Businesses have long struggled with determining which email solution best fits their needs. There are many factors to consider; everything from usability and integration, to security and storage must be considered.
Looking at email solutions in the broader context of CRM adds another layer of complexity to this already-difficult decision.
Two of the main contenders in the business email market are Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Outlook. While they are both, at their core, email solutions, these services also offer features and options that can make them more or less compatible with a business’ CRM solution. Determining which is the better service can largely depend on personal taste; however, there are some key differences that should be considered before a decision is made.
On-Site, or in the Cloud?
Gmail vs. Outlook can come down to a question of access vs. control. Outlook (not to be confused with Microsoft’s web-based email service of the same name) is installed on a business’ internal servers. This gives the business a greater level of control and security. Storage is only limited by the available space on the servers, and the contents of the emails are only accessible using connected terminals. Accessing emails from outside of the business requires the addition of Exchange licenses. Using Exchange, emails that are internally archived are not accessible, and many customizations don’t carry over into the Exchange interface.
Gmail exists entirely in the cloud, storing all emails, contact information, and filtering rules on Google’s servers. This makes it easy to access even the oldest emails, and customization options remain the same, regardless of where the email is accessed from. Gmail has limited storage and attachment sizes, making it problematic for users who frequently send large files or who have a large volume of material to archive. Google also makes it clear that Gmail users should have no expectation of privacy.
Gmail vs Outlook: CRM Integration
Depending on which CRM application is used, email integration may be exceedingly simple, or inexplicably difficult.
Salesforce CRM: Salesforce makes integration easy for users of both Gmail and Outlook. The configuration options are easily accessible from the Google Apps menu for Gmail, and from the Salesforce setup menu for Outlook.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM: Unsurprisingly, Dynamics integrates seamlessly with Outlook, and actually runs natively inside of the Outlook interface. It’s possible to integrate Gmail with Dynamics using third-party apps. Unfortunately, even the best apps will never provide the seamless, native integration available with Outlook.
Sugar CRM: Sugar offers a plugin that allows for direct integration and synchronization with Outlook email, contacts, calendar, and tasks. For Gmail users, integration requires the administrator to configure Gmail as the server for Sugar’s integrated email client.
SAP CRM: Integrating Outlook with SAP requires cumbersome and time-consuming customizations of the server software. Though greater integration with Gmail was promised nearly two years ago, the only current method is through third-party apps.
Gmail vs Outlook: Usability
Usability often comes down to personal preference. Gmail and Outlook both offer a bevy of add-ons, plugins, and apps to increase their functionality–making direct comparisons difficult. For greater ease, it’s best to look at some of their native email functions.
Folders vs. Tags: Outlook allows users to arrange their emails in the familiar hierarchical folder system. These can be arranged alphabetically, chronologically, numerically, or in just about any way that suits the user. For users who are familiar and comfortable with the traditional folder system, this may be preferable.
Gmail uses a tagging system for organizing emails. Emails can be assigned multiple tags, essentially storing them in multiple virtual folders without the need to copy and paste the email into each folder. This can make it easier to find an individual email among many, since each entered “tag” will reduce the number of emails to search through.
Search vs. Slog: This is one of the few areas where Gmail is the undisputed victor. It’s no surprise that a company whose name is synonymous with “search” would provide a better way to search emails. The Google search bar at the top of the Gmail window is faster, and more accurate than the cumbersome search options for Outlook. The only advantage that Outlook currently holds in this department is its ability to search attachments as well as emails.
Gmail vs Outlook: The Verdict
As with all business software, the final verdict in Gmail vs Outlook is left up to the businesses that use them. They both offer strengths and weaknesses, especially in the context of CRM. If security is paramount, then Outlook may be the best bet. For accessibility, Gmail doesn’t require the purchase of additional software like Exchange. Given the somewhat limited CRM integration options, businesses may be better served by working with their CRM vendor to determine which email client will give them the best interoperability.