Better Offline Email Access

While Google Apps Premier Edition users can integrate and access email for free on iPhone and Android devices, users may also use the Google Mobile App. Should you be without Internet connections (cell or WiFi), you now have better tools for offline email access.

As part of an update to Google’s mobile client app, Gmail gets:

  • An updated the user interface,
  • Faster message opens
  • Batch actions (like archiving multiple messages at once)
  • Basic offline support

With these updates, you can still get some work done while on the subway, in a plane, or any disconnected locale.

Google Apps vs Exchange Part 3: Outlook Sync Compatibility

By now, you have heard about Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook. You may also hear rumblings about less than 100% compatibility.

Yes, there are limitations. That said, the ability to use Outlook with Google Apps Premier Edition is an easy, powerful way to help companies transition from Exchange services (in-house or hosted) to Google Apps.

So you know …. the tool does not sync:

  • Tasks (a shame since Google Tasks integrate with the inbox and calendar so well)
  • Notes
  • Journal
  • Public Folders

Additionally, installing Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook may change the way searching works within Outlook. According to Microsoft, it disables Outlook’s use of Windows Desktop Search, which Outlook uses to “any and all Outlook data”.

While the registry bit was not changed by the Google sync tool installation on any of our systems, here is the fix.

  1. Run REGEDIT
  2. Browse to: “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREPoliciesMicrosoftWindowsWindows Search”
  3. Reset the value of “PreventIndexingOutlook” to “0” (without the quotes). To do this, right click on the “PreventIndexingOutlook” key, select “Modify…”, then change the value data to “0”.
  4. Exit REGEDIT

Finally, Google is publishing a list of other Outlook Add-ins that may not be compatible with the sync tool. We are reviewing the information and will post an update later this week.

While some companies may find one or more of these limitations a “show stopper”, our experience tells us that most companies will still benefit from being able to use Outlook and Google Apps via the MAPI connection.

New Fields for Gmail and Contacts

Last week, Google added new fields for the stand-along Contacts application and included the fields in Gmail as well. As part of the update, synchronization with Outlook and other email clients and data imports/exports work more smoothly.

Learn more here …

Google Increases Max Gmail Message Size

Over the weekend, Google increased the maximum size of Gmail messages with attachments to 25MB. (click here to learn more)

This means that you can attach files of 22-25MB to your message, provided the total size of the message does not exceed 25MB.

The challenge, of course, is will the recipient’s email system let the message in. Many corporate email systems put limits on message sizes in the 2GB to 5GB range.

Google Presentation: New Shapes and Text Box Features

Google has added a few handy features to Google Presentations that will make us PowerPoint users happy:

  • Multi-shape formatting allows you select multiple shapes and/or text boxes, and format them all at once
  • Manipulation of text boxes now includes auto-growth and vertical alignment

Click here to learn more

Cloud Computing for SMBs is not Just About Google and CRM

The range of cloud-based solutions for small- and mid-size businesses continues to grow. One example is WorkingPoint, a cloud-based business management system that includes invoicing, expenses, bookkeeping, contact management, and other features backed by a double-entry accounting system.

Designed for small businesses, WorkingPoint runs over Amazon’s cloud. The first user is free, with additional users costing $10/month. For a company with simple bookkeeping and accounting needs and a few (or only one) person needing access, the cost/benefit of WorkingPoint is compelling.

As I said, though, this is only one example of cloud- based solutions moving into areas of business computing beyond email, collaboration, and CRM.

Which services have you found? Do you use?

Can Unite Create Collaboration?

The team at Opera Software, makers of the Opera browser, released Opera Unite. Unite is a browser-based web-server that allows individuals to share files, host web sites, post notes, share photos, and remotely access music and videos.

The concept and potential for collaborative communications is great. The reality, however, may not live up to the vision.

Home Users:

Definitely the target customer for Unite, home users will be able to create personal and public web presences with little effort at no cost. The downside, however, is bandwidth. Your 5 Mbps DSL speed is download. Upload speed — how fast data moves from your computer out to the Internet — is likely no more than 768 Kbps. Accessing Unite sites can be slow and choppy, failing to provide a viable user experience.

