For users who just can't leave Outlook behind, Google has a connector (an Outlook plug-in) called Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. At first it didn't sync Outlook Notes, but Google recently added that functionality. Still, users don't always get consistent behavior between Outlook and Google Apps. A perfect example: Google Calendar allows you to include an attachment with your meeting request (great feature), but these attachments don't show up in Outlook. Issues like these make you want to force the use of the Web front end.
The good news is that Google is adding new capabilities all the time. These include Gmail features from Google Labs such as "Got the wrong Bob?" and "Don't forget Bob?" and the ability to turn off the autosave for email addresses. The company has also made big improvements to Google Contacts; though it still has a long way to go, it's getting better. It seems like something new is added to Google Apps every day, and that gives me hope most every complaint might be addressed over time.
Although email and calendar were our first priority, we are slowly taking advantage of other Google Apps capabilities. We've moved our intranet site to Google Apps so that the various departments could manage their own documents and have them automatically updated online. Google Docs has started to gain traction, and we're rolling out Google Cloud Connect to sync users' Office documents to Google Docs. Google Talk may be the biggest surprise. Many of our executives have started using it to videoconference and make free phone calls when on the road.
From Exchange to Google Apps: IT assessment
For my team, the migration and integration has not been an easy task. I think Google's migration and integration tools are half-baked, and their support is glacial. It took me a week after the migration to get a Google Enterprise Support Portal user account for myself, and a month to get two other accounts for my team. When you call Google's 800 number for support, you're reminded time and again that the number is for service outages only. That bothers me. First of all, I'm paying money for this service. Second, if I had a way to submit cases via a portal, I wouldn't be calling.
When you do ask questions, be prepared to wait. You can search through the documentation online, but don't be surprised to find information that's contradictory or frustratingly unclear.
In summary, I'm happy we did the migration because it's been good for the company. I didn't enjoy placing the fate of a critical IT service in the hands of an outside company, but Google has not let me down. The new functions being added to Google Apps all the time provide more good reasons to stick with Google. But Google should seriously consider investing a chunk of its cash reserve into improving the customer service experience if it's serious about converting the enterprise.
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