Google Comes to Microsoft Exchange’s Rescue

In what looks like a poke in the eye at Microsoft, Google has introduced Google Message Continuity, a service designed to safeguard Exchange messages through Gmail. The Postini-based service targets those who run Microsoft Exchange 2003 or 2007. It is designed to make sure users never lose access to email during an Exchange outage — whether planned or unplanned.

Message Continuity synchronizes on-premises Exchange accounts with Google’s cloud so users will have up-to-date email in-boxes no matter what. During an outage, messages can be sent and received through the cloud. Once service is restored, Message Continuity synchronizes the activity with the Exchange server.

Gmail offers 10 times greater reliability than a typical on-premises Microsoft Exchange installation, claimed Google Product Manager Matthew O’Conner in a blog post.

“This got us thinking …,” he wrote. “Could we bring Gmail’s reliability to companies currently using Microsoft Exchange?”

Google will charge US$25 per user per year for new customers or an additional $13 per user per year for current Postini customers.

Neither Google nor Microsoft replied to the E-Commerce Times’ requests for comment by press time.

A Jab at Microsoft

Over the years, Microsoft has dismissed Google Apps as not ready for enterprise duty. It has questioned the notion of keeping documents in the cloud when many companies need to adhere to government regulatory rules that require specific retention periods and, in some cases, specific document destruction. That would be jeopardized in the cloud, the company maintains.

Redmond has also criticized Google Apps for being in perpetual beta and effectively lightweight.

IT departments are deeply entrenched in Microsoft products and may not take Google seriously.

“It’s difficult for enterprise IT to trust Google, so anything Google does immediately puts them behind the 8 ball,” Giovanni Gallucci, consultant on social media for You+Dallas, told the E-Commerce times. “Smaller companies with maybe 150 employees might try this new stuff, but that’s probably it.”

Given Microsoft’s scorn of Google Apps, the introduction of Google Message Continuity to fix Exchange may look like a tongue-in-cheek response.

“The whole idea of ‘we’re going to take what the big guys do and make it more reliable’ — that’s as much a PR move as it is trying to make users work better,” said Gallucci. “I’m sure it works, but I still see this as PR.”

Another view is that Google may have created Message Continuity in order to get its foot in the enterprise door.

“Maybe it’s a way to getting people to try Google and once they trust it, they may be more willing to try Google Apps or Gmail,” said Gallucci. “The whole thing is entertaining.”

Strategic Competitive Move

The messaging tool may actually cut deeper inroads for Google into the enterprise market.

“Google Message Continuity is a strategic competitive attack at a key Microsoft stronghold in the enterprise,” Azita Arvani, principal of Arvani Group, told the E-Commerce Times. “It breaks the lock-in that Microsoft has on a company’s email, contacts, calendar and data. It creates a duplicate in Google’s world.”

If the continuity tool works well in helping people use their email while Exchange is out of commission, Google may prove its point and earn more serious consideration in the enterprise market.

“Of course, this mirroring of data can be useful to the company for backup-and-recovery-type capabilities,” said Arvani. “But more importantly for Google, it provides a smooth path for the customer to switch over to Google’s world if they choose to do that.”

If customers are impressed, the conversion from Exchange to Google would be easy.

“For companies that are on the fence about cloud-based email and documents, this will provide a way to kick the tires,” said Arvani. “If they like it, the transition will be seamless.”

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