Tired of maintaining the productivity software your team uses? Google thinks it has a better solution for you, with the release of Google Apps Premier Edition. This collection of productivity tools is entirely browser-based, so Internet access is all you need to stay productive, although that can pose a problem if you can't get on the Internet.
This somewhat-limited business suite debuted in late February, and it follows a lesser-featured free collection of apps already offered by Google.
The Google Apps Premier Edition collection is divided into tools for communication, collaboration, and publishing. For communication, users get Google Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Talk (an IM client).
You can share Google Apps calendars so that team members can find open times for meetings.
For collaboration, the suite offers Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Working with browser-based documents isn't for people who do a lot of complex formatting, but the app can handle simple documents just fine. It's meant for offices that do a lot of collaborating on documents and, surprisingly, it doesn't offer a check-in/check-out system. Instead, you can actually work on a document at the same time that co-workers are working on the same document.
Changes are automatically uploaded and downloaded to each version, so that additions made by another person automatically show up in your own copy. In cases where there's a direct conflict over an edited passage, the app notifies the users and asks them to choose which version to keep.
For publishing, the suite offers Page Creator and Start Page. Page Creator lets users create Web pages, and Start Page is something like a very limited intranet, giving everyone in the office a custom start page.
The administrator can control which of the available Google gadgets users get on their Start Pages, and can post company messages for everyone to see. The Start Page also shows each user's e-mail, calendar info, and documents. Unfortunately, there are no deeper intranet features, such as a document library, department organization, or wiki pages.
Pricing is a flat $50 per user per year, which is a big savings over a full office suite, although there's no bulk discount. Google offers a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee for Gmail for paid users, but no guarantee for the other apps in the collection.
Google Apps offers several advantages to small offices, including there being no server configuration. There's not much involved in setting up access: The admin simply needs to input user names and distribute sign-in information. Users can then access the tools from any computer, regardless of platform, and from any location. There's a 10GB limit to mail accounts and no limit at all on documents.
Gmail (with a big 10GB limit) and an instant messaging tool are built into Google Apps Premier Edition.
The downside, though, is that your office's productivity depends on your network staying up. Lose connectivity for a few hours and you've lost access to your tools and your documents. The Docs & Spreadsheets app doesn't store copies of files locally, so there's nowhere to turn when you don't have Net access. While you can create a redundant copy of Gmail messages, you can't do that with documents or spreadsheets. That means you can't work on documents on a plane or anywhere without an Internet connection.
If you'd like to try out Google Apps Premier Edition, the company offers a 30-day trial. Find out more here.
Adapted from intranetjournal.com.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|