Tuesday Take-Away: Smart Distribution Lists

One of the challenges many of our customers face is managing contacts and distribution lists.  Organizations want to share contact information to avoid duplicate and incorrect information, but need to control who manages the data.  Similarly, many organizations want to build distribution lists for communicating with contacts, but want each contact to only have one record.

For Google Apps, we work with several tools (i.e. Floreysoft and DMS) that help you build and share contact information and groups.

For Distribution Lists, Google Apps for Business (Government, and Education) includes Groups.  Originally built to provide secure discussion forums with optional moderation, Groups has evolved into a robust communication and collaboration tool.  Some of the key features in Groups that create smart distribution lists include:

  • Access Security: Control who can manage, view, and belong to the group in order to receive messages.  Access can be given to individuals outside your organization, a great advantage for project teams.
  • Use Security: Control who can use the group, ie send messages to the group, and whether or not the list can be used by email address only ( or via a web interface.   Access can range from specific individuals to fully public.
  • Delivery Options: Messages can be forward to members as they arrive or in daily or volume-based digest formats.  Users can elect to change this setting to meet their individual job and communication preferences.
  • Nesting: Groups can be members of other groups.  This lets companies create a distribution list hierarchy.  Place a person in the correct group, and they will receive all message for distribution lists “up the chain”.  Schools can easily create email lists for parents and students by class, and then roll them up into grade, school, and district level lists.

With these features, organizations have the ability to place contacts in distribution lists and maintain a single source for managing contact records.


Tuesday Take Away: Google Apps Caveats and Solutions

One of the critiques we often hear when speaking with businesses and non-profits hesitant about a move to Google Apps is that Google Apps does not provide a complete computing environment.  And it appears that there are a couple of key factors behind this perception.

  • Many organizations may be able, but are not comfortable, moving from MS Office to Google Docs.
  • Google Apps provides a range of core and additional services, but does not provide a complete computing environment.
  • Google Apps needs to integrate with internal networks and systems.

The best part of these perceptions?  They are all TRUE!

Google Apps for business is a suite of applications and services.  It is not a complete IT infrastructure.  Knowing this, you can plan to overcome these “caveats” with solutions that work.

You Need Backup / Recovery

As we have written in several blog posts (Protect Your Data in the Cloud, DLP in Google Apps), Google protects you data in Google Apps from loss due to network, system, or software failures.  Google cannot, however, protect your data from you (and your users).

Just like your in-house systems, protect your data in Google Apps with a sound backup/recovery solution.  Costs for these services run $3 per user per month or less and are well worth the protection they provide.

Sharing Contacts & Address Books

While sharing contacts and managing a the Global Address Book in Exchange is no picnic, Google did drop the ball on this common business need.  Most businesses have groups of contacts that they want to share and manage across multiple individuals.  The cloud provides and easy structure to do this, but Google did not build an interface for the capability.

Fortunately, we work with a number of third party solutions with a variety of features and capabilities.  Better than a “one size fits all” solution, we can match the tool to each of our customers’ needs.  The costs for these options range from free to a few dollars per month per user.

Users Need to Learn

The last time your users had to re-learn their email and desktop software probably coincided with your most recent “fork lift upgrade” of your email and file servers.  Even then, how many of your users learned about new capabilities rather than focusing on relearning how to do the features they already used?

Unless you choose to run MS Outlook and miss out on many of the great features of Google Apps, your users will need to learn.  Even those with personal Gmail accounts benefit from fully understanding the capabilities of Google Apps for Business (Education / Government).

Google updates Google Apps constantly — every few weeks — with incremental features and capabilities.  Providing on-going learning to your users helps users evaluate and select the new features and capabilities that will benefit their work.

On-going webinars and office hours require coordination and costs can add up.  Integrated, self-paced training with modules that update as Google Apps changes costs less than $1 per user per month.

You Want or Need a File Service

Switching from your current email service to Google Apps and its business version of Gmail is a great first step.   The migration is relatively fast and painless, and users will be more productive.

Moving your shared files from in-house servers to the cloud, however, opens up many more opportunities for collaboration, efficiency, and cost savings.   Without the need to connect remote and mobile users to centralized file servers saves companies hundreds or thousands of dollars on VPN services and licenses.  The ability to share documents, manage changes, and control permissions, gives co-workers and project teams the ability to work together without “losing track” of changes and versions.

The challenge, is how to integrate your existing desktop applications with your cloud storage.  Fortunately, there are a range of tools that integrate applications and provide “drive letter access” (DLA) to the cloud.  The tools vary from one-time purchases to annual subscription services and can be easily matched to your needs.

Now for the Good News

We understand that when moving to the cloud, you want to make sure that the overall computing environment — your ecosystem — provides the same level of service, security, and reliability as your existing in-house solutions (if not better!).

Through the end of 2011, Cumulus Global is offering free trials and will waive our implementation fees for the value-add services that resolve these concerns.

  • Backupify for Google Apps Backup and Restore
  • Floreysoft Share Groups and Dito Directory for contact and address book sharing
  • Gladinet Desktops Professional Edition and other tools for DLA to Google Docs