MIAMI, 9 DECEMBER 2010 - Google continues its aggressive strategy to poach Exchange customers with the launch on Thursday of a Gmail-based disaster recovery and business continuity service for organizations running the Microsoft e-mail server on premises.
Google Message Continuity, developed and provided by the Postini division, replicates all e-mail activity on the customers' Exchange servers with cloud-based Gmail.
Thus, when the Exchange server goes down unexpectedly or for planned maintenance, end users can log into Gmail with their Exchange credentials and continue accessing their e-mail, contacts and calendar via the Gmail Web front end interface.
When the Exchange server is back up, they can switch back to it and to the client application they use to access it, and all the actions taken while on Gmail will be reflected back to their Exchange accounts, including read, sent, deleted and foldered messages.
In addition to serving as a cloud-based backup option, Google Message Continuity gives Google a chance to expose Exchange users to Gmail and increase the chances the organization will make a full move to Google Apps, said Adam Swidler, a Postini product marketing manager.
"This provides a path to the cloud," he said.
This service is "a clever move" for attracting Exchange customers, who make up the vast majority of enterprise e-mail users, said Gartner analyst Matthew Cain. "Google must attract a large number of Exchange users to substantially grow its enterprise Gmail base," he said via e-mail.
Google Message Continuity is a low-cost, redundant e-mail service that offers Exchange customers a relatively low-risk, easy way to try out Gmail, according to Cain.
"Over time, if Gmail proves mature and functional, it may tempt Exchange organizations to abandon Exchange entirely," he said.
Hosted e-mail availability and disaster recovery services have existed for years, including Dell's MessageOne, which has been around for about a decade, and services from Mimesoft and Symantec, Cain said.
At a relatively low cost, Google Message Continuity would allow CIOs and IT managers to ensure that their organizations have a 99.9 percent uptime and recovery time objective of eight hours or less, which should be the goal of enterprises for their e-mail system performance, he said.
Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research, calls this "a good effort" to get more exposure with enterprise customers, but wonders how many takers Google will actually find in this mature segment of the market.
"Companies with significant e-mail downtime warranting such a service have likely already explored other options given how critical and visible e- mail downtime is," she said via e-mail. "Google will have to compete on price for this business and also on trust."
Meanwhile, Microsoft found the Google announcement to be underwhelming, and expressed little concern about possible customer defections.
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