Recently I was asked to perform a migration of a few users from their current Exchange Server 2003/2007 environment over to Google Apps. Although the migration process was fairly simple to execute, users quickly found that there were a few things lacking in the Google Apps offering.
I had users that were accustomed to the collaboration features that were very easy in Exchange, like contact and calendar sharing, which are not so easily done in Google Apps. Google Apps now provides an API to help accomplish contact sharing, however, I’m not a developer and neither are any of my users. That being said, I don’t think this is a viable option for us. The good news is that this API is relatively new, and maybe someone will develop something that is useful for sharing contacts – something that is easy for me and my users to implement.
The calendar sharing was much better, but also lacks an important function. When using the Outlook plugin (which allows you to use Outlook as your Google Apps client), the only way for a user to see another user’s calendar would be to grant full access to the calendar being shared. If the user does not have full access, they can only see free/busy information and not the appointments on the calendar.
As I said earlier, the migration process went really well, and there are several very good options for executing the migration. However, my users leveraged the power of Outlook and Exchange were left a little disappointed with Google Apps. If you have very simple email and calendaring needs, and are a smaller business operation, Google Apps may be just fine. If you are looking for an alternative for your in-house Exchange server, you might be happier looking into Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange solution.