Mar 17

google-apps.gifSo what’s with this new-fangled Google Apps thing?

To me, it initially just seemed like a fancy version of Gmail. However, as I really started delving into it, I was thoroughly impressed.

Here’s the general description from Google:

Communicate…
Give your users Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Talk accounts that
use your own custom domain, helping them to stay connected and work
together more effectively.

Collaborate and publish…
Docs & Spreadsheets lets users share files and collaborate in
real-time. The Start Page is the first place your users will look to
preview their inboxes and calendars, access your essential content, and
search the web.

…and get on with business.
It’s all hosted by Google, so there’s no hardware or software to
install or download, and minimal setup and maintenance. You can get up
and running quickly, even if you don’t have technical resources.

To try it out for myself, I moved all the email accounts for my web development business to Google Apps Standard Edition. I have to admit, the changeover worked flawlessly. All I had to do was verify my domain by uploading a file to my server. Once verified, I was able to get the email moving to Google’s servers with a few simple MX record changes (and as far as I know didn’t miss one single email in the process). Soon after, I created some additional CNAME’s so I could access the calendar, document, and start page functionalities a little easier. Once those few things were done, I tinkered around with some of the admin controls in Google Apps, but for the most part, the process was complete. It all worked amazingly well.

I am totally sold on this system. I think this new offering will change the way many small, medium, and large businesses handle their communication infrastructures. The real advantages come with the Premier Edition of the service. The most important additions are as follows:

- 99.9% uptime guarantee for email
- 10 GB of space (and I suspect that will grow in the future)
- No ads in emails
- Conference room and resource scheduling
- A very poweful API system (including custom sign-on, authentication, user provisioning & management, and support for email gateways allowing backups of data).
- Email migration tools (in the works)
- 24/7 support via phone/email
- A variety of 3rd party applications and services to enhance the system
- Extremely low-cost ($50/user/year)

Yes, the amazing email client is incredible with it’s spam filtering, organizational ‘labeling’, and search functions, but the other tools included are the pieces that will create an evolution in how businesses operate (in my humble opinion):

- Imagine having the ability to have incredibly powerful calendar/scheduling tools without the hassle and complexity of expensive Exchange servers.

- Imagine being able to only allow certain groups of people (or individuals) to see certain calendars and events in real time, with just a few simple clicks.

- Imagine having a chat client integrated with your system that allows quick and effortless communications instead of picking up the phone or waiting on email responses. What if this client was embedded throughout the system and all communication could be archived and saved for security/legal purposes? What if that chat client also allowed voice calls to be made for free over the internet?

- Imagine being able to collaborate on documents or spreadsheets with teams of users all in real time over the web. What if you could publish these documents for only certain members of your organization to see? What if they could be saved in popular document and spreadsheet formats for desktop editing?

- What about a very powerful, yet simple & easy to use corporate start page that has important information customized for each particular employees’ job functions and can be easily branded?

- What if your users could access this data anywhere in the world with just a browser? No more need for VPN’s (to access email securely), Outlook clients, software updates, et cetera.

- What if the majority of these systems integrated with wireless/portable devices like BlackBerry phones with little-to-no effort?

- What if this entire system was simple to administrate for even the largest of companies? You would hardly need one employee (at most) to manage the system. No exchange server experts needed ever again (sorry guys)!

- What if this amazing system was hosted in some of the most secure and reliable data centers in the world (Google’s) and optimized for world-wide use? No more worrying about expensive hardware, licensing, storage, bandwidth, replication, or down-time concerns.

- What if there were a plethora of 3rd party and advanced packages allowing custom email gateway services, archiving, security, authentication, et cetera?

It’s all available right now!

So go and check out Google Apps Enterprise Edition… no matter what your company size, it has the potential to save your company time, effort, and vast quantities of money while increasing productivity and profit. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

23 Responses to “Google Apps Premier Edition: Is Google Changing The World Again?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Why are you such a Google fan? Are you getting paid for this review?

  2. Anonymous Says:

    This maybe/probably is the techie in me, but if I'm running a business, I want the fewest failure points between me and my data. That means my stuff sitting on my machines which are under my control.
    Not going through someone else's internet line to get to my stuff sitting on someone else's machines. Just too many failure points for my tastes.

