Google is introducing on December 9 a new cloud-email service that it is positioning as an ideal way for Exchange Server 2003 and 2007 users to back up their e-mail.
Yes, that's not a typo. Google officials want the new Google Message Continuity service to serve as a back-up and disaster-recovery solution for Microsoft users.
Here's the proposition: Google Message Continuity will replicate Exchange 2003 and 2007 (but not Exchange 2010) customers' mail, calendar and contacts using Google's Gmail, Calendar and Contacts. The two email systems (on-premises Exchange and the business version of Gmail) will be continuously synced using dual delivery. If and when a customer's Exchange Server fails or requires scheduled maintenance, the user would log into Gmail using their Exchange credentials to continue to get their e-mail, meeting requests and the like.
Google is charging new users $25 per user per year for Google Message Continuity, and existing Google Postini customers $13 per user per year.
Why is Google doing this? It's another way to try to win over Microsoft users to Google Apps, as Google's execs acknowledge. If and when the Exchange user decides to move to Google Apps, their e-mail, calendar and contacts will already be synced, easing migration.
I have to admit, when Google's Adam Swidler, Product Marketing Manager for Google's Postini, made his pitch that moving to Google Message Continuity would "bring the reliability of Gmail to Microsoft users" I was not bowled over. I hear and read about more Gmail outages than I do Exchange, Hotmail -- or even BPOS -- outages , I told him. Swidler noted that it isn't the free, consumer version of Gmail that is acting as the backup platform; it is the paid, Google Apps for Business version, which Google says has 99.9 percent SLA-guaranteed availability.
Google officials said Google Message Continuity, the newest member of Google's Postini e-mail services family, is primarily a disaster recovery solution, but it also can be used to provide Exchange users with access on a broader variety of devices. Swidler said Google anticipates the customer sweet spot for the service to be the mid-market, but that enterprise users also could find it a cost-effective way to do e-mail backup. Google plans to sell Google Message Continuity directly and through its reseller partners.
I'm kind of surprised I haven't heard Microsoft pitch the Microsoft-hosted Exchange Online as a way to back up Exchange on-premises. There are a lot of Exchange back-up solutions on the market from a variety of Microsoft partners, including some who are positioning Exchange Hosted Services as a back-up solution for Exchange. For mid-size and larger business users, Microsoft instead has been pitching its own System Center Data Protection Manager offering as a way to back up on-premises Exchange.
Anyone out there interested in giving Google Message Continuity a try?
Update: I asked Microsoft for comment on Google's Exchange back-up announcement. From a company spokesperson:
“Businesses rely on Exchange more than any other messaging solution because of its enterprise grade management and security. An incredible 73% of large organizations in the US use Exchange as their primary email system with the next closest email platform at 2%. Our customers have and will continue to benefit from the large ecosystem of hundreds of third party solutions that extend and complement Exchange. With their announcement, Google joins an existing list of email continuity providers for Exchange.”