A week after Google’s launch of Google Message Continuity Microsoft has responded on two of their company blogs.
Microsoft’s criticism of Google Message Continuity addresses three main points:
- Ease of use for end users
- Ease of deployment for IT administrators
- Support and SLA
In a post on the Unfied Communications Group Team Blog, Julia White writes:
The most important factor is ease of use for end users. In any availability solution to such a critical application as email, the transition process should be seamless. In Exchange 2010, users won’t even know they are accessing a different database. Outlook users can be switched to a backup database when necessary without interruption or notification, and they can continue working in Outlook without switching mailboxes.
This is in contrast to how the Google service delivers email continuity.
Google takes a different approach, which requires a separate Gmail account to access backed up email. This introduces a very different user experience and doesn’t support features like Outlook folders. Additionally, Google requires a different password provided by the Exchange administrator. In the event of a failure, the user will need to switch from Outlook to a new Gmail account and log in with the new password. In looking at the three options, Google’s introduces the most user disruption.
Not just the most user disruption but possibly more IT disruption as well, as Steve Goodman points out:
Disaster strikes, and you have one more problem – a user training issue with a new email system that works in a different way.
Julia White also points out:
The second important factor is ease of deployment and management. In Exchange 2010, Microsoft has made changes in the Exchange architecture that make it much easier to manage a high availability environment, without the deep knowledge of clustering that was previously required. High availability deployment and management tools are built right into Exchange 2010 and there isn’t a need for additional availability solutions. Additionally, Exchange Online provides high availability as a built in part of the service.
Again Google takes a different approach to this with a Google Sync Server required to maintain synchronization between the two email environments, adding more complexity for IT administrators and a new point of failure. In addition to this, Google Message Continuity requires the use of Google’s Postini service, which may be a problem for customers already invested in another email security product.
The final point of concern is with support and SLAs. Here Microsoft urges customers to look closely at Google’s SLA for Google Apps.
(The Google Apps SLA is) 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”!
The level of support is also questioned. Consider that your organization is already likely to be in a disaster situation if end users are actually using Google Apps for email. In addition to the end user confusion and support that your IT team must deal with, you’re also now in a reduced support mode for a service that is critical to your business (presumably since you’ve invested in email continuity to begin with).
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 what do you think? Is Google Email Continuity a viable option for businesses of any size?
It sounds like a good DR option for a small business with SBS2011, but good luck trying to get in contact with Google’s sales team to even get a trial going. In setting up a friend’s small business, I tried twice, and both times got generic “welcome to Google Apps” emails with no mention of their email continuity service. I tried replying to their emails, but merely got more generic emails in return. I also read some bad things online about Postini’s spam filtering capabilities.
My friend’s business is now running on Microsoft’s Forefront Online Protection for Exchange as a filtering-only solution. It would be great if Microsoft released a competitive offering that integrates with Exchange Online.
In my day job as a Sysadmin, our organisation uses MessageLabs as our filtering and DR service. Their DR system has the same drawbacks as Google’s, namely the separate web-based login – and an even worse interface than GMail.