. . . It costs
money, time, resources and sacrifices in SLA and Support. Sign me up!
Where Do you Go from Here?
If you are an Exchange customer, ignore this service. Instead, take a look at what Exchange has to
offer out of the box for high availability.
If you want to look at 3rd party solutions, browse Microsoft PinPoint to find solutions and
partners who can help you setup Exchange to be highly available.
Finally, think about getting out of running your Exchange infrastructure
and look at having Microsoft run your infrastructure through BPOS and the forthcoming Office 365. We’ll give you enterprise class support and a
financially-backed SLA, things you won’t get from Google.