  3. Dustin Weber Says:

    heh.. no, not getting paid. Though, it would be pretty sweet if I was on the “Google Payroll”, lol.
    Honestly, I just really like the Google Apps system. I think it’s solid, well-rounded, and most importantly… SIMPLE! You know I love the K.I.S.S. principle.
    - Dustin Weber

  4. Dustin Weber Says:

    Yeah, that’s what I initially thought too (along with my boss at work). However, think about it this way:
    No matter where your email servers are and how many redundancies you might have, there will still be down time. It is true that Google’s connection might go down, but I would guess that their uptime is better than ANY location most companies could realistically pay for (in fact Google guarantees 99.9% for the Premier Edition).
    Also, there are some powerful 3rd party tools offering archiving, email gateways, redundancy, et cetera. I’m honestly not entirely sure how well that aspect of it works, but I do know that what I’ve read on other blogs suggests redundancy/archiving is available and works well.
    In the end, Google has some serious reasons for ensuring up-time and reliability for their servers.
    Truthfully, I think that reducing the number of failure points is somewhat easier to achieve by outsourcing the email/calendar services like this.
    Am I wrong?
    - Dustin Weber

  5. Anonymous Says:

    You have some good points, but in the end it seems that Murphy's Law tends to get in the way.
    Here's how I look at it. It isn't necessarily Google's internet connection going down that's the problem. It's my line to my cable company, my cable company's uplink to the backbone, and then Google's connection that I'm worried about. It's about Joe digging a trench a few blocks from my house that knocks out my connection. Or up in Chicago. Or, or or… There's just a LOT of things that can go wrong to keep me from my stuff. Google's guaranteed uptime doesn't cover my problems getting to their “up” servers.

  6. Dustin Weber Says:

    Let’s look at it from the two perspectives:
    Google Approach:
    If your connection is down at your house and you can’t connect to Google’s servers, you can’t get your email or send your email until it’s working again.
    [I’m assuming the 3rd party email gateways aren’t cost-effective for personal use, but be aware that a ‘caching solution’ that solves this problem is there if need-be.]
    No matter what, you can pretty much assume that the Google server farms will always have a good connection and electricity. Point being, your incoming mail will continue to accumulate despite your connection problems at home (or anywhere for that matter). It is true that you wouldn’t be able to ‘cache’ outgoing mail on your home connection. However, you could simply save the text for later somehow, or use a client and save the outgoing email as a ‘draft’.
    If you absolutely had to, you could always use your pda-esque phone or some other connection medium to access your incoming mail or send something important. If you wanted to use an email client for local ‘caching’ of previously received emails, that’s totally possible too.
    Also, you don’t have any electricity, licensing, or hardware costs. $50/user/year is cheap man… and that’s the premier edition. The personal edition is free! For larger businesses, I’ve read email service costs something like $200/person/year using typical in-house methods, so $150 is a huge savings when multiplied out to thousands of employees.
    Locally Hosted Approach:
    If your connection is down at your home, you’ll be able to access your incoming mail that was sent before your connection was lost and outgoing mail during the outage would be ‘cached’. That’s fine and dandy, but what’s happening in the mean time?
    If you have an extended outage, you could certainly miss an extremely important email that would eventually be bounced because your server isn’t available. And, let’s just assume you need to send a very important email during the outage… you are out of luck with your home-based server. You can click the send button in your mail client, but it isn’t going anywhere until your connection is up again.
    Even more important is the fact that the only way the in-home method works at all is if you are located in your home when you need your mail/calendar. Obviously, attempting to access your server from outside your local network during an internet outage would be a futile effort.
    Plus, you have to pay for mail server licensing (likely), OS licensing (likely), possibly a mail client software package, and the hardware, electrical, maintenance, and time costs associated with running your own server.
    So what’s more important? Being able to ‘cache’ outgoing mail during an outage while losing all incoming email (in-house approach) or not being able to ‘cache’ outgoing mail but still successfully keeping all incoming email (Google approach). Personally, I’d rather have the ability to ensure incoming mail is saved for later viewing over the convenience of ‘caching’ outgoing email during an outage and totally disregarding all incoming email.
    In truth, the true debate isn’t actually about Google at all. It’s really about whether or not people should outsource their mail servers to large data centers and pay per user. I tend to agree with my boss at work, outsourcing email service is probably a better solution for reliability, enormous cost-reductions (licensing, hardware, electricity, staff), and redundancy reasons.
    Did I convince you now? probably not. sigh.
    - Dustin Weber

