Exec VP Wants to Outsource Exchange to Google Mail - Need Opinions

I've maintained an Exchange 2003 Server here for nearly 5 years in a low tolerance environment very successfully (in my opinion).  I support about 65 accounts - some of which are tied into various web sites, others which are forwarded etc. etc.  To clarify, this is a non-technical, non-profit where few understand how/why NDRs, SPAM, blacklists, or Blackberry Email problems occur - ever.  Typically when these things happen, confidence in the local Exchange server drops regardless of the above or whether problems originate at distant ends.  As a result of a handful of these issues (and I do mean a handful), a decision is being made to outsource email.  An outside consultant I commissioned (since I didn't want to have a hand in the next "solution" since there will be problems with any email system as you know) has recommend Google Mail.  I'm not versed in Google Mail as a corporate email solution or the particular Google Mail flavor the consultant is suggesting (below) but your opinions would be of great value and use.  I'll spread points around gernerously.  Thanks.

PS - to me, the "Easy Reading Quick Reference Guide" doesn't describe "google Mail server vs. Outlook"...  Plus the very fact that the consultant mentions comparison between a mail server and an email client scares me...

Consultant says...

Here is some info about google apps. Easy reading quick reference guide (#4) describes the google mail server vs. outlook.
 1)      Access to my data, and do I still own it?  “Google is a data processor, not a data controller.  The customer still owns the data. Additionally, the customer can access their data without use of the Google UI, if desired.”  
This link may be helpful - http://www.dataliberation.org/
 
2)    Google security answers - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU6scRn_L-I
 
3)    Light overview of some Google Apps in practical use - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_TzCpYGpzw
 
4)    Easy reading Quick Reference Guides - http://deployment.googleapps.com/Home/resources-user-adoption/quick-reference
LTWadminAsked:
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chops_ukCommented:
hmm.. maybe you should consider using a Hosted Exchange solution?
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LTWadminAuthor Commented:
chops_uk: If forced to outsource, I'd prefer that yes.  What would you do and why?
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chops_ukCommented:
I've reread this briefly a couple of times and I can't see why someone would suggest a corporate environment moved to gmail from an exchange server. Outlook with Pop mail maybe..

There are a few large corporations who've moved to hosted exchange however I don't think google offers this.. so how will it work with your domain name?

If the consultant is being paid to write a report and it's not clear to you.. ask him or her to clarify. I'm rather surprised by what I read, but maybe I don't have the whole picture..

how many people in the organisation?  How many domains etc .. travelling users vs deskbound users, mailbox sizes etc etc etc?
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chops_ukCommented:
Hi LTW
In answer to the q, the overhead of looking after the server (both phsically and from a configuration / housekeeping / licensing point of view) is offloaded to your provider.

It makes sense for some organisations.. but, as with everything else, it's a cost/benefit thing..

add up the costs of running your server (including if you think you need to upgrade hardware / software in the near future etc).. include power (not to be sniffed at when you factor in aircon), floorspace (rental cost for the server room etc), software, wages,  etc etc etc

Most Hosted Exchange mailboxes would be apx £10+ for 1Gb storage, including a licensed download of Outlook per mailbox. You'd pay a little extra as mailboxes get larger.
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chops_ukCommented:
There are some restrictions, but I've had some good results with hosted.
google some providers (i.e. local or in the same country as you), setup a test / demo mailbox and see how you get on..

..or you could explain to the users why NDRs etc occur... and address some of those issues such as consider using a trusted smarthost which you pay for to help ensure delivery, consider checking you have correct Reverse Lookup / SPF records etc etc.
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chops_ukCommented:
some smarthost services include:
Postini, messagelabs, authsmtp, dyndns etc etc
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LTWadminAuthor Commented:
chops_uk thanks again.  Yes - I've preached the realities of today's email environment till I'm blue in the case but not to much avail.  We're AppRiver anti-spam smart host users with all mail coming and going through one of their server.  Opinions on Google mail specifically as a corporate email alternative to Exchange is welcome.
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martingagnonCommented:
I agree with the other experts that a Microsoft Exchange hosting solution would best fit what you are looking for.  Microsoft Exchange hosting has become a popular solution for small- and medium-sized businesses that want the same class of messaging and collaboration as compared to large corporations, at the same time they cannot afford the expense of hosting their own exchange. As per "American Data Technology", here are the top 10 reasons for SMEs choosing Microsoft Exchange Hosting:

Financial Investment
By using Exchange hosting, companies are able to save a significant amount of money. In order to host their own exchange, a company would need to purchase all of the hardware, including everything needed to create the security and redundancy level needed for the company.

