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Doing Business With Google Apps

Introduction

Which do you use for your business: Google Apps or Microsoft Office? What would compel you to switch? Google Apps could be the answer or at least an option—discover another way of doing business—a better way of doing business.

Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps connect your business and get work done from anywhere on any device. It's simple to setup, use and manage, allowing you to work smarter and focus on what really matters. Google Apps offers web based email, calendar, documents, and more.

Google Apps for business has a number of benefits over traditional business IT and desktop software. Using Google Apps essentially places all of your data in the cloud, allowing you to access it all anywhere, anytime, from any Internet connection.

At $50 per year per user, the fully integrated apps system is certainly cost-effective. Even adding the free versions of Gmail, Calendar, and Google Docs can keep your employees coordinated.

Simple Tools

As part of Google Apps, Google offers a host of relevant tools for small businesses. Here are a few:

Gmail

The many advanced features of Gmail really make it a leap forward in the web-based email space. The first big advantage of Gmail is that it functions in the cloud. You don't have to worry about downloading messages to multiple locations or syncing various devices. Your inbox will look the same from any web or mobile connection. And with 25 gigs of email storage per user (with a paid apps account), it's unlikely you'll ever have to clean your inbox or delete old messages.

Gmail also has a chat feature built right into the interface that lets you send a quick update or discuss a project with an employee if you're not in the same office. Chats are also stored in Gmail so that you can search and refer to them later.

Google search, the asset that started it all for the company, is of course built right into Gmail, which makes finding information from email conversations (even very old ones) extremely efficient.

Calendar

Google Calendar provides an efficient and intuitive way to keep appointments and events synced across your entire business. With calendar sharing and permissions, you can add other employees' calendars to your own, and vice versa, in order to see and manage the big picture of your team's time.

It's also a smart tool for coordinating meetings, calls, and shift staffing for multiple employees to avoid scheduling conflicts. Sharing multiple calendars with one "master calendar" creates a color-coded scheduling table for the coordinator that updates automatically when users make changes or additions.

The Calendar app can also be used to create events through Gmail. By adding your employees' email addresses to an event, they will receive an invitation to respond. Responding 'yes' automatically adds a shared event to your calendar that each invitee can view and add notes to. It's a smart way to coordinate meetings and keep everyone in the loop.

Google Docs

Google Docs is a web-based suite for word processing, presentation building (similar to PowerPoint), spreadsheets, and web forms. All the work is done in a web browser, and all the data is stored in Google Drive.

Because the data is online, streamlined document sharing and collaboration are big perks with Google Docs. Any file you're working on can be shared with individual team members, or the entire group within the apps system. You can also set permissions for specific users to view and edit documents. And, multiple users can simultaneously view and edit documents, which can be useful for real-time collaborative projects or presentations during conference calls. You can also grant permission for those outside your office network to view and edit documents, which can be especially useful for sharing information and presentations with clients or colleagues.

Google Drive

Read, edit, share, and collaborate on your files wherever you are. Google Drive allows you to access files from anywhere and collaborate on documents with others. You can open a variety of different files types – 30 of them to be exact – within your browser, regardless of whether or not you have the required software installed. Supported file types include PDFs, HD video, and images from Illustrator and Photoshop.

Google Docs is built right into Google Drive, which means you can work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Once you've shared content with someone else, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and you'll receive notifications when other people comment the items you've shared.

Google Sites

Google Sites is a drag-and-drop web development tool that you can use to create online information sources for employees. The websites you create exist within your Google Apps domain, can be public or private, and permissions for employees to add, change, and contribute information can be set from the main account.

Work securely

Keeping your information secure is a top priority. Google Apps includes dozens of critical security features specifically designed to keep your data safe, secure and in your control. Your data belongs to you, and Apps tools enable you to control it, including who you share it with and how you share it.

Conclusion

For small businesses, Google Apps can be a lifesaver. The cloud-based messaging and collaboration platform saves businesses thousands of dollars in initial set up costs and yearly software licensing fees, leaving more room in the budget for hiring, operating expenses, and expansion. After a small business switches to Google, their messaging, collaboration, document, spreadsheet, presentation, and calendar needs are taken care of for just $50 per user per year. If your small business is ready for a web-based, collaboration-minded IT solution, perhaps Google Apps is a cost-effective way to go.