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My Thoughts on Google's Message Continuity for Exchange

My Thoughts on Google's Message Continuity for Exchange

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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?  Labels??

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, nopeTasks, 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, right?

Simple, no.  Easy, no.  Cumbersome, yes.


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 priorities.

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.


  • So aggressive..... Chill out.. Classic FUD.

  • @WP - Thanks for the comment :)  Just so I can educate myself, where is the FUD in my post when I am pointing out what Google's own documentation says?  I thought I was rather factual in the post but everyone has their own point of view :)

  • Reasonable response. But again Google has you folks on the defensive, which means they already won whether the customer goes with their solution or not. The objective of the game is to make them respond to you, not vice versa.

    Oh, and I don't think Exchange shipped with HA from day one, or even for many years afterwards.

  • Long on "Why not Google". Short on "Why Microsoft?". A more customer-centric approach would have been:

    Concerned about availability for your 2003-2007 Exchange infrastructure?

    Review of MS solutions (benefits, cons, price)

    Third party offerings

    Discussion of competitive alternatives (including pros, not just the cons)

    Call to action

    MS and its partners should have been having this discussion with your customers proactively, not being forced into because Google did.

  • @Marketing001 - Good feedback.  Interested in a marketing job at Microsoft??  :)

    I'll point you to the Exchange team's blog blogs.technet.com/.../email-availability-considerations.aspx which has some good thoughts on the outline you provide.  I took the angle of writing what wasn't said in the announcement since the Exchange team did a great job on the Why Microsoft angle.

  • thomriz - Please keep these awesome posts coming. Factual and honest they really show your intellect. I'd love to see one each day.

  • www.computerworld.com/.../Microsoft_BPOS_cloud_service_hit_with_data_breach

    Maybe MSFT isn't (enterprise) ready for true multi-tenant cloud computing just yet...

  • Thom - great post.  Keep them coming!!

  • Nothing new here actually this is a service that originated with Postini, we had as an option when we were a Postini customer prior to the Google acquisition.  

  • how to make money in google, i her were people say they make money true google i want understand the system.

  • Does BPOS offer the ability to have local and cloud? We want to use an on-premise server (singular) for our small business clients. We want the ability to use cloud during unforeseen outages. Our clients are disinclined to invest in a full HA environment, which would include an off-site server. Besides which, Google's Postini service is a first class anti-spam solution, which is less expensive and less time consuming to setup than the MS equivalent offering.

  • Great article!

    You described Gmail better then anyone. It's indeed rather difficult to use and it requires a lot of stuff to remember. It may provide safety though, but it's still not handy at all.

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