Some large enterprises are seriously considering jumping from Exchange to Gmail, or already have. Here's why.
A quick rollout
Patel succeeded with the transition by getting executive buy-in early and doing the rollout very quickly, over a 90-day period, rather than going through a prolonged migration process.
He did, however, face some resistance to change.
The Gmail interface, for example, organises messages with tags instead of folders, and while accessing Gmail using a browser as the local client software worked better than Outlook for some tasks, it wasn't nearly as robust for others, such as dragging and dropping.
He expects those differences to go away in the next 12 months as browsers begin to support new features in the emerging HTML 5 specification.
Patel sold the project by touting the potential cost savings and the benefits of moving from a fixed cost infrastructure to a variable cost service.
"The financial guys loved that," he says.
But he also had other motives.
One was to tap into the flexibility and continuous innovation that Google's cloud-based model offers.
The other was to develop a "culture of collaboration" that would support ad-hoc, informal teams of customers and business partners.
Google Apps, with an array of services ranging from Gmail to Google Docs, was well suited to the task, Patel says.
CIO Francois Blanc says his team considered offerings from IBM, Microsoft and Google before making final decision.
"In the cloud area, I see a leader and a follower, and the leader is Google," he says.
Blanc readily admits that Exchange, which he also considered to replace Notes, offers more sophisticated features in some respects - but that's why he chose Google Apps.
His users found many features in Notes "overly complicated and so didn't use them much".
This time, he says, "we chose simplicity."
But users do miss some features, such as the ability to make sure that an assistant who has access to an executive's in-box can't read the executive's confidential messages.
"It was a small feature, but appreciated," he says.
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