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I know I'm walking into a religious war, but I'm hoping to get some advice from people who have actually managed their 50+ person company's transition to either Microsoft BPOS or Google apps. (Or evaluated them and decided to do something else!)

Our senior employees are very happy with Outlook; our junior employees (and techs) like gmail.

My concerns are: TCO, reliability, backup & retention, and support. (By "support", I mean both me supporting internal users, and someone supporting me when things don't work the way they should.)

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We moved a bit over 20,000 students to Live@EDU coming on two years ago. At the time we were evaluating Live@EDU and Gmail for our email outsource. Live@EDU won in large part because integration with our existing Microsoft systems was better (this was two years ago, this has likely changed) and Microsoft was able to answer the question of, "What are you doing with the usage logs our students generate," much better than Google did. We liked (or rather the Associated Students) liked Microsoft's answer better, even though most of them were predisposed to like gmail as most of them were already gmail users privately.

We've had a good experience with Live@EDU. They clearly had some growing pain when we came on board, but in the last 6 months things have been very solid. We've never had a need to exercise their backup & retention policies, but then our Document Retention Policy doesn't extend to students anyway and we've yet to be asked to handle legal discovery on that system. For support, they're kind of laggy; similar to a "B" priority call into Microsoft. However, there are peer support forums dedicated to supporting these things and are frequently faster than Microsoft at responding to common problems.

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Do you know if Live@EDU is run on the same infrastructure as BPOS? –  Jesse Aug 11 '10 at 17:34
    
Without digging too deep, it looks like the email side of it does have a similar infrastructure. –  sysadmin1138 Aug 11 '10 at 17:47
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I recently transitioned my company away from Exchange to Google Apps. The migration process was very easy, and Outlook 2007 syncs with it (2010 support coming later this year).

We have not had any reliability issues with the service, and they offer a retention system at an additional cost (see Google Message Discovery).

My reasons for moving to it were simple: our team needs to focus on systems that really matter for our business. Since we don't have dedicated resources for managing our email servers, why not have someone other specialists do it? Also, if our limited Exchange infrastructure fails, it is going to take a significant amount of time to bring it back online - we are betting that this is not the case with Google.

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Good points. We moved our students over to something-not-hosted-here since a mail system supporting 20K people the way they want to be supported was simply going to cost too much in admin-cycles and money. Our faculty/staff system (Exchange 2007) stays on campus since we have the resources to do it well. –  sysadmin1138 Aug 11 '10 at 15:55
    
Did you consider a hosted Exchange solution? Have you been happy with the google Outlook Sync? –  Jesse Aug 11 '10 at 17:27
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I managed about 60 Google Apps domains and we have a few users still using Outlook with Google Apps sync. It's not ideal be it works reasonably well. Google support is ok but they can be a little slow to respond.

I would recommend against local exchange server mostly because it will be more administration and more costly even before you deal with retention and backup.

Depending on your mix of people who want to stay on exchange, you should consider possibly putting eveyone on Google Apps and then getting Hosted Exchange that you can forward to from Google. This was something considered but our old Director was very anti-MS. In some of our deployment scenarios we put Postini/Google Apps in front of an exchange server to begin the transition. You will end up paying double on those users but it may be worth it. It's easy to implement and will cover your retention and backup needs.

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this is very interesting - have you done this suggestion anywhere? that is using Google Apps for everyone, but for whoever wants, forward to Exchange Online\BPOS? I guess that would work for mail specifically, but what about chat\communicator - not so much I presume...? I guess you have to wait for Federation to be supported in Office Communicator Online (if it's not already) and then they two can talk... –  Jordan W. Sep 16 '10 at 17:52
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Having migrated from Dovecot/Postfix/Amavis to Exchange, I can tell you: Exchange requires more resources, more administration, and more money. You will gain benefits from Exchange provided that you have an existing Windows AD domain that is "sane" and ready for it. The exchange box is beefy: 4 cores, 32Gbyte RAM, and 1Tb of storage. You'll also need an admin that understands it.

Google's services are certainly seductive, but I'm still not sold on handing over control of a fundamental piece of infrastructure to an outside source. And what's with 99.9% uptime? I suppose that's ok for some use-cases, but if you're doing sales, or customer relations, being offline for about 8 hours could be difficult. Otherwise, it's easy to see how it would make sense to outsource this function.


Just for comparison:

The old Dovecot/Postfix/Amavis setup hosted 60+ users at its peak on 2 CPU cores, 6Gb of RAM, and about 250Gb of disk space. We had a lot of email, with some email boxes going back years. Volume was very light, about 4-6k messages a day, and about 750,000 non-spam messages delivered per year. Given the recorded stats from the server, it could have had the hardware maxed out to accommodate between 1,000 and 1,200 users. Other than adding and removing people from mail aliases, it required no intervention.

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