People Widget Gives Context to Email Senders

Email is not just a way to communicate … to send and receive messages.  Email can and should be a tool for collaborating.  A tool that places your communication within the context of your relationship with the senders and recipients.  A tool that makes it easier to move from sending/receiving to sharing.

People Widget

Over the next two weeks, Google is rolling out the People Widget across Google Apps platforms.  The widget highlights content and communications from colleagues, friends, and family, placing your communications within a broader context.

The widget, which will appear next to your inbox provides context for the sender of each email.  More than seeing who the sender is, the People Widget lists any recent email conversations and joint calendar events.  It also provides on-click access to chat, initiate a new email conversation, schedule a meeting, or update the sender’s information.

For more information, visit the Official Gmail Blog.

If you are interested in trying Google Apps, contact us or complete our 12 Minute Assessment.


Freshen Up Your Existing Google Sites

Google Sites now supports the ability to apply a site template’s theme to any existing site. This does not apply the entire template to your existing site, just the template’s theme.

Using this capability, you can spruce up the theme of existing Google Sites without changing the structure or layout.

Click here to learn more.

The Impact of This Week’s Malware News

For the first time, MAC users are struggling with a serious, wide-spread, malware outbreak for Mac OS.  As reported by ZDnet, Apple is struggling to define its role as customer unaccustomed to these types of problems search for answers and help.

Also, this week, Microsoft announced that 1 in 14 Internet downloads is Windows malware.  According to ZDnet, Microsoft shared the data, gathered from anonymous security reports, to tout the security features of IE9.

Both of these events give us serious pause, as they should for you.

In today’s world, the best place for your computer to catch a virus or other malware is from web site visits and downloads.  At the same time, many webmasters are unaware that hackers have compromised their sites.

Desktop and email spam and virus protection are no longer sufficient.  Web security and active web filtering are an essential security component.  If you don’t have a web security solution in place, your are neglecting one of the largest risks to your network, systems, and data.

Fortunately, you have more web security options than you may think.  Web security no longer means committing to hardware, software, and firewall upgrades.  Cloud-based web security services offer greater protection at a lower cost, and require less administrator time.

Want to know more?  Contact us and we will schedule a call.

Horizon offers Support for Chromebooks Now

In an interview with CRN, published today, Horizon Info Services confirmed that we are prepared to help organizations plan for, deploy, and support Google Chrombooks.   While organizations must currently purchase Chromebooks directly from Google, Horizon’s professional services team can assist with the planning, deployment, and support efforts.

Once trusted partners are able to offer the Chromebooks directly, Horizon will also resell and support them directly.

Iron Mountain Customers Stranded in the Wild?

In an interesting turn of events, Iron Mountain announced it was getting out of the digital records management business.  Selling its business lines to Autonomy, a European technology services firm, Iron Mountain returns to its roots as an efficient off-site records management firm.

Never profitable for the company, Iron Mountain Digital, always seemed like a sideline business for the firm.  While those working in the unit were dedicated professionals, their pricing, offerings, and technology did not always stand up well to the competition.  And, the company was never able to convey an integrated approach to hard copy and electronic records management.

The sales leaves current Iron Mountain customers somewhat stranded.  While Autonomy will no doubt continue operations for a period of time, one must expect that at some point in the future customers will be asked, encouraged, or forced to migrate over to Autonomy’s systems and solutions.   Also unclear is what will happen to local support.

Fortunately, customers can take the initiative and explore their options.   With minimal overlap of services, customers can migrate to other online backup solutions that offer more features at a lower cost.

Companies interested in learning more can click here for a no-obligation assessment of their backup/recovery and archive requirements.

New Feature Thursday: Discussions in Google Docs

Looking beyond basic comments within documents, Google Docs now features the ability to use comments for discussions with email integration.  Key aspects of this new feature include:

  • The ability to reply to comments written by others
  • Identity and ownership of all comments
  • The ability to resolve comments and discussions instead of deleting them.  You can review all discussions at any time.
  • Add somebody to a discussion thread using @mentions.  They get an email with your comment and a link so they can join in. Or, the individual can simply reply to the email
  • The ability to manage if and when you receive notifications for comments and discussions

Given the scope of the change, Discussions are only available for new documents.

For more information and a cool demo video, click here.

If you think this type of collaboration can help your business run more efficiently, please let us know.

Google Apps Helpful Hint: 5 Things You Can Do With Attachments

With constant and continuous updates, it is easy to miss some of the ‘small’ enhancements that make using Google Apps easier.  Our Google Apps Helpful Hints series features some of these new capabilities.

Today, we look at 5 new features around Gmail attachments.

1. Drag attachments in and out

In: Simply drag files from your desktop right into the message you’re composing and they’ll upload from there. (Make sure you’re using Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 or Safari 5 for this to work.)

Out: Simply drag the icon for a Gmail attachment to your desktop. (Note that dragging attachments out is only supported in Google Chrome for now.)

2. Select multiple attachments

Attaching multiple files one by one is no fun. Instead, just multi-select the files you want to attach by holding down the Ctrl key (or Command on a Mac) and clicking on each file you want to attach. Holding down the shift key will select a continuous list of files.

