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Chrome Extensions, from Google, for the Google Apps User

ChromeWebStore_thumb
We are often asked which Chrome extensions we like and recommend for use with Google Apps. While extensions often relate to third party applications and services, here are several extensions from Google we install for most implementations:

  • Application Launcher for Drive
  • Chrome Remote Desktop
  • Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer
  • Google Calendar Checker (for some)
  • Google Docs
  • Google Docs Viewer
  • Google Keep (if the user uses Keep)
  • Google+ Notifications
  • Hangouts
  • Office Editing for Docs, Sheets & Slides
  • Save to Google Drive
  • Send from Gmail

These can be added by users or configured and pushed out using the Chrome Management service within the Google Apps Admin Console.


If you want assistance managing chrome extensions and other applications through the admin console, please contact our Service Team.


 

 

 

5 Ways Google Apps Will Help Your Business

 

Not just an email service, Google Apps is a business platform that enables efficiency and productivity by giving your team better communication and collaboration tools.

In less than 12 minutes, Cumulus Global’s CEO Allen Falcon identifies 5 ways that Google Apps will help your business.

1) Improved Communications

2) Collaboration — More and Better

3) Secure Access — from anywhere at anytime

4) Business Continuity

5) Lower Operating Costs — instead of CapEx + OpEx 

The video is a recording of Allen’s Standing Room Only seminar at the Central Mass Business Expo in September 2014.  Click Here to view the recording and contact us for more information and a free assessment of your business’ cloud potential.


 

 

Security Alert: Protect Your Google Apps Account from Being Hacked

Data Protection
Over the past 4 to 6 weeks, we have seen an alarming increase in the number of Google Apps accounts that have been “hacked” across both our business and education customers.

Google Apps security is NOT the issue.  ALL of the hacked accounts are due to compromised user identities.

In every case we have encountered, the users have used their Google Apps email address and password with another service that has had a breach, or has had malware on their computer that provided username and password keystrokes to the hackers.

In both types of incidents, hackers then log in as the user and cause mayhem.

We strongly recommend the following actions:

1) Educate your users that they are not to use their Google Apps password for any other account not explicitly authorized. Users should also not use their Google Apps email address as the username for personal accounts with other services.

2) Check Your Systems for malware and make sure your endpoint protection is up to the task. If not, we recommend Webroot Endpoint Protection and Web Security Services (the link is to our edu site, but the service is available to business and government customers as well).

3)  Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).  In business environments, users should be using 2FA to secure their accounts.  Implementation can be involved if you have other services linked to Google Apps, as you will need to generate service-specific passwords.

In education environments, 2FA is not practical for all users, as students and many faculty members may not have mobile devices available to access the Authenticator.  For schools, we recommend any user with partial or full administrative privileges have 2FA active.


Activating 2FA is covered by our support agreements.

For customers and others without support agreements, mention this blog post and we will discount our hourly support fee by 10%; W

We will discount Webroot deployment fees by 50%.  

Both offers expire on December 31, 2014.

Please contact our Service Desk for 2FA assistance; contact Sales regarding Webroot.

 

3 IT Shifts for Small Business: Cloud

Shifter
The nature of computing and how it’s used by business is changing – rapidly.  You have heard the buzzwords … mobile, social, cloud, big data, analytics, and others.  You probably have thought about your own business and thought the these changes are just for the enterprise.

Three major shifts in technology, however, can and will impact your organization:  Data; Cloud; and Mobile-Social.

Shift 2: Cloud

Not everything labeled “cloud” is actually “cloud computing”.  For our purposes, that’s okay.  Whether meeting the strict definition of cloud computing or a hosted service, the cloud is transformational.

Virtualization, one of the underlying mechanisms of building cloud services, is the entry point for most businesses doing it themselves.  Virtualization, however, is only the baseline.

The real power of the cloud is that IT and business processes transform into digital services.

