1) They asked. Microsoft Communication Services is cloud hosted Exchange and Sharepoint + Outlook 2010. Rackspace waived the $12.50/month fee on their plan for 1-year, in exchange for our feedback. I’ll also share my experiences here, and in future posts. $150 in free services didn’t motivate the change. I was curious, and excited to explore an alternative to Google Apps. A 14-day free trial is available to everyone.
2) Gmail performance issues. Randomly, inexplicably, without warning, and without explanation Gmail gets slow. Not usually a big deal for personal email, but a productivity killer, or even loss of business for some. For a company that prides itself on speed, Gmail suffers. Some people are even begging to pay for better performance.
Google, please set a price — any price — that you determine is necessary to keep anyone’s account running smoothly at all times. I’ll gladly pay it. I don’t care if it’s $100 a year or $1,000 a year. It would be worth it.
3) Houston we have a problem. Where do you go for support? An actual recent Gmail error:
Delivery to the following recipient has been delayed:
Message will be retried for 2 more day(s)
Technical details of temporary failure:
Missed upload deadline (state SENT_MESSAGE)
If you don’t find an answer to an error like this via search engine, or on Google’s own forums you’re out of options. A $50/year pro apps account is required to contact Google for support. The “free” version displays ads on the web interface, so it’s not like they couldn’t afford to offer some support. Great for enthusiasts, maybe something a businesses shouldn’t rely on. Rackspace offers phone, email, and chat support.
4) I like Outlook. Google Apps (Gmail) w/IMAP doesn’t. I’ve used Outlook for about 15 years. It’s essential to my productivity, and I use it with different email addresses. A mixture of POP/IMAP, some are Gmail, most are not. Unlike the intermittent slowness issues mentioned above, Gmail with IMAP is always slow. Exchange server is a much better experience in Outlook, and works equally as well on my Android powered phone. Google Apps also do not synchronize fully with Outlook (for example out of office replies, flag dates, distribution lists).
5) I’m not a server admin. Exchange and Sharepoint are great products, that in the past would have been out of reach for someone self-employed, or a small business. It’s not practical to setup and maintain an Exchange or Sharepoint server for a few users. I’ve investigated third-party web-based solutions in the past, and found their offering to be less than attractive. With Rackspace and Microsoft partnered, I get “fanatical support”, and world-class server management, backed by a great infrastructure. I’m glad to let someone else manage the security, backups, and software upgrades (free).
In future posts I’ll cover migrating from Google Apps to MSCS, detail the mobile experience, and offer some general long-term observations.
If you’re interested in learning more about Microsoft Communication Services, check out these Microsoft partners:
- Rackspace: http://rackspace.communications-services.com/
- Alteva: http://alteva.communications-services.com/index.html
- Apptix: http://mailstreet.communications-services.com/
Or to learn about Microsoft Communication Services and its benefits: