Google? The search engine? How could I run my business with Google? Have you got your head in the clouds? Well ... yes. Google Apps is an online office suite based on the relatively new concept of cloud computing. Using Gmail as the foundation, they have created a full suite of online software. If you are considering this, then you're in good company. According to Google, more 2 million businesses are currently using Google Apps, with more than 3000 new customers signing up every day.
What it is: Google Apps is Google's brand of cloud computing. Your data and software are hosted online (or, "in the clouds") instead of the traditional style of desktop computing and location based servers.
3 Ways Google Apps Can Help Your Business: Maintenance, Upgrade and Investment Free: Let Google and the secondary service providers worry about power surges, failed hard drives, upgrades and compatibility while you run your business.
Total Mobility: With Google Apps cloud computing, you're free to travel the world (or at least leave the office once in a while) all the while having your whole business at your fingertips, regardless of whether you have your laptop with you or not. An internet connection will give you access to your data and your software. Simple Collaboration: Share files, videos and ideas easily and without the confusing duplication of email. Multiple people can work simultaneously on the same file.
How It Works: Google offers a suite of office tools, such as email, word processing, calendar, spreadsheets, etc. which are hosted online. What separates Apps from traditional software are the Marketplace apps that integrate with Google's primary services. While Google offers the core services, every other imaginable tool is available in the Google Marketplace, allowing users to pick and choose as required. They have partnered with more than 50 online service providers, from eFax to MailChimp. While a number of these applications are free, others offer free trials for a period of time, or a minimum number of users. After the trial period expires, these often operate on a monthly fee format.
By its nature cloud computing allows complex collaboration with colleagues, clients and outsourcers. For example, when a colleague is added to your group, they can then view and edit documents on your account which is hosted online. This prevents multiple copies of the same document, and it prevents a cluttered in-box from the back and forth of a project or proposal.
Why It's Popular: Because Google and their service providers are responsible for everything, including all maintenance and upgrades both to hardware and software, users have nothing to do except use the software, and make money. There's no need for an office tech guy, or a huge room dedicated to housing your servers. Because of the ease of collaboration, users can work more effectively and with less confusion. And it costs much less than other options - ranging from free to $50 per user per year. Who's Using It? Over two million organizations are running Google Apps, ranging from the City of Los Angeles to billion-dollar-giant Avago Technologies with over 4100 users on their system. And of course, Google with more than 20,000 employees is using Apps as well.
Interesting Features: The service is domain based, allowing users to have unique Web addresses for each of their services. The mail program, for example, would be found at mail.yourdomain.com. The same is true for the numerous other components. Its easy to remember and its branded with your domain. There is an app that links your Microsoft Office programs to Google Docs online. So continue to work as normal, but your documents get backed up online and are available to anyone in your group.
Getting Started: The initial setup of Apps should take less than an hour. Another couple of hours of spent playing with the tools should help you to decide which ones to use and how they work. The tutorials online are clear and simple. Remember, there is no installation. Simply setup your account and go.