Google Apps is a free tool provided by Google that allows your organisation to manage its e-mail, calendar, intranet and documents online.
Google Apps explained
Google Apps is linked to your website domain (i.e. www.yourdomain.com) and a control panel allows you to create [email protected] e-mail addresses, which are then accessed by users in your organisation through the Google Mail interface.
The calendar functionality gives each user a calendar and also offers room management tools and the ability to add other calendars.
Two other items of functionality provided are document storage (including the ability to create Google Docs and upload other files) and the ability to build simple websites for internal or external use using Google’s intuitive website building tools.
How is Google Apps different to Outlook?
Many people have become familiar with Microsoft Outlook, or an equivalent desktop application, to manage e-mail and calendar functions within their organisation. The problems with using Ourlook on a local network are:
- it requires a local area network (which can be a demon to set up!); and
- you are tied to a particular computer and cannot easily access your e-mail or calendar easily from other phones and devices.
It is perfectly possible to use this approach and synchronise Outlook with other devices or provide a web-mail service. However, this can quickly get complicated and your staff have to deal with a number of different ways of accessing information.
Google Apps – the pros
Google Apps stores everything online. This means that all your staff need is a computer (or mobile device) with an internet connection and they can have full access to e-mails, calendars and documents.
Another advantage is that your users may well be familiar already with the Google Mail and Calendar interfaces.
Also, because everything is stored online, it cannot easily be deleted by a virus or hardware failure on an individual computer.
Google Apps – the cons
An obvious disadvantage of having all of this crucial and regularly accessed information stored online is that you always need an internet connection to access it.
Another risk is that putting all your eggs in Google’s basket exposes you to their whims. Google currently offers a premium service that charges £33 per user per year. It would not be entirely surprising if they started to push this service by reducing the amount of functionality and storage given away for free.
At present the free e-mail functionality provided by Google Apps Standard Edition has the following limitations:
- 7GB storage;
- 500 e-mails per user per day; and
- the Google Mail interface contains adverts.
If you run an organisation in which your staff work remotely and if you already rely on a steady internet connection then you should certainly explore moving to Google Apps.