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

Indeed, while Google argues that its tool replicates most of the Outlook-Exchange functionality end users need, like basic e-mail, calendar and contacts, there are many features and capabilities that it doesn't, including synchronizing tasks. Google offers a nifty chart outlining what its sync tool does and doesn't replicate in this page.

"It supports a very small subset of what Outlook can do," said Tom Rizzo, a senior director in the Microsoft Online Services team, in an interview.

In particular, the Google tool doesn't scratch the surface of most new features in Outlook 2010, which like the other components of Office 2010 are much more "socially aware," thanks to elements like the new Outlook Social Connector, and let users collaborate in cloud computing environments, according to Rizzo.

The tool has also been affected by several pesky bugs, including a recent one that prevented it from downloading some e-mail messages from Gmail to Outlook, forcing affected users to regularly check their Gmail inbox.

Overall, Benjamin Congdon, a Google Apps systems architect and consultant in Ontario, likes the Outlook sync tool but suggests Google stamp out the bugs faster. "If they can keep up with the 'known issues' as quickly as they become known, that will greatly assist in building a better relationship with the Apps admins out there," he said via e-mail.

Google and its Apps resellers and integrators are the first to say that the ideal scenario for Google Apps' deployments is to use the Gmail front end.

Blair Collins, founder of InterlockIT.com, a Google Apps reseller and integrator in Toronto, generally tries to steer clients to use the Gmail Web interface, arguing that it will work better and save them money.

"If you're going to stick with Outlook for the long term, it's going to greatly reduce the return on investment and cost-savings of moving to Google Apps," Collins said.

In his experience, sometimes problems lie neither with the Outlook sync tool nor with Apps, but rather with Outlook software that organizations have failed to upgrade and patch, he said.

Collins has also seen the Outlook sync tool sputter due to slow Internet connections, a common scenario in small businesses. "When you install Apps Sync for Outlook, it's very demanding on that Internet line because the server is now in the cloud, not sitting in your office anymore," he said.

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