The cloud has been a boon to business, as it allows employees and team members to access data and resources from virtually any device with an internet connection. Before cloud computing, sharing and collaborating on documents was relegated to email and even snail mail, and could easily turn into a miscommunications nightmare. Today, Google offers its own cloud computer solution with Google Apps, and Google Apps for Business promises to keep teams connected and productive no matter how far flung they may be. According to Google, over five million businesses have taken advantage of this suite of cloud apps so far. This app suite is user-friendly and does what it promises, and so it’s worth considering whether this solution is for you and your business.

Cloud Collaboration the Google Way

Google Apps for Business is a more robust version of Google’s regular cloud offerings. Certain features have been expanded upon to make them scalable and easily shareable with collaborators. What makes cloud computing so convenient is that no hardware, downloads, or upgrades are necessary. You also need not worry about the confusion that can ensue when everyone brings their own document to a meeting or video conference. Everything you need is hosted via Google’s data centers. Therefore no matter where you are, or where your colleagues may be, you can all access Google apps straight from the web.

Features and Benefits

1. Ease of collaboration: Google apps allows for real-time collaboration with other team members and organizations no matter where you are. Sharing documents is as simple as sharing via email, even with those without a GMail account.

2. Small learning curve: Google apps is designed to be user friendly, so you don’t need a lot of technical know-how to find your way around.

3. Round the clock Phone Support. If ever you’re stuck on something, Google will help, even if you’re the sleepless IT person awake early Sunday morning.

4. Unlimited users. You can add as many or as few people to your account as you like for the same price, making Google apps a scalable solution.

5. Cost effective: In the absence of expensive hardware, software, and upgrades, Google is able to offer the Apps for Business suite at an affordable price.

6. Green impact: Using Google apps also allows you to reduce your company’s impact on the environment. Google’s data centers are energy efficient, and much more so than on-site servers.

7. Security features: Added security works to safeguard sensitive data, including automatic backups, guaranteed 99.9% up-time, strong encryption and authentication, and built-in disaster recovery.

The Apps

Although the Apps for Business suite includes quite a few tools for business productivity, staple offerings like Gmail and Google Calendar continue to be the most popular offerings.

Gmail for Business: The Gmail app gives you a professional email solution that you can customize with your company’s domain. Give each of your team members their own email address and create a professional email presence with customers and clients. You also get all of the features that come with Gmail including Google-powered search, email labeling, and voice and video chat.

Calendar: With Google Calendar you can share calendars between users so that everyone else’s calendar overlays your own. This view makes scheduling meetings much easier. You can also create group calendars that everyone can share and add to.

Docs: Google Docs gives you a way to effectively create documents online while making it easy to give and receive feedback. The social commenting feature allows people to leave comments, and you can control who edits and views the document.

Drive: Google Drive is an online storage solution similar to Dropbox. When you download Drive, any folder or document you share to your Google Drive is available on other devices with the program downloaded, as well as available to anyone else you share them with. Google Drive also comes with security settings to help protect your data. You can purchase up to 16 TB (or 16,000 GB) of storage space per user.

Sheets: Google spreadsheet editor allows you to share and collaborate on spreadsheets. It includes everything you would expect from an effective spreadsheet program, including advanced formulas and equations, embedded charts, and filters.

Slides: Slides lets you create and collaborate on slide show presentations, which are also downloadable and compatible with programs like PowerPoint.

Pricing: Currently the apps business-ready package runs for $5 per user per month, or a flat $50 a month. Google Apps for Business with Vault, which is an added security feature, goes for $10 per user per month. Users pay an additional fee for extra email and Google Drive storage.

Is it Worth It?

The Google Apps for Business suite offers quite a few advantages over its free counterparts, including expanded email and document storage, a 24/7 support team, and added security measures. The suite’s core apps offer a lot of value in themselves, and you can also use additional tools like Blogger and an online shopping cart. If you don’t regularly use more than one of the apps, then the investment might not be worth it. Also if your organization is still fairly small, then using the free versions of the apps might be a better option.

Google’s comprehensive suite of cloud apps is simple in concept, yet practical in application. Because of its affordability and ease of use, it’s a great starting point for companies who are just jumping into cloud computing. The most technical aspect is perhaps redirecting your domain to Gmail, though you’ll be guided through this process. Other than that, this all-in-one cloud solution comes ready to go out of the box.
The cloud has been a boon to business, as it allows employees and team members to access data and resources from virtually any device with an internet connection. Before cloud computing, sharing and collaborating on documents was relegated to email and even snail mail, and could easily turn into...