Even though it is a search engine, Google has done a fantastic job delivering a bewildering array of services over the past several years. Between its Android platform, Office Suite, Mail Services, Blog Hosting and Video acquisition, there is no field untouched by Google’s reach. Today I want to talk a little about my experience using Gmail for corporate email.

Gmail @YourDomain.com I suspect many readers are familiar with the GMail interface - that sleek AJAX application that kicks the tar out of Outlook in terms of both speed and usability (how do they get their apps to run so fast?). GMail for corporations is a slightly different beast than GMail for individuals. Some differences are:

  • New features are rolled out on GMail for individuals first. Presumably this is to test-drive changes before surprising the corporate users who may actually be paying for the service.

  • GMail corporate uses your company’s DNS name - email addresses take the form of UserName@company.com rather than UserName@Gmail.com

  • Company-wide documents and email addresses can be automatically shared between existing and new accounts

The Best Things in Life Aren’t Always Free For the first 100 email accounts, companies are able to use Google’s services for free. That means 7GB of storage for every user, world-class chat and mail functionality, incredible speed, POP and IMAP access, plus a web interface that makes enterprise-level email applications obsolete.

The catch: if you need more than 100 accounts, you need to switch to paid mode, which is $50 annually per user. Of course, an organization larger than 100 employees is likely in a position to absorb the extra $5000+ for email services as part of its operating budget. For a smaller company, $50 per account can be a lot of money - but the free version is fully featured.

External Devices Any application capable of downloading POP or IMAP mail is able to reetrieve messages from a GMail account. If you need to get your email from more than one program or device take note: GMail ignores ‘leave on server’ and ‘retrive X days of message’. If Device A downloads an email, Device B will not and vice-versa.

The way to correct this is by changing your username to recent:username@company.com, which will cause GMail to download all email in the last 30 days. Watch out! This will download duplicate email if you already have mail one file before switching to recent mode. Consider yourself warned!

Privacy How does Google protect your privacy on GMail? Essentially, it doesn’t. Anything you send through the GMail servers technically becomes property of Google.

What does that mean for the average user? Probably nothing. Email should never be considered a secure medium - a good rule of thumb is: do not send anything you would be embarassed to see on the front page of your local newspaper tomorrow morning.

Google claims they do no cataloguing or data mining on emails within the GMail system. However, they do use context-sensitive advertisements which will appear alongside all mail in your inbox. Some users may be annoyed by the ads but personally I find them to be often interesting; sometimes they are even worth a click!

Use GMail, or Not? Although it is constantly improved, GMail is a mature and scalable product. Companies with small or non-existent technical staff would do well to trust this critical function to Google rather than to [insert ISP name here] due to the size and credibility Google has made for itself. Technical staff at larger organizations may even welcome the switch - letting someone else manage email issues reduces headache and expense.