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


Tuesday Take-Away: Expanded Support for Google Apps

On Monday, Nov 14th, Google announced a significant expansion of its support services for Google Apps.

Google now provides 24 x 7 phone support to small, medium, and large Google Apps for Business customers for all issues affecting the core services.  Customers may also receive support from Google Apps experts via Google’s web-based support portal, online help forms, and online help center.

These services further augment and support the customized support, training, and related services offered by Cumulus Global and other Google Apps Authorized Resellers.

The expanded support services is one more in a continuing list of service and product enhancements designed to address business owners’ and IT directors’ concerns about moving to Google Apps and cloud computing.  Other recent changes include  SLA and up-time improvements, as well as enhancements such as unthreaded email and read receipts in Gmail, and a scheduled release process.

Tuesday Take-Away: A Google Apps Overview

You are busy.  Spending an hour in a webinar to learn about cloud computing and why businesses are moving to Google Apps may work for you.

This 3 and 1/2 minute video, however, is a great introduction and overview.


Tuesday Take Away: 8 Ways that Clouds Beat Blizzards

Once again, the team and I at Cumulus Global found ourselves working from our homes, pizza shops, libraries, and coffee shops.  An unusual and record-breaking October Nor’easter dumped about a foot of very heavy and wet snow on us, snapping power poles and trees like, well, twigs.  In our area of the state, most towns reported between 60% and 100% of residences and businesses without power.  Starting on Saturday evening, many will be without power until late Thursday or Friday.

Businesses tied to their physical offices, again, are learning the hard way how Cloud Computing can help keep things running when life throws the unexpected your way.

1) Message Continuity

If you run MS Exchange, Google Message Continuity not only provides you with bullet-proof spooling if your server or Internet link are down, you get Gmail’s web interface and the ability to send and receive emails.  And while most email contingency services dump all activity in your spool to your inbox (including sent message), GMC actually syncs your sent and saved messages, preserving your folders and your sanity.

2) Cloud Storage Mirror

Different than backing up for restores or recovery, synchronizing or mirroring local and network data to a cloud service gives you the ability to access and use your documents, usually through a web interface, from anywhere at anytime.  Matching the cloud service and the sync tool to your needs ensures your critical data is available even if your office is not.

3) Google Talk

With a laptop or smartphone, the Google Talk app, and an Internet connection anywhere, you can communicate with your team and your associates securely via instant messaging, voice conferencing, or video conferencing.  Don’t worry of phone lines or in-house PBXs are down, with Google Talk you can see who is available and converse at will.

4) Google Voice

Get your laptop to an Internet connection with a headset and microphone and you can send and receive calls without a fuss.

5) Hosted VoIP Phone Services

It may seem like the throw-back to the days of Centrex, but hosted VoIP (aka Hosted iPBX) services keep your phone lines working regardless of what is happening with your building.  And, you can access and use your lines, extensions, and voice mail from pretty much anyplace with either a VoIP phone, softphone software on your laptop, or your smartphone.

6) Cloud-Based Email

If you are thinking of using the cloud as a contingency service because cloud-based email is going to be available when your in-house system goes off-line, why not make the more reliable service the one you use every day?  Do you need or want to keep your in-house server when a cloud-based service will be more reliable and more available?  Ok, it’s a loaded question … but still worth some thought.

7) Cloud File Services

Just as with cloud-based email, Cloud File Services will prove more reliable and available over time, and especially during emergencies.  Granted, you may have applications, and work flow issues that make using cloud file services as your primary file service impractical.  But, you will never know if you don’t take a look. And, many of these requirements work with the right local sync technology in place.

8) Google Apps for Business / Government / Education

There, I finally said it.  Google Apps gives you the reliability and availability of the cloud-based Gmail, cloud storage you can mirror or sync, Google Talk, Google Voice integration, and a cloud file service.  Better yet, Google Apps rolls these services into an integrated, affordable package with access from most any computer and smartphone.  Some of the solutions may require third party components.  But, when disaster strikes (and disasters will strike), why not have an IT Ecosystem that is resilient to available rather than you you need to recover.