pros and cons of handing your company’s e-mail over to Google
Alan Zisman (c) 2008 First published in Business
May 13-19, 2008; issue 968
High Tech Office column
Grant Shellborn, chief technology officer with Port Coquitlam-based
Vendtek Systems, had a problem.
develops software for prepaid services such as mobile phones and long
distance. Besides B.C., it has offices in Toronto, Beijing and Abu
Dhabi. Like many other businesses, the company provided e-mail for its
employees and struggled to keep it virus and spam free.
however, found that accessing “our little hosted e-mail server” abroad
was slow and sporadic; even registering a Chinese Internet address and
setting up a parallel server there didn’t solve all the problems.
his personal domain, Shellborn had been testing a Google service.
Google Apps allows the owners of Internet domain names to make use of
Google’s e-mail, calendar and other products. He found that when access
to Vendtek’s server was a problem, he was able to get these
Enrolling Vendtek with Google Apps
(www.google.com/a) let Shellborn quickly set up and manage accounts for
each employee and to create a customized webmail environment using
Vendtek’s logo and domain name. Google hosts the service on its own
servers, providing backup and spam filtering.
the spam filtering more effective than his former in-house solution due
to the large volume of messages passing through Google’s system. While
he wishes for a way to “white-list” messages to clearly note that all
messages from a given sender were not spam, overall he considers the
The Google Apps e-mail inherits both the
strengths and the quirks of Google’s Gmail service. Each user gets a
lot of mail storage, and searching for names or content in even large
in-boxes is quick and easy. Search is Google’s strength, after all. But
Shellborn reported that some users were initially confused by the lack
of customizable mail folders. If a user prefers a more traditional
interface, it’s possible to use it with standard e-mail software like
Microsoft Outlook or Apple Mail and to synchronize mail, calendars and
contacts with Blackberries and other mobile phones. Shellborn now
prefers the webmail interface, though it’s changed the way he works
“I don’t file as much as I used to. Now I just search.”
on with Google Apps provides more than e-mail. Vendtek users also get
calendaring, which hadn’t been provided on their old in-house server.
Some users are making use of Google Docs: online word processor,
spreadsheet and presentation software. Shellborn uses these during
meetings, letting online participants bring up minutes, charts and
tables and see edits in real time. With Google Docs, he’s also posting
documents for easy sharing.
He notes that to use these
applications, you have to be online, but Google is promising off-line
functionality. Shellborn is not proposing that Vendtek completely
replace Microsoft Office with Google Docs, but he says that the company
now looks to see whether it really needs to buy licences of Office for
Google Apps comes in two flavours: a free standard
edition and a premier edition, which costs $50 per user per year and
features 25 gigabytes of mail storage, 24/7 phone support, and other
Vendtek opted for the standard edition. Shellborn
considers the five to six gigabytes of storage more than adequate for
his users’ needs. They get ads with the free service’s webmail
interface, but as in Google search pages, the ads are relatively
And because the ads match up with the content of
the e-mail messages, Shellborn finds them more useful than annoying.
(If e-mail is accessed using Outlook or other e-mail software, there
are no ads, and ads are not attached to outgoing messages.)
to Shellborn, his users are happy with the change. And by no longer
having to manage an e-mail server, he’s got more time to “do the real