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.

Businesses Go from Ground to Cloud in 30 Days

Nationally recognized cloud solutions provider Horizon Info Services announced a new program for helping small and mid-size business move into cloud computing with less risk and at lower costs. Horizon’s FasTrack Services provide rapid deployment of Google Apps for Business for companies with up to 250 employees, giving companies quick access to the integrated suite of email, calendar, and collaboration tools. Depending on each customer’s needs, Horizon helps customers through setup, migration, and user education, completing deployments in 1 to 5 weeks.

“For businesses with IT staff looking to move to the cloud, we offer the expertise needed for a quick, successful migration,” stated Allen Falcon, CEO of Horizon. “We nearly eliminate the learning curve, transferring knowledge and minimizing risk.”

FasTrack services provide customers with a project kick-off meeting and a customized, best-practice project plan, technical guidance and assistance throughout the project, status calls and updates, and template user communications. Core FasTrack Services are fixed-price, offering savings over most per-user and full service options.

“We also offer a many value add services and technologies,” notes Falcon. “These solutions facilitate data migrations, improve integration between Google Apps and existing technologies, and, most importantly, enhance the end users’ experience using Google Apps”

Businesses can learn more about Horizon’s FasTrack Services at a dedicated web site, Companies that complete the 12 minute assessment will receive a free analysis of their potential migration to Google Apps.

Zero Point Zero Production

Google Apps protects an award-winning brand while providing flawless communications around the globe.


Zero Point Zero Production (ZPZ) is an Emmy winning television production company based in New York City.  Producing shows such as Anthony Bordain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel, ZPZ has staff and freelancers working 7×24 around the globe.

The Challenges

With a string of successful productions, ZPZ was growing and their current email solution was failing to keep up.  Beyond a difficult administration tool and weak user interface, their hosted email service lacked calendaring and shared documents.  It also failed to integrate with other applications.

ZPZ also needed a solution that would help them protect their intellectual property and their brand.  They wanted all communications, even from freelancers, to be sent from and to the corporate domain and to have all emails archived.  Employees and freelancers were regularly using personal email accounts to ‘get around’ their current system.

With the speed of their business, they would also need to be able to deploy new user accounts in less than 12 hours and easily manage active/inactive status.

The Decision

ZPZ did their research and found that:

  • They could deploy a cloud computing email solution for much less than an in-house system
  • Cloud-based email supports global users more easily and at a lower cost
  • Active user accounts can scale up and down as freelancers start and finish projects
  • More than 75% of their employees and freelancers already used Gmail personally and were familiar with its use
  • Google Apps Premier Edition integrated with Postini to provide full email archiving services, even for inactive and deleted accounts

ZPZ turned to Horizon Info Services for help with the setup and migration.

The Results

Following a jointly developed project plan based on Horizon’s best-practices, Horizon created and migrated all existing user accounts, behind the scenes, over a single weekend.  ZPZ email users began work on a Monday morning with the new service, with no complaints about the migration or Gmail service.  Horizon assisted the 25% of users wishing to keep their application-based email client and ensured all mobile devices were fully connected.

Staff and freelancers quickly began using broader functionality, including Google Docs, instant messaging, and calendar scheduling/sharing.  With easy setup, new freelancers have accounts and instructions waiting for them nearly immediately after the contract is signed.  Use of personal email accounts dropped to zero.

Since deployment, the number of users has nearly doubled.  Google Apps has scaled linearly, without any financial bumps for hardware and software.  Up-time has been perfect and ZPZ has integrated Google Apps with other cloud-based solutions.

With Horizon’s deployment expertise and support services, Google Apps has given ZPZ more than a global email service, Google Apps lets ZPZ communicate and collaborate in ways that let them focus on delivering award winning productions instead of IT.

Horizon Info Services hosts Google Apps … Live! in NYC

As part of its on-going event series, Horizon Info Services has opened registration for Google Apps — Live! in New York City on October 7, 2010.  The event, at in Google’s Chelsea Market offices, gives businesses a unique opportunity to discuss and see demos of Google Apps while networking with other business leaders moving to cloud computing solutions.

“The event is unique,” notes Allen Falcon, CEO of Horizon Info Services, “because it is not just a bunch of talking heads at the front of the room.”  In addition to case studies from IT experts and an Emmy-winning production firm, attendees will have 1:1 access to Google Apps experts.  According to Falcon, “Businesses will get an assessment of their unique needs and get answers to their specific questions.”