3. Never forget an attachment again

Gmail looks for phrases in your email that suggest you meant to attach a file (things like “I’ve attached” or “see attachment”) and warns you if it looks like you forgot to do so. Every day, this saves many people the embarrassment of having to send a follow up email with the file actually attached.

4. View attachments online

When you receive an attachment, sometimes you just want to view it and there’s no need to download or save it to your desktop. The Google Docs viewer allows you to view .pdf, .ppt, .tiff, .doc and .docx files in your browser. Just click the ‘View’ link at the bottom of the message.

5. Find that long-lost attachment

If you’re looking for an attachment someone has sent to you, Gmail’s advanced search operators can help you find what you’re looking for quickly and accurately e.g. ‘has:attachment pdf’.

Delegate Google Apps Administration

While most computer environments have at least one network administration account with unrestricted access, many administrators have moved to segment administrative responsibilities across different individuals and departments.

Last week, this capability was added to Google Apps control panel.

Google Apps now has two (2) levels of administrators:

Super Administrators have complete access to the Google Apps administrator control panel and can perform all administrator actions.

Restricted Administrators are given the ability to manage specific tabs in the control panel.  For each tab, you can allow/restrict certain administrative functions.

Both Super and Restricted Administrators have the ability to:

  • The ability to view and edit other users’ Google Sites
  • Rights to use the Google Apps administrative APIs, such as the Provisioning API
  • The ability to log into the Google Apps administrator control panel

Details of the available admin functions and how you can restrict functions can be found here.

Please note that distribution of administrative capabilities is not available by organization unit at this time. Administrators granted access to a control panel tab have the ability to manage those functions for all users.

IT Departments can now segment administrative responsibilities by function, providing many organizations with the ability to segment responsibilities.  The change also supports common division of responsibilities between Help Desk and “Tier 2” support staff.   Help desk staff can not be empowered to change passwords, for example, without giving them the ability to create new users.

The impact of this change is significant as this capability has been often requested by mid-size and enterprise IT departments.

How Do You Know if You Are Cloud Ready?

We understand the Google Apps may not be the best fit for all companies, but the solution is certainly worthy of serious consideration.   For most businesses, however, the question is really “Are YOU Cloud Ready?”

Being Cloud Ready is more than a willingness or desire to move IT infrastructure services, such as email, into cloud-based services.  You need to assess how the cloud solution will work for you.  Beyond the basics of email, calendar, and contacts, this means you should understand the following …

  • Does the cloud solution fit with your business processes and usage patterns?  Or, will users need to change how they use these applications?
  • Can you estimate how many users should see productivity gains by moving to the cloud solution?
  • Can you calculate and compare accurate Total Cost of Ownership estimates for your current systems and your cloud solutions?
  • Do you understand how many of your users rely on basic features versus your power users?
  • Do you have usage patterns that add could complexity to your migration if not identified in the planning phase?

Fortunately, answering these and other questions is getting easier as new tools come to market.

We have partnered with Exoprise to offer CloudReady RAPID and CloudReady PRO assessment services for MS Exchange environments.  With a non-intrusive analysis tool and expert analysis, we can provide you with the data and information you need to understand if you are ready to move from MS Exchange to Google Apps.

If you want to know more, please email me directly.

Is Cloud Connect Enough?

Let’s face it.  While Google Docs offers decent web-based office productivity tools, you and some of your users need or want to keep the interface and features of MS Office.  The good news is that you can integrate MS Office and Google Docs to create a collaborative file service.  Google Cloud Connect, a free utility with Google Apps, is one such integration tool.  But, is it enough?

In our assessment, Cloud Connect provides basic integration, but lacks features that will give your users the full power of Google Docs as a collaboration platform.  Here is what we find lacking:

  • Automation Overdrive:  On installation, all MS Office documents will be added to Google Docs with automatic synchronization.  It is too easy to end up synchronizing files that you do not want or need to be in the cloud.
  • No Format Options:  Cloud Connect always uploads files in native MS Office formats, utilizing valuable space.  Users do not have the option to convert to Google Docs’ formats to take advantage of the unlimited storage.
  • No Collections:  All files are synchronized to your Home folder; you don’t have the option of selecting other locations.
  • Limited Permissions:   Documents inherit the rights of the Home collection, and you can add/change collaborators individually to files.  Since you cannot save files to other collections, you cannot take advantage of the permissions capabilities of Google Docs.
  • Site-Less:  You cannot synchronize files to Google Sites, so you do not have the ability to use all available storage and you cannot take advantage of the version control features in Sites.

Fortunately, you have some options.   Our favorite is OffiSync Premium.  In addition to providing all of the features lacking on Cloud Connect, OffiSync Premium lets you add/remove Google Docs collections and Google Site pages, email collaborators, and embed image and web search results … all from within a toolbar/ribbon in MS Word, Excel, or Powerpoint.  Also, OffiSync Premium gives you co-authoring collaboration across versions of MS Office, including 2003, 2007, and 2010.