You know I’m a fan of Google Apps. You know I’m also a fan of Microsoft. When someone asks me whether they should fully commit their contacts, calendar, and email to Google, I’ll usually say, yes. Sometimes, though not often and because I’m such a Google fan, I’ll recommend that the individual go with a hosted Microsoft Exchange server.
The cost of Google Apps versus hosted Exchange
Usually the greatest consideration for most law firms, is cost: $50 per user per year for Google Apps for Business versus $6.95 per user per month. Obviously, $80+ is more than $50, so $30+ per year might be a significant savings. That said, Microsoft offers its hosted Exchange and Office 365 packages for a decent price (about $10 per month with hosted Exchange), certainly worth considering if you’re into moving all of your services to the cloud.
I know of at least one major law firm using Google Apps instead of Exchange, and there’s hundreds more small law firms, including my own, who use the Google Apps features too.
Some others may argue that one of the premiere benefits of Google Apps is the fact that you can get a free account. Although I like the free theory, I’m always going to advocate a paid route. I believe, naively or otherwise, that payment for services guarantees some standard protection, protocols, and, most importantly, privacy protections, not otherwise bargained for in a freebie setting.
Google Apps also integrates with Microsoft Outlook, which for many people (especially me with my practice management software) is a necessity, while some software companies, such as Clio, integrate with a Google Apps Marketplace, application. Unpaid, unsponsored side-tracking comment: one of my former law clerks opened his practice out of law school using Clio and loves it, especially the Google Apps integration.
Admittedly, for some Google Apps users, one of the drawbacks of syncing Outlook with Google Apps is that the tasks and notes folders do not sync.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis by some IT guys, check out this post, this post, or this one, which offer some insights to the “problem.” A quick search of Google will give you 4 million more links.
Making your commitment
Whatever platform you choose, it’s important to make sure it’s the right one for you. When I decided to commit to Google, I changed because of cost, integration of services, devices, and programs, availability away from the office, and lack of upkeep/maintenance. I wanted as much of a hands-off system as possible, especially since my backup procedures can be lax.