I get the “deer and the headlight” look every time I ask someone if they are using Google Apps for their business. They typically respond with, “I think so. I have a gmail account. Is that what you mean?” My answer is, “No. Google Apps is a business product and is so much more than Gmail.” I’ll attempt to explain what Google Apps is and if you need it.
Google Apps & How Did it Get Started
Google has products both for personal and business uses, and while the products look almost identical, they are different. Google created Google Apps (G Apps) for Business a number of years ago yet did not market it to businesses heavily until the past 2 years. Google is famous for beta testing their products, so they were slowly testing and introducing G Apps to companies all over the world and at the same time, creating marketshare. I saw G Apps really take off after the company opened up Google Marketplace, which allows other businesses to develop their products to link up nicely with the Google Apps’ platform. For example, when I login to my G Apps in the morning, I can click a dropdown menu labeled “MORE” with my other business tools, linked to my G Apps Account (i.e. My accounting software, CRM, Email Newsletter, Schedule Tool etc). This makes working in the Cloud a piece of cake (no more software to open and close on my desktop: all done within my browser). The third party programs that link up to my Google Apps account sometimes provide further integration with my Google products. For example, Pipeline Deals CRM has a Gmail plugin that allows users to link up notes, add deals, new contacts, task and much more, right from within their email. You can also schedule appointments from within Pipeline, which will automatically sync to the Google Calendar.
What Does Google Apps Do?
First, Google Apps consist of all the Google products under a business domain. These would include things like: Gmail, Calendar, Search, YouTube, Google+, News and so on. In short, Google allows you to have a personal and business account. Just like Microsoft wants you to use all MS products, Google wants you to use only Google products! An example of the difference between personal and business, instead of having your email be firstname.lastname@example.org you’d use your business email email@example.com. You’d use the popular Gmail application, Contacts, Google Docs and Calendar for your email, schedule, contacts and creating/collaborating on documents. The only major difference you will notice is that your company name can replace the Gmail/Google Logo, access to the Marketplace and you can manage your entire companies’ domain settings: add new users/emails, change passwords, give or restrict company access to certain documents and much more.
Google Apps for business works incredibly well on Android and Apple smartphones. I’ve tried it on both devices. My favorite is how it integrates with the iPhone. Most people don’t know this, but you can use the Microsoft Exchange Icon (use Google settings instead) to have an Exchange-like 2way sync with your Google Calendar, Email & Contacts. It works perfectly! I wrote a step by step guide to set Google up on an iPad, and the same settings apply for the iPhone. You can also turn on Google Sync to see other Calendars on your phones.
The Pricing Structure of Google Apps
Free Version: The price to use Google Apps can’t be beaten. It is free for up to 50 users of a company to get started. The free version gives you 1GB of Google Document storage and 7GB of email space. To give you an example of how much 7GB is for email. I’ve been using it for about 3 years and have not reached my 7GB space. I do have to empty my email trash to keep it below 7GB a couple times a year and that is about it. I also purchased more storage space for documents. For $5 a year, I got 20GB. I’ve only used around 2GB, so for $5 a year it is great. Oh, and the free version also has Google Adwords displayed. I somehow got around that too. I installed a free plugin to my browser that hides all the ads.
The paid version is around $5 a month per user. You get about 3 times the storage on your email (20+GB) and more files storage. All Google Adwords will be hidden too. The only other main difference with the paid version is the ability to continue to use Microsoft Outlook instead of the Gmail platform. Google creates a two way sync for emails, calendars and contacts. I know of a few companies that do not like Gmail’s look and feel and want to remain on Outlook. I have not heard too many complains regarding the syncing, but it is not fool proof. My suggestion is see if you can get used to Google and make the switch. I was on MS Outlook for 10 years or so and switched. It takes awhile, but I think you’ll find Gmail will work just fine. You can customize many many features in Google Apps.
Should You Be Using Google Apps for Your Business
If you are a small business that tends to be mobile often, I’d definitely recommend switching to Google Apps. You will not have to run expensive Exchange Servers in most cases, which will cut down on IT help. There will be a learning curve and some time to learning and switching to a new platform. So do not make this switch if you don’t have the time to commit to learning a new product. Also, if you ask your IT people, most will tell you not to switch. They don’t like many cloud products because it is putting them out of a job. Believe me, IT people don’t like me! Most of them complain that cloud programs lack security and that Google can’t be trusted. Yet, most of the IT guys are in love with Microsoft. Can Microsoft be trusted? Microsoft knows Google is a threat and has created a similar product: Office 365. As I told one client recently who asked me about Office 365, stay with Microsoft if you have the IT folks local to you to set you up and get you trained. If you don’t have anyone you can trust or set you up, move to Google. Google Apps for Business helps business be more productive and mobile. You can pick up any computer from around the world, login to your account and run most of your business in seconds!
Side Notes about Google Docs and IT Professionals: By the way, if you have not tried Google Docs as an alternative to Microsoft Word and Excel, give it a try. If you are doing standard spreadsheets and document creations, it works great. Oh and one final thing regarding IT professionals. First, I respect what they do, and I am not really an IT guy. They can run circles around me. I’m more of a user interface (UI) guy. I know what works best for my clients. IT folks should really spend time learning more about what products work the best for their clients, not just how to fix or setup a computer system. I get asked all the time who can setup their Google Apps, customize signatures, find a good app for taking notes, install plugins, setup a smartphone and many many more user experience setups. If IT professionals spend time doing those types of things, they will always have a job!