Beyond features and capabilities, presentations will discuss deployment issues and other factors businesses should consider before starting their move to cloud-based solutions.  “We want attendees to leave with an understanding of if, when, and how they should move to Google Apps and other cloud computing services,” notes Falcon.

Google Apps … Live! is scheduled for October 7, 2010 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at Google’s offices in Chelsea Market, NYC.  As seating is limited, advanced registration is required before September 30th.  Full event details and the registration form are available at

Cloud Protects Small City from Hurricanes

How, you may ask, can a Cloud protect a small Florida city from Hurricanes?  Just ask the IT team supporting the City of Defuniak Springs and their police force.

In the face of Hurricanes and new regulations requiring public access to email, the City of Defuniak Springs, Florida, needed a disaster-safe email service with message archiving and discovery. Horizon’s Google Apps Premier Edition / Message Discovery bundle delivered availability, secure access, mobile user integration, and audit-ready archives.

The Challenge:Customer Profile

The City of Defuniak Springs, FL, like many municipalities, found itself searching for a new email solution. Deemed part of the public record, the city must preserve and be able to recall messages upon request. As important, the city and its police force needed to ensure email and critical documents would be available during Hurricanes and other major events.

The Solution:

In choosing Google Apps Premier Edition, the town and its police force have a secure, hosted email service that resides well out of harm’s way. Accessible from any Internet-connected device, users can work from vehicles, cell phones and PDAs during power outages. Bundled with Message Discovery, the city and police have an audit-ready archive of all email, meeting all regulatory requirements. As part of the package, Google Sites provide a secure, hosted location for critical documents when on-premise servers are unavailable. From decision to go-live in less than a week, the Google Apps Premier Edition and Message Discovery bundle costs a small fraction of other on-premise and hosted solutions.



New APIs Open Opportunities for 3rd Party Admin Solutions

The Google Apps Audit API now allows Google Apps administrators to audit a user’s email, email drafts, and archived chats.  In addition, a domain administrator can retrieve account login information and download a user’s mailbox.

These features, and others Google is adding to the Google Apps API, open new opportunities for more advanced administrative features — a necessity in today’s enterprise computing environment.

Keep an eye on the Google Apps Marketplace for new management apps.

Google Security: Enterprise Tools for Mobile Security

Google recently added new security features for managing mobile users.  Administrators can now:

Remotely wipe all data from lost or stolen mobile devices.
Lock idle devices after a period of inactivity.
Require a device password on each phone.
Set minimum lengths for more secure passwords.
Require passwords to include letters, numbers and punctuation

These features are available for iPhone and most Nokia and Windows Mobile devices.

Want help implementing, contact us.

Google Apps Helpful Hint: Delegation in MS Outlook

If you delegate your email and calendar in Google Apps (Premier or Education editions), the person to whom you delegate, can handle messages and calendar events on your behalf from the Outlook client if you are using the Google Apps Sync for MS Outlook tool.

When you grant access to your account in Gmail, and share your primary Calendar, those messages and events are synced to the Outlook client. The person to whom you delegate can then receive and answer email on your behalf, as well as create and respond to calendar invitations on your behalf.

Click here to learn how to delegate access

New Google Apps Security Against an Idle Threat

While security breaches related to Google products make great headlines, the all have one thing in common.  The user’s identity was comprimised.  In some cases, users had passwords that were easy to guess given publicly available information.  In other instances, users downloaded malware from infected web sites that let hackers read the usernames as passwords.

This week, Google provided Google Apps Premier and Education Edition admins a new tool against this threat.

Administrators can now reset sign-in cookies from the Control Panel.  So, even if users have the “Stay signed in” box checked, the next time to open Google Apps, they will be forced to login.  In doing this, Admins can reset the sign-in status of all users and prevent accidental access.

Google Increments Security Settings

Back in January, Google announced that for Gmail, default access would shift to https (using SSL).   This change, impacting all versions of Google Apps, is a welcome move to ensure secure communication data in-transit as well as at-rest.

Our recommendation remains that all Google Apps Premier and Education Edition users force SSL use for ALL Google Apps services.  While this may complication connecting older scanning devices, the additional security is worth the need for the occasional work-around.