I suppose I need a disclaimer here: I sell mail servers. Specifically
I sell Kerio Mailserver and that represents
a good chunk of income for me. Therefore, you wouldn't expect
that I'd be recommending Gmail as a corporate mail solution.
Well, in fact I can recommend this for some cases. It may not be for everyone - there are some
disadvantages - but it can make a lot of sense and the price is
reasonable, especially for very small organizations.
Let's look at the cost first, because that's particularly
important to the kind of small businesses who might consider this.
Google Apps is $50 per user per year. That includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, Blogger and more (though of course any of those are also available free), at least 25 GB
of storage (with more coming according to their feature comparison page),
virus and spam scanning, policy management (message rules) and deleted
message recovery, mobile email tols and more. As mail and calendaring are what matters to most users, the
feature set compares fairly well with what Kerio offers: there
are a few differences here and there, things Kerio has that Gmail/Google Calendar doesn't and
vice versa, but overall the solutions are very similar. What
does Kerio cost per year?
Well, because Kerio has a higher first year price than for subsequent renewals, and has a base 10 user license with addons for more, we need to look
at this over a period of time. Let's pick 5 years as a start, and we'll
look at it for varying users. Here's the breakdown:
Kerio is list price with Sophos virus scanning as of April 2012.
If you add Kerio Workspace in, that doesn't add much: $350 for the 5 user over 5 years and $2,150 on the 50 user line.
That's a clear win for Kerio (unless you are using the free suite), but we forgot something: we need
to operate our own equipment in house. For this kind of
load (50 users or less) we don't really need to dedicate anything
expensive to the task, but there is operational expense
and depreciation. Let's say that a machine suitable for this costs
$1,000.00 and that we have to replace it after five years. Let's
add another $20.00 a month on for operational expense and call the
five year cost $2,200.00. Let's round up to $2,500.00 Our chart now shows:
It looks like Gmail wins at 10 users or less.
Now let's look at features. As I said, Gmail and Kerio
have similar feature sets: virus and spam scanning, rule sets,
deleted message recovery, archival retention and so on. But there are areas
where they do not match. One is local message
delivery, that is, when you send email to someone else
within your organization. With Gmail, the message has to
go out on the internet to Google's servers - it is not
instantly available. Most of the time this is nearly
instant, but not always. With an in-house server, that message
never leaves your building - it's instantly available. That's
an advantage for in-house.
However, Google has something that can sometimes be even
better: Gmail chat. Of course you can easily set up a chat
service within your own organization, but Google integrates
this with Gmail and its Calendar application, which gives
it a lot of power. Google ties this all together in a
"Start Page". This also ties in Google Docs, so email attachments
can be directly opened with that rather than Microsoft Office.
I don't think those features necessarily overpower the
cost factor for 20 users and up, but they are attractive.
In most other areas, the two are very similar. I will say that
Google's help pages are difficult to navigate because they bundle all
of it under Google Apps and it's sometimes hard to tell what
you are reading about. For example, I can't imagine that Gmail
doesn't support groups (that is, a mail name that delivers to multiple
people in the domain), but I can't find it in the documentation. I
did ask Google directly; they unhelpfully referred me to the documentation
where I had already failed to find it..
For both Kerio and Gmail, you can get free trials. This
is really the best way to evaluate how either would work in
your organization. However, when I asked Google how I could set up
a free trial of this, again I got no answer.. pretty unhelpful all
around, though I would at least hope it would be better if I were
actually paying money.
I do suspect Enterprise Gmail could be a good solution for small
businesses and perhaps even for some a little larger - though it does
get fairly expensive compared to other solutions (like Kerio).