Friday, January 30, 2009

GMail nails it. Everyone else is wrong.

I love Microsoft's Vista (hey, it's worked great for me). I like Word. I especially love Excel. OneNote is a little beauty. And even PowerPoint isn't so bad, despite the story that Steve Jobs hated it so much he just had to create Keynote or he was going to refuse to do his Apple keynotes ever again.

But Outlook is simply awful, at least for e-mail.

Searches are excruciating. The thing crashes frequently or hangs up. And there are a limited number of ways that I've found to customize the program--and many of them cost a bunch of money and make the thing even more crash-prone.

As says in a recent Slate piece:
If you're still tied to a desktop app—whether Outlook, the Mac's Mail program, or anything else that sees your local hard drive, rather than a Web server, as its brain—then you're doing it wrong. (LINK)
You are. You're doing it wrong. And I would also sweep into that coffin other online mail systems too, like Windows Live or Yahoo Mail, and even Thunderbird for all you open source aficionados. Two reasons, and now Google has added a third, the final nail.

1. GMail uses tagging, not folders. You don't place a piece of e-mail into a folder to categorize it. You tag it. Which effectively means that any e-mail can be in an infinite number of folders. How can you live with that old way of organizing e-mail, the way that Outlook, Yahoo, every other program that I know uses? And in part because of this tagging, searches for mail have the beauty, speed and simplicity of a Google web search.

2. GMail threads your mail, always, all the time. What's great about that? You see all your mail, both the incoming mail and your responses, as part of a beautifully presented, threaded conversation. And that's what e-mail should be. It's not "messages". It's a conversation, asynchronous to be sure, but still a conversation. Once you've embraced that new reality, any other mail program feels like using a typewriter.

3. The final nail: offline. Google has just announced this week its offline feature, in which you can take your GMail offline from the Web and use it anywhere without an Internet connection, within a browser, just as you would if you were using a program like Outlook or Thunderbird.

The only use I have now for Outlook or Thunderbird--and I use Thunderbird for these purposes--is to backup Google's GMail servers. I am one of perhaps 17 people in the world who actually pay Google $50 a year for the privilege of having an ad-free GMail and with that they have a special up-time guarantee. But still, it makes me nervous that there is no GMail backup and so from time-to-time I'll download a copy of my GMail to Thunderbird so it sits on my computer. But with this final nail in the coffin, I'll probably remember to do that less and less.

PS: I do still use Outlook as a conduit out to my BlackBerry for contacts and calendar, but that's because I have a BlackBerry Enterprise Server that makes such over-the-air sync easy. The only thing that Outlook-BES really provides that can't be found elsewhere is contacts sync from Salesforce through Outlook and out to my BlackBerry. If Google/Salesforce filled that hole with a relatively low-cost option, I'd never have to use Outlook again.
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Andrew Bellak said...

Dear Joseph,

We know each other and you know I'm looking for a somewhat specific, small enterprise, solution.

My main concern is about data security, in particular, sensitive client data.

If we use GMail, how might that solve this issue? Even if we have our own server.

One thought is that we can use encryption software like PGP.

The question is, can GMail be encryptd?

I'll have to ask PGP.


Joseph said...

Andrew, GMail is probably MUCH safer than anything else ... or are you running military contracts I don't know about!!!??

1. Having your mail on a physical server in your own office is the LEAST safe. It is highly prone to virus attacks, to hacker attacks, and it is physically subject to both data loss (hardware failure) and to physical theft.

2. Having your mail server co-located at a lesser known operation is probably OK, if they are reputable, but still . . .

3. . . . if you're not going to go the Google route I would at least run my mail through a place that has a stellar reputation, massive backups and bullet proof security . . . I have run through since about 1991 and it has NEVER gone down.

4. Google. Massive redundancy of hardware. As hacker secure as #3 and the most virus secure. Create a highly effective password, and I don't think you'd have any problem.

Love to hear comments though from people who know more than me.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

Let me add: an even more secure thing to do is to not allow staff to use GMail offline. I would bet that the least secure thing to do of all is to allow e-mail to be stored on a laptop. And if you are only going to allow browser access, GMail rules. If you're not going to allow any browser access, I'd suggest you STILL run your mail through Google using IMAP because they have great virus protection and your data will be safe from fire, flood and most acts of God (some might say because Google is God . . . but I'm not a fanboy of that magnitude). And then you can PGP or whatever all you want on each laptop.

Andrew Bellak said...

Dear Joseph,

In case we went with a third party owned and operated cloud, who might you recommend? Google, Amazon S3, EMC?

For example, our current online data back-up is Jungle Disk which uses the Amazon S3 'backbone' (right language?).

So another way we could work is, we use these services and use a local person or persons for support, service, maintenance.
Is there one firm who's excellent at both our cloud server AND data storage/back-up?


Joseph said...

Your questions are really above my pay grade!

This thread started out about why GMail is so great. I'm much less familiar with the world of cloud storage. I use MOZY myself for offline, but it only backs up the documents. But I'm just worrying in that instance about my own computer, and not the whole enterprise.

Andrew Bellak said...

okay, maybe I'll post this to the Hidden-Tech group and see what comes back.