Small businesses are popping up everywhere. Even in this economy, the office space in the SoMa (South of Market) area in San Francisco is dwindling. Which makes me think that there is a need for reviews on email platforms. If you’re going to start a business of any size, it’s going to need an email service. Since email is a backbone service, it would be appropriate to assume that we want email, and everything assumed to go with it like calendaring, contacts, tasks, etc, to be available on every device we own. It’s almost unacceptable for a device these days to not exchange email.

This leaves us with a question. What service are we going to use to manage our email? As far as we’re concerned, there are two major cloud hosted contenders for this service today: Google Apps and Microsoft Exchange. Now, I don’t want to give anything away, but here are my thoughts. Being a Mac guy, I am not the biggest Microsoft fan. But, if there’s one thing I can say Microsoft got right, it’s Exchange. I used to work for Google, and I’ve also set up Google Apps for a few clients. I’ve seen what Google Apps can do from many perspectives. It’s a great tool, but if you’re running a business I must suggest MS Exchange.

Microsoft Exchange supports many tools. Webmail, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes, Shared Folders, and Delegation all exist on both platforms, but only with MS Exchange do you have the ability to be more granular and more connected. Take for instance, delegation. This is an important feature for anyone who’s going out of town for an extended period, or anyone who has an assistant or secretary. With MS Exchange you can grant others fine-grained access to email, calendar, contacts, notes, and tasks. Which then becomes available to them in Outlook and on the Web. However, with Google Apps, delegation is available via web access. Note, though, that via Outlook there are privacy concerns that should be evaluated: No tracking in sent items, no mark as private, full access permissions are required.

Another main concern between the two is Contacts. With Exchange, you can sync your contacts to your iPhone, Blackberry, Outlook client, etc, but with Google Apps there is only a limited contacts database available to you on the web. This limited database does not sync with Outlook or any of your mobile devices… This also means backing up your Google Apps contacts is a big pain!

All in all, they’re both great tools, but if you’re looking for all around compatibility with a plethora of available devices, and you want to have a little more control over the accounts and their permissions, not to mention the ability to easily scale up, Exchange is the way to go…it just works.

For more information on comparing the two services, check out this page.

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