Filing an auto insurance claim, for example, used to be a time-consuming process with paper forms, phone calls, visits to repair shops, and meeting with adjusters.  Today, filing a claim is digital service available to the policy holder by mobile app that instantly puts the information in the hands of the broker, adjuster, and back-office.

Cloud technology has the power to transform business models. Small businesses are less limited by geography than any other time in human history. Scalable, affordable resources empower companies to experiment and development without prohibitive capital investment. The pace of innovation accelerates and time to market drops.

While some small businesses may deliver cloud-based solutions to customers, for your business, the impact on the customer may be indirect. Better relationship management and systems enhance the way we sell. Better support systems scale with our customer base, enable self-help, and improve communications. Even simple abilities, like secure calendar sharing, make it easier for your customers to make appointments to speak with you and your team.

The cloud makes it easier for us to select specific applications and services. And we can integrate these applications and services into a single computing ecosystem without huge investments in middleware, custom programming, and infrastructure.

Where you start with the cloud depends on how you want your business to evolve. We recommend beginning with a platform that enables communications and collaborations, and can serve as the integration point for CRM, ERP, and other applications, as well as line of business systems.

Beware of Marketplace Apps on the Move


Last week, Google announced that the Google Apps Marketplace was open for business to all Google Apps users, not just administrators.

While this move opens up a wide range of personal productivity applications to Google Apps users, it is not without risks.

  • Your users can now commit you to paid apps and services that you may not want as part of your environment.
  • Apps may require permissions to data in your Google Apps environment that needs to be, or you want to be, private and secure.
  • Not all apps are from well-known vendors.

As we have written in the past, third party apps can present a risk to your data and your business.  And while Bring-Your-Own-App (BYOA) can be beneficial to staff efficiency and effectiveness, Google Apps administrators should careful and should understand the security health of the domain.

As such, consider turning off marketplace access to all users.  (Customers with a support plan: Ask us and we will do this for you).

We also recommend that you consider a Google Apps Security Health Check (special offer through Sept 30th) to ensure that Marketplace, mobile, and other third party apps are not already posing a risk.


If your current Google Apps reseller is not providing guidance on best practices, security and other important issues, contact us.  We would love to have you join us as a client. 

 

 

 

The Google Apps / Gmail Breach That Isn’t

Health Check News over the past few days that hackers have posted almost 5 million email addresses and passwords on an online forum has caught the media’s attention in large part because about 4.7 million of the addresses appear to be gmail accounts.

This is NOT, however, a breach of Gmail or Google Apps.  

The information appears to be from other sites and sources for which users provide their email address as their login.  In fact, several people that have found their address on the list report that the information is not their login information for Gmail or Google Apps.  As reported by Mashable, your risk is low.

Given it is not a Google Apps or Gmail breach, are you at risk?

Maybe!  Google has already analyzed the list and found some users that may be using their Google account password for other sites.  Google has notified these users and is forcing them to change their passwords. For the bigger picture:

If you use the same username/email address and password for all of your services, and one service is breached, then you are at risk of hackers gaining access to some or all of your services.

If a service is breached and you have granted the service access to your Google Apps environment, your data may be at risk.

Recommended Actions

Step One:  It is not easy, but avoid using the same password for multiple services, sites, or accounts.  And don’t write passwords down to remember them.

Step Two:  Be careful when and how you allow services to connect with one another.  For example, LinkedIn needs your gmail.com password if you are going to import contacts. While this may be safe to do, other services may not be as trustworthy.

Step Three:  Read and understand security permissions when you install apps on your mobile devices.  Many apps recognize and request access to other apps and services already on your phone.  Human nature is to say “grant” or “allow” without reading or fully understanding the implications, risks, or the trustworthiness of the app’s creators.


Note for Businesses, Governments, and Schools running Google Apps: Users installing 3rd party apps, particularly on cell phones, may be granting access to data stored in Google Apps.  To see if you have a risk, we offer a Google Apps Security Health Check that will document access rights and evaluate your level or risk, if any.  

