Google has created a free tool to simplify and automate the migration of email, calendar and contacts data from Microsoft Exchange servers to its Google Apps collaboration and communication hosted suite.
The tool, called Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange, is available for free to organisations that sign up for the Premier or Education editions of Apps.
"Until now, we didn't have a great solution for getting your data out of Exchange," said Chris Vander Mey , a Google Apps senior product manager.
The tool works both for Exchange servers residing on customers' premises and for cloud-hosted ones. Google has a similar tool for migrating data from IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino to Google Apps.
Although Google Apps has a wide variety of components, including the Docs office productivity suite, its primary appeal has been its Gmail piece as a cloud-based, less expensive replacement for Exchange and Notes/Domino.
For Exchange, the best migration option Google previously offered its Apps administrators was the Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook browser plug-in, which requires that end users trigger the data transfer individually for their accounts.
This new server-side tool puts the process in the hands of the Apps administrators and makes it possible to migrate the data of hundreds of users simultaneously. It also lets administrators continue running Exchange while they do a phased migration, if they so choose.
"This gives Google Apps administrators more control, more speed and a better experience for their end users," Vander Mey said.
The tool doesn't transfer all Exchange data, however. It can't migrate tasks lists and journal entries.
While any IT management tool will likely be welcomed by Exchange administrators considering moving to Google Apps, they should also evaluate other elements before deciding to switch, said Rebecca Wettemann, a Nucleus Research analyst.
Specifically, IT decision makers should gauge the extent of their Exchange integration with other Microsoft products, like SharePoint and Dynamics CRM, and how much of that functionality they will or will not be able to replicate in Google Apps, she said.
Likewise, they should evaluate how much of a learning curve, and resulting productivity hit, it would mean for their end users to switch from Outlook to Gmail's web frontend, especially if Outlook has custom integration ties to other software, like Microsoft Office, she said.
Google does provide a browser plug-in that ties Outlook to Gmail's back end, but it doesn't provide full parity with the Outlook/Exchange pairing.
"Email plays a huge part in an organisation's productivity," she said.
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