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Google Apps Achilles’ Heel – ‘on behalf of’ messaging

Google Apps for Business - software-as-a-service for business email, information sharing and securityHaving architected, deployed, and managed enterprise Microsoft Exchange environments, I know Microsoft Exchange Server is a solid, scalable, and feature-rich product which leverages Microsoft’s LDAP directory services, Active Directory. However, the caveats to implementing this system include a commitment to the Microsoft platform and in-house expertise to manage the infrastructure. What if your business needs to reduce costs yesterday, or is seeking alternatives to Microsoft?

Google has a brilliant, Cloud-based answer to Microsoft: Google Apps. The solution includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs (documents, spreadsheets and presentations), Google Sites, Google Talk–all using your own domain name–for FREE. Yes, for businesses or groups of up to 50 users, the advertising-supported Google Apps Standard Edition is free. Here’s what Google got right:

  • Significantly reduced the cost of messaging/collaboration for small businesses
  • Designed an easy-to-manage, functional, intuitive interface
  • Generously allocated storage–7GB/user!
  • Provided secure, encrypted access using SSL
  • Tightly integrated the Apps Suite, including Mail, Calendar, Docs, Sites, and browser-based Chat

‘Google Messaging’ is simply Gmail branded @your-company.com. It is robust, feature-rich, and fast, including great features such as “plus addressing”.

The Achilles’ heel: email aliases

Email aliases, or ‘Nicknames’ as Google refers to them, are a key component for most business email systems. For instance, email aliases such as customer.service@your-company.com or support@your-company.com, typically forward to email distribution groups or individual mailboxes. The benefits of email aliases/forwarders include:

  • providing a standardized, professional method for customer communications,
  • addresses which are independent of employees,
  • protecting the domain username from disclosure, and
  • protecting individual email accounts from spam.

Google allows you to add nicknames relatively easily. See the video overview:

The problem arises when using a desktop email client (read: Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, et cetera) configured to send from your email alias. The result is the disclosure of your primary email address, your account username, and the presentation of the email message in a less-than-professional manner to the recipient. Continue reading ‘Google Apps Achilles’ Heel – ‘on behalf of’ messaging’