Google has released a tool to help enterprises move their email, calendaring and contacts infrastructure across from Microsoft Outlook to the paid-for versions of Google Apps.
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, announced on Tuesday, is a plug-in that lets companies adopt Google Apps mail infrastructure as the back-end for their email and personal information management systems while still using Outlook as the desktop interface. The Gmail interface can also then be used for web-based access.
Google has designed the plug-in for use by companies making the transition from Outlook to Google Apps. Robert Whiteside, head of Google Enterprise UK, told ZDNet UK on Monday that the plug-in "allows an organisation that's moving from Microsoft [to Google] to swap the back end very quickly and take some huge cost advantages".
"[Companies] can phase the roll-out to users over time and give users the choice of where they want to stop," Whiteside said. He added that users could, for example, move only their contacts functionality across, if they preferred.
A 'two-click' migration tool is also being introduced to let employees copy existing data from Exchange or Outlook into Google Apps, Google said.
The plug-in uses the offline Gmail protocol for synchronisation, which Google says is faster than Internet Message Access Protocol (Imap), a standard protocol for email retrieval. The company said meeting-invitation and global address-book functionality would work across both systems, so companies can move one department across to Google Apps while keeping another on Outlook.
Whiteside pointed out that Google Apps and Outlook have been partially interoperable for some time through the use of Imap synchronisation, but the new plug-in made synchronisation faster and added the ability to see whether someone was free or busy at a certain time.
Asked how the Outlook front-end would be able to handle the capacity of a Google Apps back-end — Gmail, for example, allows for a 25GB inbox but Outlook struggles with such volumes — Whiteside said Google "would expect most people to use the Google Apps interface" outside particularly large deployments.
Google has not yet said whether archiving and folder rules set by the user in Outlook will work across a Google Apps-Outlook hybrid deployment.
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is available now for subscribers to the Premier and Education editions of Google Apps.