Google unveiled a new service earlier this month that has the potential to greatly benefit SMBs looking to strengthen business continuity on their messaging front. Called Google Message Continuity, the service essentially replicates the e-mail accounts on a Microsoft Exchange Server with Google's own Gmail, Calendar and Contacts under its Google Apps service. Because data is continually replicated between both services, users are free to switch between the Exchange environment: Outlook, Outlook Web Access (OWA), Exchange ActiveSync or Google's own Web-based interface.
To facilitate this, Google says users will be able to log into their Gmail account using the same username for their Exchange accounts. Access flexibility aside, such a setup essentially allows Google Message Continuity to operate as an affordable cloud-based failover should Exchange crash or need to be taken down for security patches or updates, a point emphasized by Adam Swidler, product marketing manager for Google's Postini group. Swidler told eWEEK:
A lot of the on-premise e-mail systems typically go through a certain amount of downtime, both planned and unplanned, that can create problems for businesses.
While the technicalities weren't mentioned, I assume that pointing to the appropriate Google server under one's Backup MX DNS entry will ensure that new incoming mails are delivered as usual; these new messages can then be synchronized back to Exchange upon its restoration.
According to the Postini product page, Google Message Continuity costs $25 per user annually for new users, or $13 per user for existing customers. The service includes all of the security features that can be found in Google Message Security, a generous 25GB of mailbox space, as well as anti-spam and anti-virus filters. Access to the Postini administrative interface and product support is also supported, as is the ability to create the appropriate content policies to manage messages.
To underscore the importance of e-mail availability, Google, on its official blog introducing Google Message Continuity, cited research conducted by Osterman Research in 2009 that pegged the cost of e-mail outages to a 500-person company at $90,000 annually.
Google Message Continuity supports only Exchange 2003 and Exchange at the moment, though it is understood that Exchange 2010 support is on its way. And note that "Tasks" and "Notes" are not replicated, so businesses that use these features will want to look at another solution where backup and archiving are concerned.