Among the pluses to Gmail, Howe says, is that "relying less on folders and more on search means you can spend less time trying to organize your e-mails in folders, knowing you can always find that e-mail" via Google's search tools. Another is that using and sharing calendars "has proven to be remarkably powerful and helps you manage your schedule with colleagues, family and friends, beyond a corporate world." Finally, Google Apps works with mobile technology in a way that "has been difficult to achieve with a closed internal e-mail system," he says, specifically noting how well the apps work with devices based on Google's Android operating system.
Classic cloud worries
In addition to responding to comparisons of the features in Google Apps and those in Outlook and Exchange, Google has had to allay general fears about the security, availability, uptime and privacy of e-mail in the cloud.
Most organizations interviewed for this story that have adopted Google Apps say security is as good or better than what they had previously with on-premises e-mail. "Frankly, Google has a lot more resources than we do when it comes to security," Patel says. "We have confidence that they're going to be able to manage that."
Patel has a single sign-on setup, taking advantage of integration capabilities between Sanmina-SCI's existing Active Directory infrastructure and Google Apps. Google also offers encryption for data in transit and at rest. Files are chopped up into pieces, encrypted and distributed across many storage devices.
"Unless you have all of the pieces and the tools to unencrypt them, you can't read anything. That's one of the things that impressed us," says Kevin Crawford, assistant general manager for the Los Angeles city government, which recently completed a 2,500-user pilot of Google Apps for Business. The municipality expects to save $5.5 million over five years by migrating all of its 30,000 users from Novell Inc.'s GroupWise to Google Apps. "Our No. 1 consideration was cost," he says.
But Chicago State's Dillon remains skeptical. "POP mail is not as secure as if you were using your own servers inside your own firewall, inside of your LDAP," she says. It's not that Gmail is unsafe, she says, but it's less secure than what she feels she can achieve by controlling everything in-house.
Jacobs Engineering, which needs to protect sensitive client data, reviewed Google's security last year. "At that point, 80% of our concerns were addressed by Google, but there were still those 20% where we said 'Hmm, I just don't know about that,'" Wright says. "You just don't have visibility into the cloud."