Some large enterprises are seriously considering jumping from Exchange to Gmail, or already have. Here's why.
The calendar question
There's simplification and then there's oversimplification, says Chicago State's Dillon.
After two years with Google Apps for Education, a free but less fully featured version of Google Apps, the institution is moving its administration and staff - about 1,000 users - onto Microsoft Exchange.
Students will remain on Google Apps, she says, but administrators, who found the Google Apps group calendaring features "cumbersome and difficult to use," will make the transition.
"We cannot achieve the productivity we need to have as an institution using Gmail," she says.
Jeff Keltner, business development manager at Google, defends his company's group-scheduling features.
"We use this within Google... every day... for 20,000 users around the world," he says.
In addition, Google is continually improving those features, he says, most recently with the release of the Smart Rescheduler, which helps users find available times and rooms for group meetings.
But Dillon says that's too little too late.
"In our environment a lot of people didn't find [the calendaring function] easy to use, and therefore didn't use it," she says.
Brad Wright, vice president of communications technology at Jacobs Engineering Group, a professional technical services firm, also ran into issues when about 200 staffers tested Google Apps last year.
During the pilot, he had problems importing calendar data.
And when data did import, some recurring calendar events came over as one-time meetings.
He also experienced problems with the free/busy calendar function.
Some users couldn't access it.
"Others, such as myself, had such a large amount of dynamic free/busy data that the replication object in Google that housed my free/busy data was frequently corrupted and not available to other Gmail users," he says.
Asked to comment, a Google spokesperson stated that "a properly configured environment with the Google calendar connectors should work smoothly."
She also pointed out that Google recently introduced its Google Apps for Migration for Exchange tool.
"Google calendaring was not anywhere close to the Outlook/Exchange combination, and that really frustrated folks in the pilot," Wright says.
By the end of the pilot, 25 percent of users said they loved Google Apps, about half didn't care either way, and 25 percent hated it, Wright says.
His company is staying with Exchange, at least for now.
Temple University moved most of its users to Gmail but left its calendar-heavy users on Exchange, says Sheri Stahler, associate vice president for computer services.
"Those are mostly administrators," who represent about 1,200 of the Philadelphia university's more than 100,000 user accounts, the rest of which transitioned to Gmail.
"Although Google could do group scheduling it wasn't as easy or clean," she says.
Patel didn't have problems with calendaring, but he says managing expectations is critical - and so is training.
In a transition from Exchange to Google Apps, he recommends one-on-one hands-on training with executives and their staffs.
"They tend to be our toughest customers," he says, because they're very heavy users of e-mail and calendaring - and they don't always have time to attend group training classes.
In addition to classroom training, Sanmina-SCI also offered self-service training and 24/7 help desk support.
NEXT PAGE: Sticking points