Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Google dangles Outlook sync in front of Exchange-using IT

If your business is looking to trade running its own Exchange server for Google Apps cloud services, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook may ease the migration pain for those users that are more comfortable with Microsoft's Outlook client.

Google Apps is a set of tools that allows companies to move many IT services, such as e-mail and calendaring, to Google's online cloud resources. A new tool will allow those that rely on Outlook to easily migrate from an Exchange server to Google Apps with virtually no change from the end users' perspective.

Called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, it allows "simple, two-click" migration of data from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps. Then, instead of using Web versions of Gmail, Google Contacts, or Google Calendar, users can continue to use Microsoft's Outlook client to connect to those services. When not at work, users can still access e-mail, calendar, and contacts via Google's online interface.

"You get the cost savings, security and reliability of Google Apps," according to Google's product page, "while employees can use the interface they prefer for email, contacts and calendar." It can even allow users to create meetings and invite contacts whether they are using Google Apps or Exchange.

Google insists the tool isn't an admission that business users aren't interested in adopting Google Apps for some or all of their IT needs. By way of example, the search giant points to semiconductor firm Avago, which migrated to Google Apps in order to save $1.6 million a year in IT costs. The company gave its 4,100 users the option to move to Google Apps from its Exchange server, but about 12 percent simply chose the path of least resistance and continued to use the familiar Outlook.

"We look at [Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook] as a way to provide choice for users who like to do things the old, Outlook way," Google product manager Chris Vander Way told Reuters.

Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is available to those using the Premier or Education editions of Google Apps. It is not available to the free "standard" edition, which relies on display ads to pay for the service.