Click Here for Information

 

7 Reasons Outlook Users Learn to Love Gmail

Gmail
One hesitation that business leaders have when deciding to move to Google Apps is how their staff will react.  People can feel attached to Outlook, as it is likely the work email client they have know for years.

While many employees already use Gmail personally, they may hesitate when it comes to work email.

Share these 7 Reasons why Outlook users learn to love Gmail and help your users make the transition.

  • Filters. Gmail has a thorough automatic spam filter. Employees can also set up individual filters that will opt out, unsubscribe from, and label superfluous messages, as well as organize emails that help individual productivity.  Unlike in Outlook, filters are not “local” to any system; they work regardless of the device used to access Gmail.
  • Instant IM. Google maintains the user’s most recent email recipients on a chat list, which is on the same screen as the inbox. With one click, Gmail users can start secure IM chats or initiate Google Hangouts.  Hangouts gives instant access to voice and video conferencing between individuals and with groups of up to 15 people.
  • Priority inbox. Gmail predicts which emails are most important based on what your employees have read in the past or have selected as important. Employees can also flag emails with a star as they go through them, which helps identify which messages are most urgent.
  • Labels. Instead of organizing emails into just one folder, labels allow employees to tag emails that fit into more than one category.  Labels work with Filters and Search, from any device.
  • Search.  Google is good at search.  Gmail leverages Google’s outstanding search functionality, allowing users to find emails with a quick keyword search.  While Outlook requires you remember where you saved your emails or use the clumsy advanced search window, Gmail searches across all Labels automatically, or refine your search to one or more labels.
     
  • Performance. Gmail doesn’t have the service hiccups that Outlook often has. Outgoing emails are sent quickly, incoming emails appear instantaneously, and inbox management requires no waiting.
     
  • Mobile. Employees can easily check Gmail when they’re on the go! Gmail has a dedicated mobile app that makes email messages easy to access on Android devices and iPhones.

 

5th of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the  5th of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Google Apps is (also) for Business

Not surprisingly, schools looking at Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, and Tablets with Play for Education focus intently on classroom computing.  In doing so, however, schools and districts often overlook that Google Apps works well for business … for administrative computing.  Some districts even elect to keep a separate email server for administrators while using Google Apps in the classroom. By size and scope, many school districts are comparable to the small and mid-size businesses we serve.  They also have many of the same needs, such as budgeting, human resources, team projects, and resource scheduling, just to name a few.

By adopting Google Apps as a business tool, district and school administrators can improve efficiency and effectiveness.  Here a just a few ideas of how administrators can use Google Apps:

  • Collaborative budget process with automatic roll-up from departments and/or facilities
  • File storage and sharing across departments and buildings
  • Individual, team, and project calendars
  • Intranet for HR with policies, procedures, and forms
  • Resource calendars to schedule use of conference rooms, speciality rooms, AV equipment, fields, vehicles, etc.
  • Public calendars for school and student events
  • Public web site with distributed content management
  • Video meetings, with screen/document, sharing for teams that span buildings or campuses
  • Survey and feedback forms
  • Interactive Wiki’s for proposing and obtaining feedback on curriculum changes
  • Accept and manage maintenance and facilities requests by email and/or web page, with shared inbox and dispatch for handling requests
  • Lesson planning library and collaborative, cross-team, lesson planning

While certainly not a comprehensive list, using Google Apps administratively offers many means to work more efficiently.  And, by adopting Google Apps for administrative computing, districts can further reduce their dependence and spending on servers, desktops, and other hardware.

