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Google Apps: Collaboration and Communication

In today’s business environment, collaboration and communication may hold the key to increased productivity and business growth. Google is said to have created a secure, reliable, cloud based computing environment with collaboration technology that can’t be matched by other systems today – let’s look at some of the facts.

Google Apps is a service from Google providing independently customisable versions of several Google products under a custom domain name.

It features several Web applications with similar functionality to traditional office suites – but it runs in a web browser, without requiring users to buy or install software. Users can simply log in to the service to access their files and the tools to manipulate them. The offerings include
  • communication tools (Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar)
  • productivity tools (Google Docs: text files, spreadsheets, and presentations)
  • a customizable start page (iGoogle)
  • Google Sites (to develop web pages).

What’s good about Google Apps?

The notion of providing software as services rather than as products offers several key benefits:
  • One of the most attractive features is that Google apps requires no hardware or software, and needs minimal administration, creating tremendous time and cost savings for businesses.
  • Each user gets 25 GB for email storage, 50 times more than the industry average, so you can keep important messages and find them instantly with built-in Google search.
  • 99.9% uptime reliability guarantee with synchronous replication – your data and activity in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites is simultaneously preserved in multiple secure data centers
  • Because Google stores all of the files and content centrally, document management becomes far simpler than when distributing files to multiple people and keeping track of different versions.
  • Sharing content is as simple as granting someone access, which facilitates collaboration without having to transfer files or worry about software compatibility. It allows students and instructors to forget about the tools and focus on creative ways to use technology in their disciplines.
  • Google Sites provides a simple tool for groups to collaborate on developing web pages or whole websites. When a file is complete, it can be “published,” which gives it a unique URL, or it can be exported.

Is there a downside?

The greatest concern about Google Apps and similar services is security.
  • Because access rights are shared across the service, users rely to some extent on how carefully others protect their login credentials.
  • Given concerns about long-term availability, security, and privacy, storing files on non-institutional servers is a deal-breaker for some colleges and universities.
  • For users, the menus and tools may not be consistent from one application to another, and applications running over the web do not work as smoothly and predictably as those running locally.
  • Users who find themselves without an Internet connection cannot access the applications or their files.

The Standard and Premier Editions:

Google Apps is free only in the Standard Edition, while you would pay about $50 per user per year to use the Premier Edition. So what does this extra payment get you?

Well, the Premier Edition allows Unlimited User Accounts per organization (as opposed to a cap of 50 in the Standard Edition), and also gives you the use of Google Video and Google Groups. It also offers 25GB email storage per user (only 8GB in the Standard Edition), plus BlackBerry and Microsoft Outlook interoperability, better Business Controls, and 24/7 Support.
The bottom line is that any application is only as good as the way in which it is used – that’s where companies like eSites can customize Google Apps to meet your technical, branding and business requirements, while integrating Google Apps to your existing IT infrastructure.
We couldn’t resist the opportunity to put that in!