Anyone who knows me probably knows that I am a huge fan of Google Apps. Also full disclosure, SpinWeb is a Google Apps Authorized Reseller, so our commitment to the product is pretty clear. There are a lot of good reasons to be excited about Google Apps, however… especially as a small business.
Google Apps is truly a replacement for Microsoft Office. When I tell people this, they are sometimes very skeptical, which is why I do a whole seminar on the topic to shed more light on the subject. A business that makes the jump to Google Apps will have invested in an infrastructure that includes email, calendaring, document management, video conferencing, and contact management that competes with Microsoft Exchange at a fraction of the cost. Let's take a look.
Google Email: Powerful Alternative to Exchange
The email in Google Apps is the Gmail that we all know and love. However, Google Apps lets you brand your email with your company's domain name to ensure that it is professionally branded. Nobody wants to use consumer email for business, right? Google Apps is Gmail for business, and includes some additional features like customized spam filtering and attachment policies. It also includes migration tools that make it easier to migrate from Exchange. Email can be accessed via the web, email client (like Outlook or Apple Mail), and mobile device. The default quota for each user is 25GB, which is very generous.
Additionally, the spam and virus filtering in Google's email is truly the best in the industry. I rarely see false positives and most unwanted email is caught and filtered. Moving to Google Apps truly eliminates the need for third-party filtering solutions.
Calendaring Like the Big Boys
The calendaring features in Google Apps are amazing. Organizations can schedule meetings with both people and resources (like conference rooms, projectors, etc.) with only a few clicks. Team members can also view other employee schedules and see free/busy information very easily. This makes scheduling meetings within the organization a snap. Meeting reminder can be sent via email or text message and are customizable by each user.
A Full Office Suite in the Cloud
I get really excited about the Docs feature of Google Apps. Most organizations use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint as their default office software. This means installing the software on all computers, as well as supporting and maintaining it. This can get expensive. All this can go away with Google Docs. Organizations can now store all documents in one place and organize them in some very smart ways.
The nice thing about Google Docs is that it eliminates the frustration of “who has the latest version of that document?” With Google Docs, all documents are created directly in the system and there is only one copy of any given document at all times. Employees can collaborate on documents and make changes and all revisions are tracked so that you can always roll back to previous versions and see who did what.
Organizations can place their entire library of documents on Google Docs and go 100% paperless since you can upload any file type. It will either be converted into a editable Google Doc or simply stored on the file server. Google Docs give you a file server, shared drive, and office suite all in one with no hardware or software to worry about.
Get Personal with Google Chat
Another nice feature of Google Apps is the video chat feature. Any employee with a webcam can engage in a video conferencing session with another user to make collaboration easier. The quality is excellent and you can even conference with other Google users outside your company. It's not as fancy as some of the enterprise video conferencing solution but it works very well and is a great solution for most users.
The Mobile Workforce
All of the functions in Google Apps work very well with mobile devices. My iPhone calendar is synced seamlessly with my Google Calendar and I can pull up any document on my phone, as well. I can even edit documents from my phone! What this means is that I can carry all of my company documents with me everywhere I go. Yes, that's correct – every document in my company is now accessible on my phone. Email also works seamlessly and makes it very easy to communicate on the road.
The Security of the Cloud
One of the best selling points of Google Apps is the fact that it requires no investment of hardware to run. Everything is hosted in Google's data centers and the interface is encrypted with SSL. This not only saves a lot of money, but makes your organization much more flexible. Virtual employees can join the system from anywhere, moving offices becomes much easier, and your data is much safer than it would be in your office. I like to joke that our office could burn down tomorrow and we might not even notice because our systems would continue to operate.
A Smart Choice for Organizations
The business version of Google Apps costs $50 per user per year and can be set up very quickly. I've activated accounts and had my clients up and running within days. If you are experiencing communications pain with your current system, would like to go paperless, need to collaborate better with team members, or simply would like to start saving money on your office software, I would encourage you to give Google Apps a try.
Please let me know if I can help. I would love to hear your experiences with Google Apps, as well, so please leave a comment below!