Googlemail – is it right for serious business?

The Register is reporting that Gmail has suffered a couple of hours email outage today. Nothing unusual – it has happened before, however, it brings to mind various questions about whether one should be running one’s mission-critical email on a mass market focused platform.

Our Resellers sometimes ask us how our Zimbra Hosted service and our Zimbra On-Site solutions compare against Google’s Gmail – usually because they’re trying to help a potential customer understand why they should invest in a sensible email solution.  On the face of it, Google has a reasonably compelling offer, especially with all that “free” storage space, but look a little more closely and it becomes clear that a proper business should think carefully about where they host their valuable email and collaboration data.  There’s the privacy concerns, advertising, the fact that the service is still in Beta some 5 years after it launched (surely you aren’t seriously thinking about running your business on beta software?), disappearing emails, missing emails (see here and here) and numerous other issues… A key question for anyone responsible for their organisation’s IT has got to be: “who do I call when it goes wrong and the board are on my back – can I speak to the MD of Google and have a discussion about what he’s going to do about restoring service or finding my missing email?”. Highly unlikely that you’ll get to speak to anyone at all, let alone management – because that’s not their business model. They are focused on gaining a ton of users so that they can compete with Hotmail and Yahoo who each have something like 270 million mailboxes – it’s mass market stuff all the way. In any case, the SLA certainly isn’t going to satisfy the board.

Clearly, it’s unrealistic to expect IT systems to be totally infallible, and for such a large service, Google seems to be doing a reasonable job, but it’s essential that businesses remain firmly in the driving seat when it comes to what happens to their mission-critical services and their data.

So back to how does “Zimbra stack up compared with Google” – setting aside technical comparisons, in which Zimbra kills it as far as I’m concerned, I don’t see they’re even in the same ballpark – Zimbra is a business focused, email collaboration and groupware platform which can be hosted in the cloud or on premises. Zimbra’s revenue model is based on license sales – not advertising. Google is an email solution aimed at consumers and is designed to further Google’s core revenue interests…

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