Of greater concern, is the networking ports that need to be opened. Your cable Internet or DSL provider probably delivered a router with all inbound access blocked. You can surf the web because the web site is responding to a request that you made. With Unite, you will need to open ports to allow access to initiate from the outside world. Automatic port scanners used by Internet villains will find your computer and you will be attacked. It is only a matter of time.

Small Businesses:

The thought of free web site development and hosting is very tempting to many small businesses. But small businesses face the same issues as home users with respect to security and performance.

In addition, the file sharing capabilities may put your data at risk.

Larger Businesses:

Larger companies with security policies are not going to allow outside traffic into the company’s network for Unite sites. It is risky from a security standpoint and with respect to the risk to confidential information via the file sharing feature. Internally, cheap and easy sites for project teams and other collaboration are tempting.

Using Unite within a business, however, creates a host of issues. A collection of disjoint collaboration sites makes it nearly impossible to ensure sensitive data remains private, information on the sites is backed up, and that hosting a local web site does not impede business applications.

In short, the vision and concept behind Opera Unite is pretty cool. The reality of how it can and will be used remains a risky proposition. One of the benefits of using a cloud- or SaaS-based solution is that the vendor provides security and operates on neutral turf. With a service provider, you can work, share, and collaborate without opening your network and computer to outsiders. A little money can save a lot of headache.

Answers You Need about Online Backup Services

The recent agreement for HP to provide a free trial of Norton’s Symantec Backup on new consumer PCs demonstrates the growing acceptance of online backup solutions. When looking at online backup, please remember the following.

Backup is Easy; Recovery is the Challenge

If you keep this in mind, the focus of your comparison shifts from price to how well the service will help you recover from a lost file, failed disk, or system catastrophe. Having answers to the following questions will help you make a better choice.

1. How many generations does the backup provide?

Many of the low cost services only provide a single generation of each file. Even if the retention period is 30 days before deleted files are removed from the backup set, only the most recent version of the file is available. This type of service fails when you need a version of a file from Tuesday that you also edited on Wednesday.

Look for services that keep multiple generations, at least daily, of your data.

2. How long is the retention period?

Some of the most popular online backup services limit retention to 30, or as few as 7, days. In doing so, recovering a files may not be possible if you are unaware they were deleted more than 30, or even 7, days prior to the attempted restore.

Look for services that let you select the retention period you need for each type of data you need to protect.

3. What restore methods are available?

Every online backup service offers online restores. Even with broadband, FiOS, or other high speed connections, restoring large amounts of data over the Internet takes time. Some services limit the size of each restore, requiring multiple iterations to restore a full system. While some services will ship DVDs for an added fee, restoring from multiple DVDs is time consuming and requires constant monitoring.

Look for services that offer services like MobileVault, which will deliver a full copy of your data vault by courier or FedEx. Restores run computer-to-computer over the local network in a fraction of the time required for restores over the Internet.

4. How secure is your data?

Nearly all services provide advanced encryption to standards such as AES128 and AES256. If the service, however, offers a back-door for restores should you forget your encryption keys, your data may not be truly secure.

Look for services using one-way encryption methods that do not allow the service’s employees to access your data.

Taking these considerations into effect, the number of online backup services from which to choose narrows greatly. And when you look at price, you will see the “enterprise” class services are not much more expensive than “consumer” and “cheap” solutions. When looking at online backup services, you get what you pay for.

Google Fusion Tables: Databases in The Cloud

On June 9th, Google quietly announced the Beta availability of Google Fusion Tables. This “Labs” application provides the ability to query multiple databases and data sources, including social media, rss, and other live feeds.

While an early labs release, Google Fusion Tables is a clear indication that Google hears its customers’ desire for better data management with Google Apps Premier Edition and the “cloud”, in general.

Zipcar Becomes a SaaS Provider?

You may know Zipcar as the trendy car sharing (er, hourly rental) service. They have made headlines renting hybrids and other vehicles parked in reserved spaces in local neighborhoods. For $7 an hour an up, customers reserve vehicles via the website and open the doors using a credit card reader.

The brains behind Zipcar, their fleet management system, is now available as a Software as a Services (SaaS) offering. By monetizing (for real) their intellectual property, Zipcar is opening a new avenue of B2B revenue to enhance their B2C roots.

Read more here.