Google is offering a new backup plan for businesses worried about Microsoft Exchange downtime. On Thursday, the company announced Google Message Continuity, which can "help you ensure that your users never lose access to e-mail" during an Exchange
On-premises Exchange accounts are synchronized with the Google cloud, and the backup service gives users access to e-mail inboxes that are always up to date and available through the Gmail interface even when the on-site servers are down. When Exchange is back up, current messages, deletions, folder assignments, and other updates recorded by the Continuity service update Exchange.
'A Smooth Bridge'
The cost is $25 per user per year for new customers, or $13 per user per year for current customers of Postini, a company that Google acquired in 2007.
The backup service is intended to do more than simply offer a mirrored e-mail account. Google said Message Continuity customers get "a smooth bridge" to the Google cloud, where they can experience Google's Gmail, Contacts and Calendar without disruption to the current e-mail service. And if the company decides to deploy Google Apps, e-mail won't need to be migrated, since it would already be in sync.
On its Google Enterprise blog, the company said all incoming e-mail is first filtered through Postini for spam and viruses, and then sent to the Gmail and Exchange servers. During normal usage, a user interacts with an account on Exchange. Any changes to that account are reflected through Google Sync Server, which updates the corresponding Gmail account.
Each Gmail account stores 25GB in the cloud, and includes the security features of Google Message Security, such as antivirus and antispam detection, content policies, and encryption. No hardware installation is required for Message Continuity, and everything is available through a web interface.
Microsoft has an Exchange Hosted Archiving service, which also provides continuity services, but the price is about double per user than Google.
Google's strategy against Microsoft's entrenched position in the enterprise is now beginning to show its contours. In addition to providing a parallel backup service for e-mail that lowers the cost and trouble of migrating to Google's other online productivity products, the company announced in November a complementary service for Microsoft Office, called Google Cloud Connect.
With technology acquired from its 2009 purchase of DocVerse, Google's Cloud Connect free plug-in sets up a toolbar in Word, Excel or PowerPoint. It allows a document created in Office to be edited by others using Office tools after it has been uploaded to the cloud-based Google Docs. Changes are made within a user's Office apps and then synced between users online.
The plug-in allows users to stay within Microsoft's software but utilize Google's services for additional features, similar to the proposition offered by Google Message Continuity. Google's pitch for both is essentially the same: Businesses don't need to switch from Exchange, or Office, to get the additional features that Google offers. And if they want to migrate to Google's products at some point, it's that much easier.