IT Resources
Maintenance of an in-house exchange system can often take well over 80% of the senior technician's time, making it necessary to have IT personnel specifically for the exchange. Using Exchange hosting eliminates the need for dedicated IT staff.

Deployment
With a dedicated IT staff, it can take as long as 30 days for a company to get their internal exchange system fully operational. With Exchange hosting, a messaging and collaboration environment can be up and running in minutes on a shared platform.

Reliability
For an Exchange system to be fully reliable there needs to be sufficient hardware and software for the job, and personnel to oversee all of it. Without redundancy, for example, a server crash can create email interruptions, which leads to a loss of email service and a loss of productivity. American Data Technology offers Exchange Hosting services uses server clusters to offer a guaranteed uptime!

Security
Protecting the security of the exchange system requires constant care, making it a daunting task for many IT departments. Exchange is set up with enhanced security features.

Data Preservation
While most companies recognize the value of backing up data, many fail to realize how valuable messages and collaboration documents can be until it's too late. By using Exchange hosting, message data is backed up, often on tape, on a regular basis.

Features
In addition to email messaging, Exchange offers a wide variety of group collaboration features that can be crucial to any business.

Accessibility
Exchange can be accessed using Outlook, Outlook Web Access, and any internet-based email client. Using Outlook or Outlook Web Access gives the user access to all the functions of Exchange, many of which are listed above.

Scalability
Servers running Exchange are run with up to 20 message databases per server, making it easy for an Exchange host to expand to fit your needs.

Mobile Devices
Many mobile devices can be synchronized with Exchange to allow secure access when employees are away from the computer.
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LTWadminAuthor Commented:
martingagnon thanks -  nice plug for American Data Technology  ;-).  The Exchange server is actually my least management/maintenance intensive server of the 15 here.    It's in a rack with other servers drawing power and shared AC with the rest of the bldg.  Does it really cost that much to run?  Seriously what are anyone's thoughts about Google Mail for SMB's though?  
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chops_ukCommented:
re power usage etc, don't forget that the server is only part of the equation - you need to factor in the cooling costs as well (in the UK I use BTUs - British Thermal Units).  

A typical rack server may easily use 200/300 GBP of power in a year.. and the aircon power requirement could easily double that. Just do a quick calc using your model of server's power draw vs your loca cost of a unit of power etc.

I'd still strongly reccomend against GoogleMail for an SMB!
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LTWadminAuthor Commented:
chops_uk:  Though I agree, WHY would YOU strongly recommend against Google Mail?
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chops_ukCommented:
I've read of privacy concerns regarding google's policy of automatically processing your mailboxes (they may still do this on order to target ads etc)... can we definitely trust them long term based on some of these policies? I suppose it depends on what sort of organisation you are as to whether that matters to you though.

Mobile devices could be less manageable.. I'm not sure Google supports the advantages of some of the newer exchange features (i.e. being able to manage your users' mobile devices, enforcing mobile security policies and encyryption and remote wiping phones etc if they're lost etc).

I don't believe IMAP's the perfect protocol for Outlook.. just had problems with it in the past..

look at the other mail clients you'll have to support (i.e. mobile devices / remote owa webmail / outlook / other mail clients etc??) and see if google apps are as flexible.

Again, although it depends on your organisation, there's also the retraining for your users from Outlook to Gmail interfaces.. certainly for an organisation with hundreds of employees, this represents a reasonable cost / concern.

maybe I'm just wary of being at the bleeding edge ;)
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chops_ukCommented:
Just found a couple of nice comparisons Google Apps vs Microsoft Hosted (BPOS):

http://www.budboytech.com/bud-boy-tech-blog/2009/2/6/google-apps-vs-microsoft-hosted-exchange-comparison.html

http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/Server_Software/Email_Servers/Q_24390221.html

It's just possible that I'd be tempted to try Google Apps for a new setup / organisation... but I'm just not convinced yet about migrating an existing company's exchange setup to it...

Again,. it's really down to your own Organisation's Pain Points and how it's structure / how you use your IT / where you're going etc...
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LTWadminAuthor Commented:
Great help - much appreciated!
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