It's a message all too familiar to companies using Microsoft's Exchange Server and Outlook email system. Microsoft Exchange users face an average of 2.5 hours of email outages a month, according to an IT survey conducted by the Radicati Group cited by Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) rival Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).
"These planned and unplanned outages are a significant issue for on-premise vendors," Adam Swidler, product marketing manager for Google Postini, told InternetNews.com. "Especially among mid-sized companies that use Exchange, we've seen a lot of them unable to deploy continuity solutions because of the cost or complexity."
Google's solution is the new Google Message Continuity, a low-cost backup solution for Exchange organizations, based on the search giant's Gmail infrastructure.
"We're very excited to announce this cost-effective solution for Microsoft Exchange environment that we think will also give these companies a bridge to our cloud services," said Swidler.
Available now for Microsoft Exchange 2003 and 2007, Google Message Continuity is priced at $25 per user per year for new customers or an additional $13 per user per year for current Postini customers. Postini is Google's email filtering and security service. Swidler said Google is looking at also supporting the newer Exchange 2010.
"We focused this release on where the market is stuck. We're looking at Exchange 2010 for a future release and potentially supporting other platforms as well," he said.
The release is the latest volley in Google's push to convert Microsoft customers to Google's cloud-based alternatives. Just last month Google unveiled Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, a service that lets users of Office 2003, 2007 and 2010 sync their Office documents to the Google cloud, without ever leaving Office.
Google Message Continuity replicates email accounts hosted on Microsoft Exchange Servers in the cloud, using Gmail and its Calendar and Contacts apps. Google said that when a Microsoft Exchange Server fails, or is down for scheduled maintenance, users will be able to log into Gmail using their same Exchange password and continue receiving and responding to email via Google's own cloud-based system. The two systems will also be constantly synched, according to Google, so users can switch from Gmail back to Outlook at any time.
"Additionally, features such as synchronous replication and redundancy that are built into Google architecture help ensure that your data wont be lost at any point and that its delivered to you with maximum efficiency," Rajen Sheth, group product manager for Google Apps, said in a blog post.
Swidler said Google is providing a more cost-effective solution than other third party Exchange add-on solutions. "A lot of those other solutions have their own Web interfaces, but they don't take advantage of the architectural advantages of Gmail," he said. "And we're rolling this out at a very aggressive price point."
While some Google partners and integrators may offer services to simplify a transition to Message Continuity , Swidler said it's a relatively easy integration involving an Exchange plug-in that IT departments can install on a self-service basis.
"Unlike some other areas where we've run into challenges, like Office on the Mac that's closed to collaboration, Exchange is relatively open for things like our synchronization server. They offer a well-established set of interfaces for us to do that," he said.