I recently moved the company that I work for from e-mail being provided for free by our hosting provider to Google Apps Standard Edition -- here's why:
- Better reliability. The e-mail service we were getting from our web host was horribly unreliable. Even worse, the IMAP support was shoddy at best and we kept getting SSL certificate errors when trying to encrypt connections. Although we're not getting the guaranteed uptime that we would with Google Apps Premium, Standard seems to be about as good as what we had before.
- Centralized, sophisticated management. User creation, account lockout, password reset, distribution lists, etc. -- basically all we could do with the e-mail from our host was create addresses and reset passwords.
- Calendars. Shared calendar functionality is key in organizations and we got nothing from our web host. Now, with Google Apps, people can share calendars and with the Google Calendar Sync, they can get 2-way sync between Outlook and Google Calendar.
- True web-based e-mail. Our host offered it, but you had to choose between SquirrelMail and Horde and it was totally confusing. The Google Apps interface is the same as the Gmail interface and is very easy to use.
- Google sites. We were able to create a universally accessible intranet site without having to host it on our server.
- Mobile access. True IMAP support makes the BlackBerrys work like BlackBerrys are supposed to. Google Sync for BlackBerry allows the BlackBerry to sync in real-time with the Google Calendar, which, if you use Google Calendar Sync, also means that Outlook is in syn -- all over-the-air and in real-time without having to plug the BlackBerry in. Google Mail for Mobile allows full access to the Gmail interface so that users can perform searches on all of their archived e-mail.
- IMAP. Just set up IMAP on Outlook, then drag all the mail from your PST files into the IMAP folders. Once everything's uploaded, it can be searched using Gmail and all header information is preserved -- probably the easiest way to get e-mails out of Outlook and into Gmail.
We're not currently using Docs & Spreads, and I'm not sure that we will in the near-short term. There are a number of employees that have actually abandoned Outlook in favor of Gmail, which is compelling as we look at future software upgrade paths.
Rumor has it that Google may be quickly releasing offline access to Gmail through Gears, which will likely speed adoption of Gmail and cause more people to leave Outlook. There are further rumors that Google may develop and extremely low-cost server option that will compete directly with Exchange, which would evaluate.
Finally, it's nice to know that we have the ability to upgrade to Apps Premium at any time. The mailbox sizes and the features offered by Postini as part of the package with an annual recurring cost of only $50 per user are quite compelling.
Here's the bottom line: if you have a business with a domain, go activate Google Apps and start looking more professional; nothing looks worse than someone using an "@yahoo.com" address as their business e-mail address. If you're not comfortable doing this stuff yourself, find someone like me to help you out -- it's a worthwhile investment.
Link -- Google Apps