I have a customer who really likes Microsoft Outlook, and why not?
We of a certain age grew up with Outlook’s comfy interface and familiar functionality.
But Outlook was created to communicate with Microsoft’s Exchange Server. As a result, Outlook is not the best email client for other technologies, like Google’s Gsuite. Yes, you can make Outlook work with Google, but a “connector” app is required if you want to synchronize Google’s contacts and calendars.
It’s an easy decision, if you REALLY love Outlook, to opt for a service that it pairs with natively, like Office365. But there is another, less known, alternative – Amazon Workmail and Workdocs (Workdocs is Amazon’s alternative to Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox).
Released by Amazon AWS in January 2016, Workmail is interoperable with Microsoft Exchange server. Interoperable means a lot of things, but most importantly it means that Outlook works with Amazon Workmail without modification or special connector apps.
The monthly subscription for the Workmail / Workdocs bundle is a third of the price of Office365 – only $6 per user compared to $20 per month from Microsoft for similar functionality. Now that is a reason to venture into uncharted waters. We will talk about Amazon Workdocs in a future post.
If you are thinking about taking the plunge with Amazon Workmail here are my insights after my experience migrating a small client (4 users) from GSuite to Workmail.
Compatibility with Outlook
As I mentioned, Workmail is a perfect match for all Outlook functionality.
Workmail Web Client
Workmail has a web client that is relatively simple, and there isn’t anything wrong with that.
If you travel a lot and don’t always have access to your computer, you will need to use their web client. Simple, with absolutely no flashy features, but that is what you wanted, right?
Amazon provides spam filtering as part of the service, but it just doesn’t seem to be as good as GMail. Some spam sneaks through. Not a lot, but some.
Here is where I had a problem. Amazon Web Services (AWS) says that they have partnered with two software companies that have migration tools to migrate for free. These tools might not come at a monetary cost, but it will cost you a lot of time and grief.
I didn’t end up using either one of their partner’s tools, because it took days to get access. I’m sure that if I were migrating hundreds of users, I would have commanded more attention.
- There are others that have migration tools, but I just can’t recommend any of them.
BitTitan – Their tool seems to ignore the basic premise of how you access your mail on Workmail. All clients are assigned a subdomain of awsapps.com (like mycompany.awsapps.com). I tried to explain this to their support desk and ran into an understanding issue that I just didn’t have time to invest in. I’d avoid them for a Workmail migration.
Cloudiway – Their tool did partially work, but I abandoned 2 licenses there that I, nor they, seemed to be able to recover. Calendar events did not come over on the 1st try, but came over on the 2nd – twice. I had to delete all the duplicates that I had. I still can’t recommend this service. I still have to fight to get some money back from them. That costs money.
My customer is finally up and running, but there was more wasted time than I needed. No doubt Amazon will lost some customers in the migration process. I’m not sure that they know they have a problem.
But those lucky enough to get their data migrated will marinate in the bliss of using Outlook with Workmail at a terrific price.