Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Google Offers a Cloud-Based Safety Net for Microsoft Exchange

Email gets knocked a lot these days. It’s old-fashioned, slow and riddled with spam. Even so old-school a firm as Gartner is acknowledging that by 2014 social networking sites will overtake email as the dominant form of interpersonal communication for about 20 percent of business users.

But just wait until the office mail server goes down. Take away access to email, and it’s not uncommon for business to essentially stop for the few hours it takes to get the server back up. This is why many companies pay for email continuity services that take over when a corporate email server goes on the blink.

Google is jumping into that business with some additions to its Postini service for businesses, which it will announce today. The new service will be called Google Message Continuity, and it’s being aimed squarely at users of Microsoft’s Exchange 2003 and 2007. Messages, contacts, folders, calendars and other aspects of the corporate email environment are replicated within Gmail, constantly updated and synched so that in the event that the Exchange server crashes for a few hours or days, or if it goes down for scheduled maintenance, users can have access to their messages and keep getting things done from within Gmail until it’s fixed.

One benefit for Google is that any business that uses this has an easier time dumping Microsoft Exchange altogether and moving to Google Apps: Once you’ve got your corporate email environment replicated on Gmail, there’s no more worrying about the logistical headache associated with migrating from Exchange to Google Apps. Sneaky, right?

The new feature will be available for $13 per user per year to existing Postini customers, and for $25 per user per year to new customers. And here’s one thing I didn’t know: Postini, which is already a powerful weapon in the battle to control spam and email-borne viruses, is in use by about 80,000 businesses, accounting for more than 21 million end-users.

It’s a particularly interesting development coming just a day after Google lost out to Microsoft to provide cloud-based email, messaging and collaboration to the 120,000 employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in a deal worth about $27 million over three years. Google, for its part, won a similar contract with the General Services Administration, and is suing the U.S. Department of Interior over terms of contracts that it says favored Microsoft when that agency went shopping for a cloud email provider.

Update: Here’s more from the Google blog.