December 08, 2008
Exchange, Google, and a Tale of Family Organization
One of the quests I have as resident family technologist is keeping our family together using tech. Over the last two years, this has been done through the use of Skype and telepresence of me at family events (birthdays, holidays, etc). And it was good.
The big thing lacking has been a central calendar. I know that seems strange, but with seven grownups and two little girls, keeping track of who goes where isn't easy. Yeah, most of us have work calendars (raises hand), but I make it top priority not to mix work calendar and home calendar. I'm just of strong belief that they have no place crossing over.
So what to do? My first thought comes to Exchange (hosted, most likely), but the costs of that jump so fast it isn't even funny. The cheapest I could find was $9.99 per mailbox, and that was for 200MB mailboxes. What's more – some of the addresses probably would be forward-only, which is easy enough to do in Exchange, but not in a hosted solution. Plus, if you want to sync between Exchange and a device (read: smartphone), that's almost always extra.
The logical answer there is to run my own Exchange server – naturally. The incredibly unfortunate part of that is that just as quick as I've dropped the per-box fee, I've picked up the $399 fee for Windows Server 2003, $699 for Exchange, and – oh yeah – I don't have a server sitting around. Then, it has to be connected to the Internet, and probably in a colo environment.
In other words: Epic Fail.
Then it hits me – Google to the rescue! Google Apps can do 80% of what Exchange can do for 0% of the price (Standard Edition). And if these tough economic times have proven anything, it's that 80 for 20 (or less!) is the right kind of ratio. I already have a domain, it's just a matter of hooking it up. Easy as pie (which I know now is incredibly easy – more on that later). Everyone has a mailbox that they can point to whatever other mailbox they want. We each have a calendar that is shared with everyone else. And the icing on the cake, distribution lists! Yeah, my entire family is reachable via one address now. Fantastic.
All in all, I'm happy. I'll roll this thing out to my family during the holiday break and see what they think. I'm for it, but it makes me wonder what is the feasibility of switching email addresses nowadays. But, that too is another post.