Sunday, December 2, 2012

Is Google Apps for your business?

Many small businesses and non-profit organization are very reluctant to do anything about branded email, website, document management and more. Whether it be due to the crazy schedules that many of us small business owners have or the intimidation of budgets and technology. I can assure you the transition and costs associated with taking the BIG step is much less painful that you can imagine. Whether you're a single user operation or you have 100+ users at one location or around the work that you need to accommodate, Google Apps for Business is the fit for you.

As the owner of MNgeek LLC and the reseller of numerous cloud services and vendors (Microsoft, Rackspace, Intermedia, Google, Carbonite and more) that provide solutions for Hosted Email, Shared Calendars, Document Storage, Online Backup, Web Hosting and much more; Google Apps is the single solution for the small business owner that will fit the bill for all of these needs. If you're looking to get a free consultation on what Google can do for you, don't hesitate to visit MNgeek and contact us today to take the next steps, pain free (I promise).


Thank you for taking the time to read my post and I ask that you don't hesitate to contact MNgeek LLC for help with your cloud services needs.

Matthew Jeske
Owner & Cloud Consultant
MNgeek LLC | www.MNgeek.com




Monday, November 26, 2012

Atmail vs the Competition

Following the recent announcement that Atmail received some additional funding to move their service offerings forward to compete with the growing popularity of many others including: Google Apps, Office365, Intermedia.net's Exchange 2010 and New 2013, SherWeb, Rackspace Email and countless others, I found the desire to take another look at how things are going for Atmail Cloud (hosted Email and Groupware solution). As a hosted solutions (cloud consultant with a focus at the small business owner, I cannot resist the opportunity to find the next reasonably priced solution with the features my clients are looking for. I am an authorized Google Apps for Business Reseller and Microsoft Cloud Essentials, Rackspace and Intermedia Partner with nearly a decade in the IT Managed Services industry.

After visiting the Atmail website, you will notice immediately that Atmail's web-based user interface is very appealing. They have built their solution on web standards with great cross-browser support. I fired up a new trial account and associated a test domain with my account within minutes. I began to navigate the Admin Dashboard and found a few gotchas... I seemed to have continuous trouble getting back to the exact URL to get to the Admin Console whenever I closed my session. I had to resort back to my Welcome Email to get the exact syntax. I also found that there was a lack of intuitive user interface features for a web focused groupware offering, such as the ability to right click on folders or emails to "Mark as read" or rename. It was also hit or miss on whether or not you could drag-n-drop elements of the page. As a result, I quickly became discouraged by a system that I wouldn't want to support the much less technically sophisticated end-users that I support on a daily basis. Upon closing my trial account, I had the opportunity to provide some feedback, so I did. Where I became impressed was by the quick response that I received from the Sales Team (Bonny) that I received an email from with a personalized "Thank you" for the opportunity and was open to criticisms and feedback, asking "What would Atmail need to do to earn my business?". As someone that is accustomed to NOT getting any human feedback from other providers such as Google and Microsoft (who have recognized and been working recently to get better), I began to have an email conversation with Bonny and took the liberty of putting together a to do list and comparison of Atmail Cloud to other solutions that I have worked with. See below for details. Please note that I have received continued thanks from Atmail's sales team and encouragement to blog about my feedback and comments. I hope that you will find the same benefits from this article. This is taken from my email to Bonny and her team.


I wanted to send you my initial thoughts over the past 24-48 hours with your Atmail Cloud solution. Below are my initial thoughts and feedback on your platform. These are mere observations from a current reseller of other solutions and power user of cloud email and collaboration solutions for years. I am sharing these details to help in your future planning of what I see as a very elegant promising solution with some cracks to fill.

Atmail Initial Webmail Review

Lacking features:

** MOST IMPORTANT! - Inability to Migrate from other email providers from within the Admin or User Web Interface.
This would immediately prevent me from moving my business to your systems at this time. This creates a major barrier to entry for small businesses. I did read something aboutAtmail Support being able to perform some degree of scripted migration, but that just won't due as all other 1st and 2nd tier email hosts offer this Easy Migration feature for single or bulk user accounts. The recommendation to perform it manually via an IMAP Email Client is also a poor direction to send users or admins.

Import/Export of Calendars:
I was unable to locate the ability to import .ics or other forms of calendars in to your web-based settings. Unsure if this can be done at all from the time I spent reviewing the Help Menu.

Folder (sub-folder) Creation from Inbox:
The lack of right-click context menus from inside the browser creates a very unnatural feel. I also found that I was unable to perform a drag and drop re-order of folders or sorting option.

Inbox View Options:
I would highly encourage that you consider the ability to increase or decrease the content view would be important to me so I could view less or more emails without scrolling. The lack of flagging emails or setting up labels or filters to categorize emails that are still in the inbox is a must have for power users like myself. This is related to the lack of a "One-click" Compose Email button on your navigation bar. The need to click on the "New" button and then choose "New Email" is irritating.

Recommended:
The need to add a Tasks tab to your top navbar and possibly a future cloud file/folder storage solution would be ideal. I am seeing the introduction to Skydrive, Google Drive and other fully integrated solutions as the next hook for keeping an existing client inside of a cloud providers ecosystem. Yes, the use of Dropbox, Box, SugarSync and many others are available, but I fear they will be in great trouble without improved integration to systems such as yours because of the convenience element. Once you have your client's Email, Calendar and Files on your systems, they are not able to easily go away more than ever before.

Overall I think the web interface is beautiful, but lacking some very key webmail user interface features to be a cloud-based competitor. I think that using Gmail's core email feature set or another rich webmail with Rackspace Email (http://www.rackspace.com/apps/email_hosting/rackspace_email/on_the_web/), would be a good point of reference for a road map.

Please do not take this as an attempt to rip apart the Atmail Cloud interface or service. I see some great potential here, but I would need to see some improvements before I would feel comfortable recommending it as a cloud-based email/groupware solution for my small business clients.

Thank you both for your time and feel free to ping me back with any questions. I would be more than happy to serve as a resource.

Matthew Jeske, GCFE
Owner & Cloud Consultant | MNgeek LLC