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Making the Decision - Google Mail or Microsoft Exchange?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/25/2010

Which is best - Google Mail or Microsoft Exchange? This article weighs up the evidence and makes a decision. Surprisingly, it is a narrow win - but for which service?

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    Choosing the Right Email Solution

    Microsoft Exchange is the de facto choice for organizations offering email to their users both situated in offices and on the move. It can be used to push emails to BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices (among others) as well as allow management of calendar/diary information and tasks.

    However for an organization to provide Exchange email services to their users is expensive, with licensing required to cover every user.

    As a result of this licensing issue and thanks to the increase in use and popularity of Google’s Gmail service, many IT departments are looking upon it as an alternative. After all, Gmail can be used on both desktop clients and mobile devices, and particularly in the case of Android phones (mobile phones using Google’s own operating system) the process of sending and receiving emails and managing calendar appointments is as seamless as that for users of Exchange.

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    Google Mail Versus Exchange

    Google Mail versus Exchange Put simply, both systems are perfect for anyone expecting email to be pushed to their mobile device, and both Exchange email and Google Mail are solid, secure email systems with calendar and contacts integration.

    The argument shouldn’t really be Google Mail versus Exchange email – the argument should be “why you should choose Google Mail over Microsoft Exchange."

    Microsoft’s system is used the world over, it has desktop and browser integration and can even be used by signing up to a web host that provides it, should you happen to not work for a suitably equipped organization.

    Meanwhile, Google Mail can be used free.

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    Why Pay for Exchange Email?

    Given that the possibilities of Google Mail match those of Exchange, there seems little reason to pay for expensive Microsoft server software and hardware to run it on when Google can provide the same services for free.

    If meanwhile you absolutely have to have email addresses that are part of your domain, Google offer a hosting solution – your email address johnsmith@theorganisation.com can be readily hosted by Google with nothing more than an annual subscription and a change to your DNS settings.

    Gmail provide various pricing options as well as the ability to convert from Exchange. The cost is $50 per email account/user per year - for more details visit www.google.com/apps.

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    Security Issues

    Google Mail versus Exchange While control over the reliability of the Google Mail solution is placed largely in the hands of Google (unless you had DNS issues) the overhead is mainly cost versus a perceived loss of control over security.

    With emails stored on Google’s servers and not your own, there might be a strong feeling that having emails stored off-site will increase the chance of intrusion.

    The fact is, however, that if your emails are hosted on a server within your organization, data is at greater risk in terms of the number of people likely to have regular access to the server in question. Both Google Mail and your own mail server are potentially at risk from web-based intrusion – however Google Mail offers secure socket layer (SSL) connections to prevent password “sniffing".

    This is something that is not always available with Exchange, so the decision needs to be made internally how to proceed on the issue of security.

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    Whatever Exchange Can Do, Gmail Can Do Better

    So to summarize – Google Mail and Exchange are functionally similar, but one is much cheaper. Both have security considerations, both are available via desktop client, browser or mobile device.

    Push Email

    Gmail – Yes

    Exchange – Yes

    Remote Calendar Sync

    Gmail – Yes

    Exchange - Yes

    In-House Physical Hosting

    Gmail - No

    Exchange – Yes (if required)

    Sync with Any Mobile Device

    Gmail – highly likely, only if equipped with Gmail app

    Exchange – less likely, only if equipped with equipped with ActiveSync or other sync solution

    Available via Browser

    Gmail – Yes

    Exchange – Yes

    Available via Desktop Client

    Gmail – Yes

    Exchange – Yes

    So as you can see – there really is little to choose between the two systems!