Google Apps sync for Outlook gets mixed reviews

Google says it's happy with the product, but it has fallen short for some Apps administrators

By Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service |  On-demand Software, Google Apps, Microsoft Outlook

Nine months after Google daringly launched a sync tool to link its hosted Apps collaboration and communication suite with arch-rival Microsoft's Outlook PC software, results have been mixed.

While Google sings the tool's praises, upgrading and patching it regularly, some Apps administrators have given up on it due to bugs and missing features their users need.

Google maintains the product has accomplished its goal: to offer a viable option for organizations to continue using Outlook as a user front end after they switch communication servers from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps.

"We're very happy with the adoption of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. We think it has absolutely achieved its mission," said Chris Vander Mey, a Google senior product manager.

"Since Google added this plug in, demand for Google Apps has been increasing steadily," Jim McNelis, CEO of reseller and integrator Dito, which has implemented Apps for about 200 clients, said via e-mail.

However, the story has played out differently for those unhappy IT managers for whom the Outlook plug in, introduced with much fanfare in June 2009, has fallen short and caused their end users to complain loudly.

In Oregon, Jake Harris, IT manager at Aisle7, regrets that he campaigned heavily in favor of his company switching from Exchange to Google Apps. He blames the Outlook sync tool.

"If we weren't using Outlook, I think we'd be very happy customers, but the Outlook Sync [tool] is simply a debacle, and will probably result in us moving to a hosted Exchange solution," Harris said via e-mail.

Aisle7, a provider of online and offline marketing services for retailers' wellness products, has had chronic problems with Outlook since moving its 41 users from an on-premise Exchange server to Google Apps last summer.

The problems have been caused by Google-acknowledged bugs, the inconvenience of missing Outlook features when used with Gmail and random technical hiccups.

"I'm tired of the headaches, and I'm quite excited about going back to something that's tried and true," said Harris, who is leaning toward replacing Apps with Microsoft's Business Productivity Online Suite, which includes hosted Exchange, SharePoint and other Microsoft collaboration software.

There are other Apps administrators who are their wits' end regarding the Apps sync tool for Outlook, as evidenced by several threads in the official Apps Help discussion forum, such as this one labeled "Is Google Apps Sync Enterprise Ready?"

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