Microsoft fights Gmail in the workplace

Funny true story. The default Exchange mailbox size at SAP was 50mb – fifty megabytes, or put another way, equal to one of those free USB drives that they give out at conferences. The IT guys in Palo Alto were always really good to me by increasing it whenever I asked and with no hassle at all for which I was always grateful (I’d be sure to collect all that conference swag, including usb drives, and give it to IT, they love that crap for whatever reason).

So one of my friends asked me one day how I had so many messages in my inbox (I rarely deleted email, there was something like 10,000 messages in that mailbox but with Copernic’s search it was never a problem finding anything), and I told him that I just asked IT and they made it larger. He calls me the next day and says “hey, IT said they would make my inbox larger but they were going to charge my cost center” to which I said “you have to be fucking kidding me, tell them you are going to start using Gmail for all your work stuff!”.

When he told them this they spouted off about how this would violate company security policies, etc etc etc. He did anyway and I ended up using Gmail a lot for work as well because the other restriction SAP imposed on it’s employees was file size limitations for in/outbound messages, which of course Gmail does not (well they do, but it’s really really generous).

Apparently, a lot of corporate email users are ditching Exchange for Gmail irrespective of what their employers are providing them:

Microsoft is fighting the trend for corporate employees to duck IT policies and auto-forward all their work email to Gmail.

The software giant is urging employers to increase mailbox sizes to 2GB or more.

So here’s the not funny part of the story, at least in the event you are Microsoft. I was talking with the guy that is responsible for all our systems, including email, at Teqlo the other day; we had a running conversation about using Zimbra for email but because of some server requirements and me being a really cheap bastard who doesn’t want to pay for any hardware I don’t have to, we had been putting it off.

Our mail server is hosted by Network Solutions and we’re kind not happy with that arrangement anymore for a variety of reasons, so I said to Scott “what about using gmail for our mail server, this is what Socialtext does?” and he said “yeah they have that new service for hosted domains“. We looked at each other and I asked everyone else in the room if they could think of a good reason why we should not just use Gmail for our mail server, and start using the Google Calendar as well, eyes darted around and nobody raised any objections or issues, so I guess that is what we are going to do now. Before anyone barks out “but what will you do about offline access” let me say that I’m already using my Apple Mail app against my gmail account so this really is a non issue.

The lesson for companies that are providing IT services to employees: make it simple and as unrestricted as possible because your employees will figure out the path of least resistance on their own and they, like me, often don’t quite give a shit about “company policy” if 1) it’s obstructing their ability to do their job, and 2) it’s patently unreasonable or based on the same reason my mother used to give me, “because I said so”.

The lesson for technology vendors, in this case Microsoft: come out with services that effectively compete with leading edge stuff like Gmail rather than just doing what your customers tell you to do, which in the case of Exchange was develop nothing but features that enable easier management of Exchange servers and better spam filtering. Make it easy and cheap to get started so that companies like my own consider your solution before just signing up with Gmail or whatever other alternative because it’s immediate, easy, and really does work well. This reminds me of Ray Lane’s 7 Laws for the New Software Landscape.

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10 thoughts on Microsoft fights Gmail in the workplace

  1. I wouldnt really feel comfortable sending customer associated materials and or trade secrets through gmail.

    fwiw – Zimbra, at least in its hosted form, doesn’t perform as well as gmail. just my experience.

  2. My initial thought as well, but then I thought through it and couldn’t come up with a single “bad act” that could happen, at least one that wouldn’t be a violation of any number of laws.

    Can you?

  3. James,

    Why not? Do you think Google will read them? Aren’t you equally as worried about the various operators over whose networks and through whose servers your email travels en route?


  4. Agree with you 99% – although you should have maybe retitled this “Gmail kicks Microsoft’s butt in the workplace”. It’s not much of a fight.

    I happen to think that Gmail poses an even bigger threat to RIM. Not sure if you’ve used the new Gmail mobile client yet but it’s great (if still a little bit buggy).

    Gmail also needs a delete key (yes I know I can do it with Greasemonkey but shouldn’t have to) and Google Calendar needs better time zone support, but they’re getting there in both respects.

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  6. You may want to read Google’s privacy policy (or total lack of privacy policy) before sending your corporate mail via Google.

    Confimation of anything Google-related is tricky, but the reason for all those data centers is to keep everything (even if you delete it). There are loopholes in the privacy and usage agreement large enough to sail a fleet of ships through. Especially if I were a technology company, I’d be wary of using Gmail for corporate mail. Google Apps for Your Domain has the same problems, and some additional scary language revolving around intellectual property (I’m no lawyer, so I can’t evaluate anything that is there).

  7. What happens when you fill up Gmail and you now get mails at a faster rate than they can grow your account? I think it will get to point where the world suffers from data pollution where a sizeable percentage of energy and resources is used for maintaing information that has no context and meaning because of the lack of discipline of end users to correctly manage what is relevant and what is not, the SUVs of the internet …. (until we find infinte clean energy)

  8. Allan,
    I’m just not that convinced on the privacy front, and even if there are issues I am not persuaded that I am at risk. In other words, privacy is an issue when you have something you want to keep private…. which if that is the case then don’t use email to begin with.

    I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, but considering I am using but a fraction of my 3gb allocated storage I think it will be a while.

  9. Try us- free, no ads, shared calenders, contacts and files, AS/AV, 5gb per user, domain support, up to 20 users per account, admin tools, etc.
    Hate to plug but its most of what exchange offers, with a lot more storage, web-based and, did I mention, free with no ads?

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