In 2007, Google acquired Postini for $625 million in cash. Postini was a standalone product that provided email security, instant messaging security, and email archiving services, and today there are still around 26 million customers using some of the services, including About.com. The Postini purchase was always intended as a way to beef up their Google Apps offerings, so the real surprise may not be that Google is ending the service so much as it is that it took Google so long to get to this point. At the time of the purchase, Google Apps was still in its early days, and it was seen as a product more geared toward the small business that didn't want to host their own servers in house.
These days, more and more large businesses are feeling confident about putting all their data in the cloud. Meanwhile, Google has worked really hard to make Google Apps into something that could be run in a large business. The service is now compatible with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, so you can use Google on the back end and your favorite client on the front end. In fact, the current compatibility is one of the things Google cited as justification for ending Postini as a standalone service.
"With this transition to Google Apps, you can receive similar email security, protection, and archiving, but through the more robust Google Apps service. Google Apps also works with mail servers such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, so you don’t need to switch to Gmail."
Postini isn't surviving the transition completely intact. Google Message Filtering and Postini Small Business Edition are being completely phased out, and Google will send customers a non-renewal notice in 2012. Meanwhile, businesses using Google Message Security, Google Message Discovery, and Google Message Encryption will need to switch to Google Apps in order to receive those services in 2013. The services will be rolled into Google Apps for Business and Google Apps Vault. Google Apps Vault costs an extra $5 per user per year.
Google Apps Vault is basically an archiving service for Gmail. It's used for business compliance with laws about email retention and discovery. By "discovery," business usually mean lawsuits. During litigation, the suing party can sometimes demand to see relevant electronic documents and records of email and other conversations. Google Apps Vault makes it easier to find the relevant data, which means there's less time (and therefore money) spent gathering the information for the litigation. At least that's what Google promises. I've got no experience as a lawyer or a Google Vault client.
The bottom line is that this move from Postini to Google Apps will impact 26 million customers in the next year and force them to either find a different email security and archiving product or switch to Google Apps. Will the move win over new Google Apps customers, or will it make the competition happier? It's hard to say. Google ended support for Postini's Google Web Security service in 2011 but assured customers at the time that it was still offering and selling the remaining Postini products. That time has now come to an end, and Postini, Google Message Filtering, Postini Small Business edition are all going to the Google Graveyard.