Google Drive or Overdrive?

As more organizations expand their use of Google Apps beyond email into file services, the question of how to best use Google Drive becomes important.  In a previous post, we compared centralized versus distributed use of additional storage.

For many organizations, the question remains as to how best to integrate Google Drive andGoogle Drive Additional Storage with existing, legacy apps on servers and client systems.  Beyond whether or not MS Office stays around, companies often have other systems that run locally using local disk or network drives.

The Google Drive client provides and easy, free, means to sync local data storage with Google Drive and Storage.  The utility, however, has a few limitations:

  • Synchronization of files happens between the My Drive hierarchy in the Google Apps Cloud and a local “Google Drive” folder.  While you can select where the “Google Drive” folder lives, you cannot map existing folders.
  • Users must know where to find and save documents they want synchronized between local disk space and Google Drive.
  • You cannot select specific folders in Google Drive to synchronize down to the client.
  • If a folder is “shared with” a user in Google Drive, the user needs to “move” it under “My Drive” for it to sync to their local disk.

While not a reason to avoid using Google Apps as a file service, using the Google Drive client limits how you deploy your solution and creates some training elements.

Our recommendation is to create a file service using Google Drive that keeps the look and feel of a traditional file service for the end users.   Doing so mitigates training and migration issues and avoids a range of technical issues related to supporting legacy applications.

Look for a solution that offers:

  • A server-specific synchronization tool that does not interfere with existing drive mappings and/or shared network folders.
  • The ability to specify specific folders in Google Drive and/or locally for synchronization.
  • The ability to provide gateway access to cloud-only storage that looks and feels like traditional network disk space.
  • Client applications that run on Windows, Mac, and popular smart phone platforms.
  • That can connect to multiple cloud storage solutions, giving you flexibility in how you configure primary, secondary, and/or archive storage.

While you may spend a few dollars per user per year to get the environment you want, you will see returns.  You should be able to extend the life or retire existing server hardware. With direct access to files, you should be able to reduce (or eliminate) your remote access solutions and/or VPN services, thereby reducing administration, licensing, and support costs.  And best of all, improved collaboration and secure access to information means better productivity for your team and better business results.



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


File Server or File Service?

Most organizations store and share files by setting up one or more file servers.  They used to be referred to as “File and Print Servers”, but as most printers include direct network connectivity, spooling, and job management features, the need to have print spooling and drivers running on a server has nearly disappeared.

File servers seem to be heading in the same direction.

Disk space no longer needs a physical connection to a server with a full operating system. Disk drive control, security, access rights, and I/O management can be delivered directly by storage area networks (SANs), network attached storage (NAS), and cloud storage solutions.

What happens when storage is further abstracted?

Gladinet ( has a series of tools that lets you attaché multiple, independent cloud storage systems and accounts and presents them as top level folders on a mapped drive. OffiSync gives you access to Google Docs and Google Sites storage from toolbars/ribbons in the MS Office applications (avoiding mapped drives and windows explorer altogether). While Gladinet extends the model of OS-based storage management, OffiSync moves storage management directly into the application.

In its infancy, cloud storage services are giving us the opportunity to rethink the positioning and role of storage within operational architectures – in the cloud and in our data centers. File servers feel nearly obsolete as storage becomes a commodity and access control migrates from the operating system to the applications themselves.