As business evolves to more closely utilize the web, Google’s Apps for Business is a great tool for enterprise users to learn and use, allowing them to access the power of the Googleverse at work. Beyond just equipping employees with Chromebooks, the collaborative Google Drive service, easy site editing with Google Sites, data governance with Vault, and connectivity with mobile apps and devices make Google’s versatile toolbox great for setting up a business’s IT solutions. This can be easy, fast, and even a little bit fun if done right. Here are a few of the major tools in Google Apps and how to utilize them in your everyday business life.
Once an IT department has decided that Google Apps for Business is the right option for their company, getting the service set up is easy. Apps for Business costs $5 per user per month, or $50 per user per year. A “user” counts as a distinct Gmail inbox; each user can have multiple email addresses, and each Apps account can have multiple aliases (other domain names used for email addresses). For example, a user could have the addresses “firstname.lastname@example.org” and “email@example.com” and still only require one Google Apps user account. Apps user accounts each come with 30 GB of Drive space by default, which is used for files uploaded to the cloud, as well as Gmail attachments and image files larger than 2048×2048 pixels. Gmail is so widely used that it should be a breeze for new Google Apps for Business users to get acclimated to the interface and Google way of working.
Google’s business services take a connected approach, in a similar manner to their standard and education packages. With the “One account. All of Google,” login system, Google Apps for Business users have access to Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These tools allow for collaborative document creation and editing. Documents created in Drive, such as spreadsheets in Google Sheets or presentations from Google Slides, do not take up Google Drive space Documents can be shared both individually or by organization, (designated by Gmail addresses with the same domain), meaning that large, company-wide documents can be accessed by all members of the work community.
Another method for sharing information via Google Apps is the Google Sites service. Google Sites allows users to create full-featured websites easily and quickly. With its what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) page editor, setting up sites is incredibly easy. For example, setting up the base structure for a Wiki takes approximately 15 minutes, and adding new pages is as easy as clicking the “Create New Page” button and typing its title in. Templates are available for specific types of sites and pages, with easily adjustable color schemes for any business. Widgets such as Google Calendars, to-do checklists, YouTube videos, countdown timers and more can be added to pages by dragging and dropping them in the WYSIWYG interface, and for more fine-tune controls, users can edit the HTML of the pages’ content directly as well. Administrators can share site editing privileges with specific users or the entire organization, or can make specific pages within the site accessible. This is useful for multi-team environments where collaboration is key. Once a Google Site is set up, it is also easy to link it to a domain (such as www.example.com) or subdomain (such as wiki.example.com), as opposed to using a Google-formatted URL.
Google Sites is available for non-commercial uses as well, and can be used to create classroom webpages, student organization sites, personal portfolios, or other project portals with ease. Each Google Apps package comes with 10 GB of Sites storage (free accounts come with 100 MB), so users can create many types of interesting pages for their work. While it won’t (and likely shouldn’t) replace a large corporation’s web team, a Google Site can provide teams a useful tool for small to medium teams and groups looking to get a web presence and collaborate online.
In writing this article, I decided to build a personal webpage for my tabletop gaming group as a refresher on the settings and features in Google Sites. Building about 10 pages, (a few of which are pictured here), including a Google Groups forum, announcements page, linked Google Docs for game notes, a Google Calendar, and home pages for each game currently in progress took less than an afternoon, and the result is beautiful, functional, and ready to roll. If I can do it, so can your team!
Google Apps Vault is used to keep track of information created, stored, sent and received through a company’s Google Apps programs such as Gmail. In corporate environments where information must be accounted for in case of litigation, either from within or outside the company, being able to retrieve any electronic correspondence or file is vital. IT directors can utilize Vault to archive not only emails, but chat as well. Audits and reports can be created from this information for external review and eDiscovery, and in legal situations, holds can be placed on accounts to prevent deleting of on-the-record chats or messages. Vault is available for an additional $5 per user per month, but in larger organizations information governance like Vault can prove to be a crucial tool to have installed.
With cloud storage comes portability, and with portability comes productivity. While on the go, users of Apps for Business can still get work done on their mobile devices by utilizing Google’s mobile apps. One of the best apps for this is arguably the QuickOffice app for Android and iOS, which allows users to access and edit documents stored in Google Drive easily and effectively. QuickOffice’s interface is similar to Google Drive’s, and it has the added benefit of being able to edit Microsoft Office files such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets stored in Drive. Since it is free, business users will find it a valuable tool in their cloud computing toolbox. Other important apps include the Google Docs, Sheets and Drive apps which allow for creation and organization of documents in a Drive account.
While it may not be appropriate for use in all sectors or situations, Google’s wearable computing phenomenon Google Glass may have powerful applications in business when released to the mass market. Whether in the food service, shipping, or even healthcare sectors, professionals around the country are already utilizing Glass’s Explorer beta program and “Glassware” apps to improve productivity and reduce costs in their work lives.
As an example of Glass in action, take a common pick-and-pack warehouse. Imagine walking through this warehouse with an up-to-date map displayed in front of your eyes, pointing you towards the next item you have on your list to pick. Reaching your destination, the map shifts to an image of the item you need, as well as any special handling instructions. When you look at the box or shelf location, Glass’s camera scans and recognizes the barcode, and marks the item off your list. The map reappears, and the process starts anew.
This is the power of Glass in the workplace; dynamic, hands-free, voice-activated, heads-up displayed information that reacts to your location and immediate needs. The possibilities are vast for this type of on-demand information, making Google Glass a technology to watch as it nears a mass market release.
We hope this article has piqued your interest over some of the possibilities for Google Apps both in and outside the office as well. As many of these services are included in a standard Google account, bringing the productivity of Apps for Business home is definitely possible, and can be useful to many users. More information on Google Apps for Business is available at the Apps main website.