I work for a university, and more and more of the incoming kids are arriving with Gmail accounts. They now generally forward their university mail straight to Gmail, and read all of their mail there.
Aside from the one glaring fact that Gmail is still officially beta, and there is no service guarantee so if all of your mail up and disappears into the ether you’re basically out of luck, this isn’t a terribly bad idea. For one thing, Google’s anti-spam filtering appears to be right up there with the best in the business. Having access to Google’s giant honking search database and crawler technology must be an advantage here. Gmail’s web interface is going to rock the pants off of any home-grown webmail service, performance-wise, and if you’ve ever used SquirrelMail you’ll know how big of a plus that is.
There are of course major privacy considerations here (Bruce and Marcus were talking about just this sort of “handing over your data” problem recently), and again as a technical professional I can’t really recommend something that comes with no guarantee. On the other hand, you can now have Thunderbird have the same sort of access to your Google calendar that Outlook has to Exchange.
Step 1: Install Thunderbird
Step 3: Install Provider for Google Calendar as a Thunderbird Add-On
The nice thing about this is that when you sync your Google Calendar to Lightning/Sunbird, you have a local copy of your calendar, so if worst comes to worse and Google accidentally deletes your calendar, you still have a copy*. And since you can share your Google Calendar, you get a bunch of the functionality of Exchange, all with freely available software. More importantly, if you want to have a public calendar shared among a group of people, they can all get in on the ride without having to pay for the E ticket.
Considering the cost of setting up and maintaining Exchange (and the platform lock-in), this seems pretty much like a no-brainer unless you’re already in the Exchange game, or maintaining fairly private info.
And even if you are… all of those incoming kiddies with their Gmail accounts and their iPhones and their buy-in to Google Apps… as time passes, the Google Calendar network is going to include a substantial chunk of the young nerds.
As every networking nut knows, the value of your network goes up as the number of nodes increases…
* looks like not, actually, the calendar app doesn’t maintain a local cache.