Gmail  - Enterprise Emailf for your business?

Gmail is now a major player in cloud-based enterprise email – but is it right for your business?

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | Staff Writer

Google’s Gmail has officially become a major player in the enterprise email sector according to Gartner, but is it the right choice for your organisation?
Although Gmail is currently in command of roughly one percent of the relatively small enterprise market, this represents almost one half of all online enterprise email, according to Gartner. What does this mean for your business? It means that despite being slow on the uptake, Gmail has finally become a viable email provider for business. Now that Google has gone mainstream in the enterprise email market, should you choose Gmail for your business? Let’s examine some of Gmail’s most prominent features - and perceived weaknesses - as it carves an ever-growing niche in today’s cloud-based enterprise email market.
Gmail Dominates with New Features and Policy Options
For the past five years, Google has been selling Gmail to businesses and gradually emerging as a possible alternative to Microsoft Exchange Online and other leading web-hosted email systems. The path to becoming a major competitor in the enterprise email market has been relatively slow and painful for Google, but the company has managed to grow its market share through the continuous addition of new features and policy options.
Email Authentication
In January, Gmail unveiled several new features that showed its promise as a leading cloud email product. One of these new features is email authentication, which makes it easier for organisations using Google Apps to authenticate outgoing mail so that fewer legitimate email messages are blocked by spam filters. Administrators can enable the DomainKeys Identified Mail technology for outgoing mail by accessing the ‘Advanced Tools’ tab.

Email Lockdown 
Gmail also gave administrators the ability to lock down email access for specific users. This feature can be useful for businesses where the email access of particular groups should be limited.

Two-step Verification
Google beefed up its Gmail security features with the introduction of a two-step verification system that allows users to use their phone as a means of getting a verification code that can be used as an extra measure of security. This extra layer of security can help fight the risks posed by malware, phishing scams and reused passwords.
Offline Access 
Google recently revived its offline access feature, allowing users to access the web-based system even when they are not connected to the Internet. Users must install Gmail Offline, an HTML 5-based app, to access this feature.
Gmail and Microsoft Exchange Migration
Google’s success in penetrating the enterprise email market has been boosted by a suite of Microsoft Exchange-friendly features designed to help organisations make a seamless migration to Gmail. Last year, Google introduced an email continuity package called Google Message Continuity that provides cloud-based synchronous back-up. The feature was also designed to help organisations make the switch from on-premises systems to Google Apps. Google also introduced a tool to help businesses move their email, calendars and contacts from Microsoft Outlook to Google Apps. This includes a ‘two-click’ migration tool to help users copy existing data from Outlook or Exchange into Google Apps.

Weak Spots: Where Gmail Still Falls Short 
Although Gmail has made great strides in the enterprise email market, it currently still fails to meet all the needs of large organisations with complex email requirements. Users have identified weak spots in the Gmail infrastructure, particularly in the areas of surveillance, continuity, security and compliance. Financial institutions and other organisations have reported Google’s lack of enthusiasm for creating new features for just a small subset of users. For example, banks need surveillance features as part of their email program - something that Google is reluctant to provide. Large system integrators have also reported a lack of transparency in the areas of continuity, security and compliance. Moreover, Google’s slow progression out of the beta phase has also likely affected the rate of adoption.

Gmail Projected to Dominate the Enterprise Email Market
Despite these perceived flaws, Gartner predicts that Google's market share is expected to hit 10 percent within a few years, with online email services making up 20 percent of the total market by the end of 2016, and 55 percent by the end of 2020. While other enterprise email providers, including Novell GroupWise and IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, have lost market momentum in recent years, Gmail is the only system other than Microsoft Exchange to prosper. In response to Gmail’s rapid growth, Microsoft has responded by announcing that it will introduce new features to the cloud version of Exchange. Analysts predict that the intense competition between Microsoft and Google will strengthen both companies and allow them to apply their expertise to other cloud services, whilst making it very difficult for other suppliers to penetrate the enterprise email market.
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