Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Gmail vs. Outlook - Which one?

We spend a significant amount of the day reading and replying to emails, so using the right email client is imperative for optimized productivity and efficiency. The most prominent and favoured email solutions to date are Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook.

To decide which solution works best for your business, it's crucial to address the kinds of features and functions your users require. Outlook is generally the 'comfort zone' option for a lot of users, and has been for some time; it's a familiar and popular application. However, Gmail has been steadily growing in popularity (surpassing 1 billion active users in Q4 2015) and in our experience, it's taken the throne away from Outlook—but how? While Outlook and Gmail both offer a similar experience with basic send/receive functionality, Gmail has taken a step further with lightning-fast mailbox searching, integrated voice and multi-person video chat, and other productivity enhancements such as Priority Inbox. Furthermore, Gmail integrates Google Hangouts, the communication platform of choice of the next generation. Gmail also includes the ability to easily attach and link files stored in Google Drive. Google Apps Learning Center offers a great overview of Gmail and Google Apps.

Although the majority of Gmail 'converts' really enjoy it, we've come across users who prefer Google Apps but insist on using Outlook because of their familiarity with the old-school interface. Many users may struggle and even dislike the change to conversation view in Gmail, but once trained on the benefits, the majority find it really helps manage large volumes of emails without using time consuming methods like sorting by sender and filing in individuals folders. Placing Outlook on top of Gmail excludes users from many powerful Gmail features that can really boost productivity and efficiency. For example, Gmail can merge emails into a single "conversation," which makes it much easier to navigate messages compared to Outlook. This enables the user to view or hide any related correspondence with a simple mouse click, instead of having to shuffle through multiple messages from the same sender. Gmail also upgrades folders with labels, which means that one email can have as many labels as needed versus Outlook, which only understands folders so users can only file a single email in a single folder - how old school is that?! Despite being able to assign multiple tags to one email, once trained with tips to use Google's powerful email search capabilities, many users stop filing in folders and using labels altogether.

Having instant access to your email and files, along with seamless collaboration, is another big selling point for Google Apps. There is no need to download, install, update, and sync legacy applications like Outlook since Google handles all the related maintenance and automatically updates Gmail, so users always get the latest innovations. This way, when you click open your browser or pick up your tablet or smartphone, it just simply works.

One of the other powerful features of Gmail is it's advanced spam filtering system. Gmail offers superior spam filtering which acts like a funnel through which only legitimate mail can pass. By the time you step into your office in the morning, Google ensures that any email that was collectively marked spam by others across the world does not end up in your inbox. Neat!

Gmail spam filtering
Although Outlook offers a familiar interface, Gmail and Google Apps for Work remain the email service of choice for most of our customers. More than 5 million businesses worldwide have moved to Google Apps, allowing their employees to productively collaborate, wherever and whenever they work. Be sure to check out some of the differences and benefits you'll get by switching to Gmail from Outlook and a legacy Exchange ecosystem. We here at InterlockIT have led many migrations, so contact us to schedule yours!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hybrid Cloud - Not a permanent solution

InterlockIT - We're a pro-cloud company and proud of being part of a disruptive way to providing cheaper, more convenient, and simpler business solutions that work.

Many cloud prospects over-complicate the process of divorcing their on-premises system by wanting to implement a hybrid cloud architecture as a long-term solution. A hybrid cloud is a combination of private cloud combined with the use of public cloud services where one or several touch points exist between the environments. The purpose of this setup is to conjoin services from a variety of cloud models to create an automated and easy to manage IT infrastructure.

As a cloud strategy company, we can confidently say that hybrid systems are not a permanent solution. CTOs rush to adopt cloud technologies for a number of reasons such as lower costs, increased agility, mobility, and so on, but many fail to understand that embracing a hybrid system is a journey with a final destination - the cloud. It shouldn't be a never-ending journey and for good reason! Each organization's cloud migration is different depending on the company size and infrastructure. Larger companies that rely more heavily on legacy systems may run a hybrid cloud system for a longer period of time than smaller companies that are comfortable moving more quickly. To understand why hybrid systems work better as temporary solutions it's important to recognize a few major misconceptions. Amazon Web Services outlines some of these myths in their post.

A common assumption companies make about hybrid systems is the ease of moving applications between their on-premises and cloud architectures. It's crucial to understand that cloud and on-premises infrastructure are not equally capable. Simply put, companies move to the cloud for features that enable them to have true elasticity, security, fixed costs, and improvement updates. On-premise systems and private clouds don't have this versatility and therefore cannot be permanently unified with the public cloud without drawbacks. Companies that do adopt a hybrid cloud system are often presented with technical, business, and management challenges such as the need for hybrid clouds to have good API compatibility and solid network connectivity. Gartner Inc, a leading technology adviser, polled that 95% of private clouds had encountered problems.

Although a hybrid cloud architecture allows for a "mix and match" approach, there is still the issue of cost. Most companies that have a smaller budget usually can't afford a rollout of a hybrid cloud solution. The initial cost of servers on the private end of the scale is a substantial one, and the needs of smaller businesses can typically be well catered to by cloud providers like Google or Microsoft.

Hybrid/private clouds increase the chances of security issues versus public clouds. Maintaining and ensuring that your public cloud provider and private cloud are in compliance isn't a walk in the park. This includes the means of coordination between the two because hybrid systems allow for information to be transported across a network that can be subject to third-party tapping. Additionally, a hybrid cloud operator won't have a comparable budget to spend monitoring their security that public cloud providers like Google and Microsoft have. It's an unnecessary risk that many companies are unfortunately oblivious to.

It can be tempting to prolong the use of a hybrid solution when your company is so accustomed to legacy applications, but you'll often get much better performance from the public cloud element if you find a solution from a specialist provider like InterlockIT. Be sure to contact us to learn more about cloud migration and what we can do to make your IT infrastructure work efficiently and cost-effectively for you.