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FSW will remove Exchange and hop on Gmail

If they can do it so can we, says one non-profit that will follow in the footsteps of Los Angeles and boot Exchange for Gmail.

Chalk up another enterprise that is foregoing traditional enterprise email and making the move to the practically free Gmail feature of Google Apps.

FSW Inc., a Bridgeport, Conn.-based healthcare and social services non-profit plans to ditch its Exchange Servers and move 250 end users to Gmail. Joseph Foran, IT director at the company, said the only cost to the organization will be for maintenance, a figure which has yet to be negotiated.

Foran said the mail archival function will remain in house, for now. Google does have an archival system based on technology acquired from Postini and offered as part of its Premier Edition. FSW will send mail to both systems beginning in April. After a brief trial, the company will cut over users by department. The plan is to be completely off of Exchange Server by the end of the year.

Foran also reviewed online versions of Exchange and Office but could not justify the price.

"For our needs I cannot justify spending on Exchange [Server] 2010," Foran said. "Even if I go to the [Google] Premier Edition, it's still less than upgrading [to 2010]."

LA Gmail cutover was the tipping point

In December, the city of Los Angeles finalized its plans to move 30,000 city employees from Novell's Groupwise to Google email.

Foran said the decision by Los Angeles to move to Gmail was a turning point for him. If municipalities with lives on the line can trust Google Apps, than he said he felt he should be able to, as compliance is certainly an important issue at his agency. "I've got tons of documents and promises -- regarding privacy, encryption, secure backups, etc., from Google," he said. "They've gone to great lengths to make sure I was comfortable."

The process of moving to Gmail is not without its bumps. Gmail lacks some features that are familiar in Exchange, such as read receipts and delivery receipts, he said. And Google is still getting its sea legs when it comes to working with enterprise customers.

"They come at you in a shotgun pattern," said Foran, who had four different account reps speaking to him at one point. He had to get everyone on the same page.

Gmail integrates with Microsoft's Active Directory and offers end users a calendar, but it's not the full integration you get from Exchange Server. So if a company has applications tied into Exchange, it might be more difficult for them to make a similar move. FSW did not have this problem. The company uses Sharepoint so there was some integration with its Exchange Servers, but because the Sharepoint site is relatively simple, it's possible that the Google's own collaboration features may suffice, Foran said.

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