Question #1: Does Cloudsourcing Email Make Sense?

For SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises) I would definitely advise against an on-premise (Exchange) mailserver. Not only is there the Capex cost of buying and the Opex cost of hosting the server, keeping Exchange operational requires quite a bit of expertise and patching. In other words, you’ll waste a lot of money on paying your administrator who has to divide his attention between the Exchange server(s) and many other IT tasks. E-mail must be about the most essential IT tool your employees have, so it is not wise to take any risk there.

I’ll focus on the two options I have experience with: a hosted version of Microsoft Exchange or Gmail for Business. Contrary to popular belief, Gmail for Business is quite different from the Gmail that we are all using. Gmail for Business is not datamined by Google, and no ads are displayed. It is also hosted on an infrastructure that offers higher availability and security than the regular Gmail. Costing only $50 per user per year for a 25 GB (!) , Gmail is easily two times less expensive than a hosted Exchange account with far less storage space.

The best argument against outsourcing e-mail to the cloud is also gone: Gmail for Business also comes with enterprise support. And Google also works with partners now, so you can get local support too. We are working together with Romneya for example, a Belgian Google Partner.

Support for mobile devices is pretty good: the blackberry enterprise server is supported very well and Gmail works – of course - fine with Android based mobile devices too. Google’s solution is also far superior when it comes to searching thousands of e-mails. For example, our exchange server still does not get that “Johan De Gelas” and “De Gelas Johan” are the same person. When searching, I am never sure I get all the mails I am looking for.

The only thing where I find our Exchange server to be slightly better is the scheduling events in calendar since the exchange server is integrated with the Active directory server.

Gmail is in my experience highly reliable. Gmail for business offers a 99.9% SLA, and I can’t remember any downtime since we started using it 2 years ago. No on-premise server can come even close, and even the hosted solutions can not offer this degree of availability.

So e-mail in cloud makes a lot of sense. It is much cheaper, easier, offers more storage, is more secure and reliable than any on-premise or hosted server. I am quite skeptical of some cloud services, but I can recommend placing your mailserver in the cloud.

Question #2: Benefits/Disadvantages for Website on Amazon EC2
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  • Philippe Creytens - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Google Apps does support AD sync:
  • HMTK - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    It's still only a synch, not a true integration. I was thinking more along the lines of Sharepoint - Office - Exchange - Unified Messaging ... and all the nice management tools you get with AD. AFAIK you lose a lot of functionality by moving to another platform.

    If you put one of the elements (say, Exchange) in someone else's cloud you're basically trusting that other company to keep your data safe and private. A company may be certified as much as it wants, if it gets served a search warrant it has to comply but will the customer know? Doubtful, especially when we see how some governments work.
  • andyleung - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I have no idea why people are still so behind in 1990 time. What's so good about AD nowadays? We have all mobile devices popping up every year. Your BB doesn't have AD integrated too and so what? Your company is still using it. You don't have Gmail integrated with AD and so what? I don't think people would have problem logging in Gmail with a separate login as they do for all other email today anyway. And business can leverage other Google apps to help build business processes, which is a big plus.
  • zeppelin55 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I work for a company that struggles with outsourcing/cloudsourcing anything. We're also a growing company that very well may be a large enterprise sometime in the future (300+ employees). When I've looked at remote exchange providers there seems to often be user limits. Is this something to be concerned about?
  • namo - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Author says Exchange account costs $100 user-year (it is unclear if it is only license fees), Gmail $50 user-year. But author didn't mentioned that small business can have hosted email server with $0 license fees using open source software and maintaining it could be very inexpensive if business owner will be smart enough to hire <b>part time<\b> administrator.
  • MLSCrow - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    For some of those that are criticizing this article, it wasn't meant to be that much of an in-depth discussion as it was more of a high level overview to answer some general questions regarding cloud benefits. Given what should have been obvious, I will also go on to refute the claim that the article ignores the fact that Google Mail doesn't integrate with AD. On the contrary, did you not read the part as follows, "The only thing where I find our Exchange server to be slightly better is the scheduling events in calendar since the exchange server is integrated with the Active directory server." This already insinuates that Google doesn't integrate with AD. Did you even read the entire article? lol
  • bplewis24 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    Of course they didn't read the whole article. You are dealing with people who are simply anti-Google here. Some didn't even bother to differentiate GMail with GMail for Business with their criticisms.
  • rowcroft - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    MS Online Services is $5/month for 25GB of storage. Integrates with AD to boot.
  • scotth501 - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    I'm seeing it for $10 including Sharepoint and Office Communicator IM with audio conferencing:

    www . microsoft . com/online/business-productivity.aspx

    (I guess I'll keep writing something since this is spam somehow according to the system. I wonder if this is enough of a comment to make it through.)

    Well, no, it was not. Maybe there should be a definition regarding what constitutes spam so I can format my reply appropriately.

    So, maybe 4th time will be the charm, I guess I'll edit the above URL so it's not usable and maybe that'll pass this ignorant system.
  • Sivar - Monday, March 28, 2011 - link

    <b>GMail is not a business tool. Period.</b>

    I think GMail is great. After using it at home for years, I can barely stand using Outlook at work. The linked article does, however, raise some points worth considering.

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