To attract even larger business accounts, Google has received SAS 70 Type II certification and now offers -- either directly or through partners -- a range of enterprise-friendly options, including tools for automating Exchange migration, integration with LDAP and Active Directory, and add-ons such as support for BlackBerry users and Postini services for content filtering and message archiving.
Another feature, one recently incorporated from the company's testing lab, allows for delegation, where an executive can give an administrator control over his messages, much like Exchange already offers.
There are a few differences between Gmail for Business and Exchange's features, however. For example, voice and video chat are integrated into the mail view. Google's core suite also promises easy ad-hoc collaboration between its Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Groups, Sites and Video applications.
"There's lots more to come in 2010," says Rajen Sheth, senior product manager for Google Apps. "We're hardening the services by increasing reliability from 99.9% to 99.99% availability, and providing more tools for administrators to manage their information in the cloud. We're making the platform more flexible, and helping third parties build powerful applications on top of our own."
Most large businesses have yet to take e-mail into the cloud, but interest is rising, says Ted Schadler, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. The nascent trend has the full attention of Microsoft, which has been rapidly evolving its own service, Exchange Online. [See related story.]
The Google proposition
Moving from an on-premises model to a cloud-based model presents its own concerns; moving at the same time to a new e-mail platform with an entirely different user interface and feature set is an even bigger step. Still, from Patel's perspective, it made good sense to migrate from an enterprise-class on-premises e-mail system like Exchange onto the cloud-based Gmail architecture, despite Gmail's roots as a free, consumer-based application.