Service links Gmail and Outlook, bypassing Exchange

A new service from Cemaphore Systems lets you access Google's e-mail program through Microsoft's, cutting the ties to the software giant's Exchange Server.

If you like Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client software but hate the expense of licensing and running Exchange Server, Cemaphore Systems has a proposition for you: a subscription service that effectively lets people dump Exchange in favor of Google's cloud-computing infrastructure.

The product, called Mailshadow for Google Apps, or MailShadow G, is being made available in a beta test version on Wednesday, according to the company. Cemaphore says the product ultimately will be licensed via a monthly subscription fee.

Cemaphore says the service "instantaneously synchronizes e-mail, calendars, and contacts between Outlook, Exchange, and Gmail." Translation: If you want to get rid of Exchange and run your e-mail back end on Google, this is the product for you.

Much has been made of Google's challenge to Microsoft's desktop application hegemony. One of the key reasons for Microsoft's dominance is e-mail and Exchange, its e-mail and communications server. Once installed in companies, Exchange and Outlook form the backbone of a vital application that's difficult to migrate away from or replace.

In many instances, companies must license, install, and maintain multiple copies of Exchange in order to keep their e-mail infrastructure working. For smaller companies, the overhead can be substantial.

A cost-efficient way to eliminate internal management of e-mail infrastructure in favor of a cloud-based service, linked to Google's popular Gmail service, will likely appeal to many companies, large and small. Microsoft has in recent years worked with outside providers to offer hosted versions of Exchange.

Cemaphore Systems, founded in 2002, specializes in e-mail backup and caching systems that link to Exchange. The company says MailShadow will eventually work with other online e-mail services.

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