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Google Builds Microsoft Exchange Escape Route

Would-be Google Apps converts now have an simple way to liberate their data from Microsoft's popular e-mail server.

Two thousand years ago, Rome was the center of the Western world, a situation described in the saying "all roads lead to Rome."

Today, all roads lead to Google, or so it seems. Actually, Google distributes only 6% to 10% of Internet traffic, a massive amount but not everything.

So it is that Google continues leveling the land and laying down pavement to help customers of its competitors reach the promised land, the realm of Google Apps and cloud computing. In the parlance of Google marketing, this is called "Going Google."

On Wednesday, Google plans to announce a new way for Microsoft Exchange users to enter Google's cloud kingdom, Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange, server software designed to help companies move data from Microsoft Exchange to Google Apps.

"In order to help customers get to the cloud, we have to help customers bridge the gap from legacy systems," explained Google Apps senior product manager Chris Vander Mey in a phone briefing.

As its name suggests, Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange will copy e-mail, calendar and contact data from an Exchange installation to Google's Gmail service, a part of Google Apps, preserving folder structures in the process.

"It's very, very simple to understand and use this tool," said Google Apps product manager Abhishek Bapna. "It's really fast, and that's what distinguishes it from other tools."

It's not the first such tool Google has deployed. Last summer, Google introduced Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook which allows Outlook users to connect to Google Apps for e-mail, contacts, and calendar data. The company has also released Google Apps Migration for Lotus Notes and Connect for Blackberry Enterprise Server.

Vander Mey said that two large companies have just embarked on the journey to become Google Apps customers, Konica Minolta (7,000 users coming from a mixed IT environment that included Exchange) and National Geographic (2,000 users, migrating from Lotus Notes). Motorola and Jaguar Land Rover, each with 15,000 users, were among the companies last year that left Exchange for Google Apps.

All told, Google claims to have about 25 million individuals and 2 million businesses using Google Apps.

Microsoft has cloud offerings too -- Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

BPOS costs $10 per user per month, or $120 per user per year, more than twice the $50 annual cost for Google Apps. But really, the two services aren't directly comparable in terms of features. BPOS, for example, doesn't include Microsoft Office.

Microsoft BPOS doesn't yet have a list of high-profile enterprise accounts that can match Google's collection of cloud computing customers. Microsoft claims to have more than 500 state and local governments using Microsoft Online Services in the U.S. and said last month that it had added the City of Newark and Florida State College at Jacksonville as customers.

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