IMAP email hosting for small business: will "Google Apps" do?

Discussion in 'Web Design and Development' started by kha0s, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. kha0s, Apr 20, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011

    kha0s macrumors member


    Nov 23, 2009
    I've been tasked to revamp the current POP3 email hosting of a small business. Won't even bother going into the "POP vs IMAP" wrangle. Besides the obvious IMAP support, it's also pivotal that the service supports custom domain emails (ex: Taking into account the "small" in "small business", an affordable price point would also be nice.

    It only took a couple minutes of research to bump into the Google Apps suggestion. Since it kept popping up over and over again, decided to take closer look into it. The free version allows one to create up to 50 accounts of 7 GB each. With full-fledged IMAP support and powered by Gmail's rock-solid backbone, Google Apps soon became the top contestant in the game. Notwithstanding, even though the overwhelming majority of reports classified the service as nothing short of first-rate, I did hear a significant clamor of warning shouts about the potential privacy concerns of hosting sensitive business information in Google's servers. The sometimes haphazard behavior when using mobile devices to access the service was also brought to my attention.

    The quest for a more commercial solution returned dozens of potential candidates. After diligently analyzing each one, managed to prune the original list to four company's: FastMail, FuseMail, Rackspace and LuxSci. Although with slightly different bells and whistles, all four offer an equivalent set of core services. Even so, the several reviews I've come across categorically branded FastMail as the gold standard for "IMAP email hosting". There's no doubt in my mind that either one would get the job done. Unfortunately, every single price plan is way off-budget. I had no idea that commercial email hosting could be so expensive. At $63 user/year, in order to match the "50 accounts" figure provided by Google Apps, one would have to cough up $3150/year with Fastmail!! Even though with significantly less stratospheric prices, none of the other three will rival Google Apps offer for less than $1000/year.

    I'm more than ready to go airborne with Google Apps. Nonetheless, before giving the green light, would like to hear your thoughts on the "privacy liability" topic. Would also appreciate some hands-on input on the "access from mobile devices is shabby" claims, as well as confirmation on "IMAP IDLE" support.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    What exactly is the privacy concern? Hosting your data with Google is no different than hosting it with Amazon, Fastmail, or any other company.
  3. manueld macrumors 6502

    Jun 8, 2009
    This. Unless the company is willing to buy it's own email server, which by the sound of it with their limited budget is unlikely, you're always going to have privacy concerns with any 3rd party solution.
  4. SDub90 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2009
    Long Island
    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_3_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8G4 Safari/6533.18.5)

    Gmail is great. I use it for my business and setup several accounts every week for clients. Hundreds of schools use it as well.
  5. kha0s thread starter macrumors member


    Nov 23, 2009
    Thanks for the feedback. Can anyone confirm if Google Apps servers support the IMAP IDLE command?

    SDub90: Do your clients use mobile devices (ex: iPhone, iPad) to access the service? If so, how do they rate the overall experience? Do you get many complaints about it?

    I've been using Google products for several years and never had reason to complain. Even so, posts like this one have forced me to take a couple steps back before the final plunge. Will sleep on it.
  6. SDub90 macrumors 6502a

    Nov 9, 2009
    Long Island
    I've never had any complaints, but I've noticed that most of clients use gmail for their personal e-mail, so they probably already know what to expect. They also like the fact that their email won't get affected if there is a problem with their web server (I use gmail as my primary server and my own servers as the backup).

    If I recall correctly, the IDLE command was a standard feature of gmail since late 2007 (email client must support the feature).

    As for iDevices, the only problem I've heard about is the search feature when having their account setup as an exchange account - if the email isn't in the list of recent synced emails and you hit "continue search on server" they often receive a "could not connect" message before the search continues.

    The privacy thing has been beaten to death since gmail's launch - the data they collect is nothing you should be worried about. While I feel that having ads in my business email is unprofessional - it's not like my customers see that, and the only way they know I'm using google apps is if they check the headers of my messages.

    edit: I should also mention that ads in gmail business accounts can be disabled.
  7. manueld macrumors 6502

    Jun 8, 2009

    I use gmail with my iphone and have noticed that I've received emails on my iphone up to a minute faster than a browser with gmail open.

    And as to the other issue brought up in the post. Yes nothing in "free" but since I pretty much use gmail exclusively on my phone and rarely on a browser, I only see the ads when I login through the browser version. Also I believe their business accounts doesn't do that.
  8. designguy79 macrumors 6502

    Sep 24, 2009
    At least, as far as you know its nothing to worry about. ;)
  9. Cromulent macrumors 603


    Oct 2, 2006
    The Land of Hope and Glory
    If you are truly paranoid you can always just encrypt your emails pretty easily. Note: This means doing more than just using SSL / TLS for the connection you need an actual public / private key for your email address and the receiver needs one for their address (something like this works great). You'll need to exchange one signed message each before you can actually encrypt mails though.
  10. jaseone macrumors 65816


    Nov 7, 2004
    Houston, USA
    Regular Gmail supports Activesync for push ala MS Exchange and I think that extends to Google Apps servers now.
  11. UnSainted macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2008
    DFW, Texas
    Web Hosting

    Most standard web hosting packages come with unlimited POP/IMAP email accounts and are relatively easy to configure/administer through CPANEL etc.. Just a thought..
  12. jtara macrumors 68000

    Mar 23, 2009
    Well, GMail is Gmail, and that could be good or bad.

    While you can access GMail through IMAP, there can be problems with some IMAP clients, because GMail really doesn't provide IMAP email hosting: they provide compatibility between IMAP and their proprietary email system.

    In particular, Gmail does not have folders. Gmail has tags. Gmail tries to "transparently" provide compatibility between folders and tags, but it's just not 100% with all clients. An email can be tagged with multiple tags. In IMAP, a message can only be in one folder. (Unless you duplicate it.) This can confused client software. I suppose, at this point, most client software has had to adapt.

    Tags are more powerful, but it's an imperfect mapping between tags and folders.

    I like Rackspace myself. I wound up there through a series of acquisitions of my previous email provider, but the basic features have remained the same. They have very good server-side spam filtering, as well as the ability to sort incoming mail into folders server-side.
  13. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004

    Last I saw, fatcow was offering $55/year plan with web hosting and unlimited imap.

    I've always had the opinion that paying for email services at least gives you the right to complain when there is an outage.

    While gmail has spam filters that work great, they still let a lot of spam through to your junk folder. When paying for email, that Viagra and Nigerian Bank spam never gets through.

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