We encourage our clients to leverage the Web interface for Gmail but sometimes people want to keep using Outlook. "Can I still use Microsoft Outlook?" is a very common question we hear at Umzuzu. The answer is, "absolutely!" This can be a big help for clients looking to make a gradual transition to Web applications and a new user interface.
Microsoft has done a good job of building a rich API for Microsoft Outlook. What is an API? In short, an API provides a framework for two applications to communicate (sending data back and forth in a well defined format) with each other - like between your email application and your calendar application. Many of the same engineers who used to work at Microsoft now work for Google and these folks created the Google Apps Sync Connector for Microsoft Outlook. The Microsoft Outlook Sync Connector is included for free with Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Government, it is not available with free versions of Gmail. Outlook just sits on your desktop and really doesn't care where it gets it's data from. The Microsoft Outlook Sync Connector tells Outlook to utilized Google's servers just like it would use an Exchange Server.
The Web interface for Gmail is still available anytime and everything is kept in sync. If you add a contact or make a change to your calendar, everything is synced in the Cloud. There are many other advantages you wouldn't think of - all your data is backed up to multiple data centers, you now have hundreds of servers working for you instead of just one or two, search is powered by hundreds of Google servers instead of your desktop, and all of your data is now synced to any current or future mobile device you want to use. Apple releases the iPad 4? No problem. Your email, calendar and contacts are now in the Cloud. Sure they're available in Outlook but more importantly, they're available anywhere you want.