September 2, 2008
Google Apps for the Small to Medium-Sized Enterprise
By Huff, Phil
If you're a small to medium-sized mortgage company, I've learned first-hand about a way to reduce your yearly information technology (IT) investment while enhancing your team's performance. It's called Google(TM) Apps, and it gives everyone at your company custom e- mail; online, common documents; a shared calendaring system; instant messaging; and your own branded intranet. And here's the best part: It's only $50 per user per year. This is a prime example of the value of software as a service (SaaS). Once you register for an enterprise account and transfer your mail exchanger (MX) record to Google, everyone in your company can use a common Web address for accessing your company calendar, e-mail, shared documents and more. Your homepage can be loaded with your company logo, and your e-mail addresses will have the same format they do today (e.g., [email protected]).Google's Gmail system provides a simple e-mail interface that doesn't require the use of folders. With Gmail, incoming e-mails are either deleted, saved or archived, and they can be retrieved using Google's powerful free-form text search engine. If you receive an e- mail from Mrs. Johnson that you'd like to keep for future reference, but don't want to see it on your desktop, simply "archive" it. Later on, if you need to find all your emails from Mrs. Johnson, simply type "Mrs. Johnson" in the search bar, and a datesorted list of all e-mails containing that text is displayed in seconds flat.
Each enterprise Gmail account you host with Google comes with a very generous 25 gigabytes (GB) of storage space. For example, I've been heavily using a Gmail account for nearly two years, and I've exhausted only 2 percent of my storage space allocation.
The Google e-mail platform has several additional features that you'd expect to find on any good "groupware" platform. It contains an easy-to-use contact-management system that, while not as feature- rich as Microsoft(R) Outlook(TM), does allow you to edit addresses, phone numbers and notes for all of your contacts.
Gmail also allows you to import all of your users' e-mail and contacts from your existing platform. Plus, you can easily create group lists for handling multiple recipients for a single address. For example, you can add an address called "[email protected]" and route all mail sent to that address to one or more employees inside your company.
Google Apps is also integrated with Salesforce.com, a Web-based sales-management software program. Your e-mail, shared documents, calendar and instant messaging are all available on both platforms, and can be accessed from the same homepage. That means when you send an e-mail to a customer from your Gmail account, the content of that message is automatically included in the customer's activity list within Salesforce.com.
Last, but certainly not least, Google Apps also has a compliance service that allows you to block messages that contain certain words from coming into or leaving your organization, and also encrypts messages containing sensitive information to customers or partners.
I'm impressed with the Google Apps platform. While not ideal for large organizations, it makes it easy for even a novice to set up a branded company intranet in less than a day. To get the whole picture and set up a free trial, visit www.google.com/a.
I've learned first-hand about a way to reduce your yearly information technology (IT) investment while enhancing your team's performance.
Phil Huff is an industry consultant and co-founder of eLynx Ltd., Cincinnati. He can be reached at [email protected]
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