Google Groping for Solutions to Gmail Outage

Google Groping for Solutions to Gmail Outage - The popular free email service is restored yet some concerns remain. [Internet.com Security]

SaaS / Hosted Solutions / Cloud Computing are a risk/reward situation.  Some people pick a methodology and stick to it.  There are pros & cons with each.  Think about the solution and the consequences of your choice.  Lets take email hosting as a good example.  Assuming you do not want to run your own mail system, there are several options.

Google Mail Hosting

When you have little to no budget, Google offers a nice email hosting solution.  You get your standard Gmail interface which you may already be used to from your personal email.  TechSupport is primarily handled through forums.  As Gmail grows in popularity, more and more extras and special apps can interface directly with Gmail. 

Until recently there was no offline access to your email though.  If you had network problems, or if Google had an outage (see URL above) you were out of luck.  No composing emails on the cross-country flight or redeye home unless you saved them in a word processor. 

Also, where is your data?  It's out there, not on your harddrive.  Then again if you are prone to laptop accidents that may be a good thing.

Google Mail hosting is great for starting out.  If you are 1-5 people you can get the simple version for free.  Lots of startups are full of Google fans and go with the big G as well.  However as you grow, the lack of features and learning curve associated with Gmail can be a hinderance.

Hosted Exchange

Intermedia and Mailstreet are two popular hosted exchange providers.  You can get most all of Microsoft Exchange features, integration with mobile devices, relatively high level of configurability with pretty good tech support, and usually a free license for Microsoft Outlook. 

Of course this does come with an increased cost.  But I think of it this way, a quasi-technical person can setup an Exchange server for their business and has access to decent technical support to help them with any questions.  Blackberries and iPhones keep your people happy, available, and able to work 24x7x365. 

IMAP/POP Provider

Simple and straight forward.  You setup a user, email address and password with your provider and you're free to use any client that supports POP/IMAP.  Your mail is stored locally and you can take it with you wherever you go. 

Depending on the provider, you may be limited in space.  If they only allow POP access, it means you usually cannot leave behind the mail on the server to be accessed from other systems.  Given the choice, go IMAP all the way.  With an IMAP/POP provider you will not have those collaboration features such group calendaring.

Other Considerations

Of course there are other factors that may influence your decision.  Hosting your own email is not a BAD thing if you have a competent IT staff / IT service provider.  If your email contains sensitive information, you may not want to store it on someone else's system.  Should you require some complex integrations, use complex mail routing schemes, etc it may be easier to run the systems in house. 

Call me old fashion, but I do like to keep my data close to home.  I like having access to it.  Should the internet fail, I can still drive into my office and access my mail over the LAN.  There are copies on my laptop, mail server, and backup server.  Also as an IT person, I often can plan my own outages and am not at the mercy of a hosting provider.  When something fails, I know what is going on.  After all, most of the downtime is self-inflicted anyway.  :-)