 

Security Breach? There are Apps for That

Here’s a Story …

Emily tells Dan about a cool app on her iPhone that helps her stay organized when she is out of the office.  Dan looks it up and downloads it to his Android phone.  The App is cheap and has great reviews.  When Dan installs the app, he gets a screen about permissions with only a few items listed.  He scans the list.  Dan is not a techie and the list seems reasonable; he clicks “Allow” and the installation finishes.  Dan uses the app and is happy.  Over the next few weeks, Dan has trouble finding docs he saved in Google Drive.  Some were uploaded Word and PDF files, while others were created in Google Docs and Sheets. Asking IT for help, they find some documents in the trash, others appear gone for ever.

Here’s the Lesson …

When Dan installed his cool new app, he granted the app full access to the content of his Google Drive account and to other content in Google Apps.  The app had a bug (we do not want to assume malice) that set all of Dan’s files to public on a periodic basis.

Third party applications, including mobile apps, create a security and privacy risk for your Google Apps environment.

Here’s the Offer …

Partnering with CloudLock, we will conduct a Google Apps Security Health Check for your Google Apps for Business or Government Domain.  Normally costing $1,000 to $5,000 (or more!), through September 30, 2014, we will perform the check for $300 (or less!).

Please click here for more information or to request your Google Apps Security Health Check.

4th of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe
At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the  4th of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Build Skills with Expectations and Milestones

Within any organization, some people enjoy change … pushing the envelope and are comfortable with technology. Some are comfortable with change and/or technology if others show them the way. Some are uncomfortable with change and/or technology, or lack the confidence to adapt and move forward.  These differences are common, natural, and expected human behavior.

In an educational setting, however, these personal differences can lead to radically different educational experiences and opportunities for students.

Working with hundreds of schools and districts across North America, we often see how professional development covering Google Apps, Chrome devices, tablets, and the myriad of apps and content available within the ecosystem are readily pursued and absorbed by those most comfortable with technology, change, and emerging methods for facilitating learning.  And, while it is exciting to see the enthusiasm and creativity, it is also clear that the many educators will “wait, see, and follow”, and others will simply avoid the opportunity.

If schools want the technology, flexible online content, apps, resources, games, and teaching methods to have a meaningful impact, they must be put to use across the system and not just within select classrooms.

The ability to use devices, apps, content, and related methods in the classroom must become a core skill on par subject matter knowledge and other key teaching and facilitation skills. 

Without these skills, disparities will increase and technology programs — particularly 1:1 programs — will fail to obtain their educational objectives.  To avoid these pitfalls, we recommend that faculty and administrators work cooperatively to:

  • Define a baseline skill set for teachers covering in-class technology use and integration, along with time frames by which all staff should be at these skill levels.
  • Create a program for obtaining baseline skill sets with methods to match faculty member’s learning style (classroom/workshop, self-paced, etc.).
  • Identify, secure, and commit funding and time to enable completion of the program.
  • Create a process for experimentation, measuring results, and and identifying best practices.
  • Create a means to share best-practices and to provide cross-training among faculty and staff. Include a process to encourage or require adoption of best practices across the school by grade level and/or subject.
  • Provide teachers with budgets for purchasing or renting tools, apps, and/or content in line with curricula standards and lesson plans.
  • Define professional development standards and expectations that relate specifically to use of technology, apps, content, and related methods in the classroom, along with time frames by which all staff should be integrating these capabilities in their lesson plans, curricula, and classroom activities.
  • As with basic skills training, create a professional development program that provides the time, money, and other resources necessary for faculty and staff to succeed.
  • Actively track best practices and emerging standards related to technology in the classroom.  Evaluate, experiment, and adopt as appropriate.

Adding skills related to technology and related content and methods to expectations for teacher qualifications and performance is no easy task.  For many districts, this effort may become a contractual issue as well as a professional development program.  Regardless, of the effort, ensuring that all teachers have the skills, resources, and confidence to leverage the new generation of technology-enabled resources is critical to successful educational outcomes.

If you are interested in a professional development assessment covering Google Apps, Chromebooks, and/or Play for Education tablets, please contact us.