Google Apps Premier: long-term review

apps_55955e_en-462x310Towards the end of 2009, I decided that something needed to be done about email provision for my companies. Like most people, I have a number of email addresses and had been using a combination of Mozilla Thunderbird and the excellent CloudMark spam filtering service for a couple of years.

Google Apps Premier: long-term review

However, this system wasn’t working for two main reasons. Firstly,  it would take a good ten minutes after Windows loaded before I could read my emails as Thunderbird/CloudMark downloaded them and filtered out all the spam.

I’d also ended up with my emails spread across two laptops and a desktop, with parts of my email database also existing on older desktops. This can be a nightmare when it comes to finding a conversation or software licence from a year or two ago.

What I wanted was a service that allowed me to handle my emails online, so that I could access them from anywhere. This solves both problems as there’s no separate download, so start-up is instant and the entire database is in one place.

I signed up for a Google Apps Premier trial and was instantly impressed. Within a couple of hours I’d configured one of my spare domain names to act as the base domain so that emails could be sent and received via [email protected] rather than [email protected] The Premier edition also integrates with Postini, a service Google bought that allows the domain controller to set up email policies and filters and adds an extra level of spam elimination.

Each of the users has set up filters and labels within Google Mail to organise emails as we work towards a zero inbox policy. We’re each able to redirect up to five other email addresses into our Google Mail account and send emails from those email addresses within Google Mail.

Overall, it’s been a triumph. Gone are the long start-up delays, the slow performance of a creaking desktop email client and the fragmentation of the email database. Junk removal is almost 100% effective, due to the combination of Google Mail’s excellent built-in technology and Postini. It’s dead easy to set up filters so that mail is archived properly and the archives themselves are simple to search. And, of course, I can easily check my email from any internet-connected computer as well as my Android phone.

In fact for us at least, Google Apps Premier has been worth the £2 per month per year purely for its email functionality. This is just as well because the other elements bundled into Google Apps are, frankly, pants. Google Docs is unusable, Google Sites is of no practical use to us and we have no need for a private Video channel, thank you very much.  The only fly in the rose-scented ointment is that there is no obvious way to backup the Google Mail database.

In practice, Google Apps Premier (and, to a lesser extent, the free Standard edition) allows the smallest business to enjoy similar functionality to a large corporate running Exchange Server at a very low price. So far so good.

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