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Yeah, still not convinced ;)
    You don't lose incoming mail – that's what properly setup backup mx records are for.
    There's obviously something to be said for being able to send critical emails – and if the situation arouse, there are alternatives for such emergencies (go to the local wireless hotspot for an internet connection, for instance).
    I still stand on the ground of “control your own destiny”. And honestly, I'd be a little suspicious of relying so heavily on something I only pay $50/year for. My $50/year means absolutely nothing to the uber-giant Google. They could make decisions that ultimately screw me and my data, and what's the recourse? Kick and scream on a blog? The phrase “you get what you pay for” keeps nagging at me.
    I don't run a business right now, but I do think I'd stay away from such a service if I did.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    There is also the fact the if your email is stored on anyone else's SMTP server, no matter how short, it can legally be read without your knowledge. Since it is electronic communication it is not covered by the wiretapping laws (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5697267/site/newsweek/ Couldn't find the actual FCC and court ruling). With your own mail servers, the time email is spent on other's SMTP server can be minimized. With Google's solution it is unavoidable. I don't think I would want my internal business email subject to that possibility, no matter how remote.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    [quote] So what’s more important? Being able to ‘cache’ outgoing mail during an outage while losing all incoming email (in-house approach) or not being able to ‘cache’ outgoing mail but still successfully keeping all incoming email (Google approach).[quote]
    Incoming mail would not be lost. As EJ said that is what backup MX records are for. That is also why SMTP has retry timers and re-delivery logic. If your server is down for a short amount of time (4-5 days) you will still receive all of the incoming mail when the connection is restored. That is why the SMTP standard exists. Also, if incoming mail is lost during that time it is the fault of the sender's servers not complying with the standard. I run my mail server off of a DSL connection and I have never had an outage more than a couple of hours. Businesses with enterprise circuits (T-1, T-3) have less downtime than that. (SMTP retry information from Section 4.5.4 of RFC2821)

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Sometimes, I like to poop.

  11. Dustin Weber Says:

    OK, well obviously all the large, medium, & small businesses that have chosen to use Google’s services didn’t know this.
    I wonder how they made the decision? Do you think Proctor & Gamble, GE, and L’Oreal just ignored these facts? Someone should send them this vital information, heh. I wonder if we aren’t getting the whole picture for that ruling?
    - Dustin Weber

  12. Dustin Weber Says:

    Right, but we were talking about the average home user weren’t we? I mean, are we to assume that home users would have backup servers? I mean it’s smart, but maybe not totally possible in all circumstances (if the main mail server was in your basement, for example).
    But regardless, if we are talking about a large business.. it really comes down to cost & reliability & security. Google wins on security and reliability (would you agree?), bu t I’ll admit that they haven’t answered the security aspect of it yet.
    I would be willing to bet they’ll address it fairly soon. They offer the Google Search Appliance which is an incredible piece of hardware… I’m sure the Google App Appliance is the next big thing.
    I don’t think Google is gonna capitalize on this baby immediately, but I think it’s inevitable. If the hardware could be put in a companies server room, I’d be willing to bet that a large number of companies will take the jump.
    I mean just imagine reducing staffing, server, licensing, (etc.) costs by simply adding in one box.
    - Dustin Weber

  13. Dustin Weber Says:

    Well, it’s obvious that the real concern in the end is security. You’ll likely have a similar amount of reliability either way you go.. with each having it’s own advantages/disadvantages.
    I know a lot of the talk out there from the naysayers (like you) centers around security.. and Google has to be addressing it soon. There is a reason they hire the best & the brightest PHD’s constantly?
    I predict you’ll see a huge rise in Google Apps popularity as soon as they do, especially if they offer a “Google Apps Appliance”. It would be tough to defeat it then, right?
    As far as the phrase “you get what you pay for”, consider this:
    Mercedez-benz cars: In the US, they are looked upon as a status symbol because of their price/rarity. They are expensive cars with a reputation of “German Craftsmanship”.. right? Unfortunately, they are some of the least reliable cars on the road. I can’t find the article (didn’t really search all that hard), but Consumer Reports recently had an article saying a Lexus from the early 90′s was in the shop less (and cost less to repair) than a 2006 Benz. The same article stated that many of MB models were among the least reliable cars on the road. So, MB owners, are you getting what you paid for?
    What about IT spending on email/calendar functionality? Are we getting what we pay for?
    - Dustin Weber

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I thought we were talking strictly about small businesses – not a home user. Home users typically can't be bothered to backup an important file or two on their desktops, let alone run their own backup servers.
    Regardless, I do think that when they come out with an App Appliance (I haven't heard anything about one, but it just makes too much sense for them to NOT make one), they're going to get a lot of people on board. But until then they'll just have a lot of convincing to do.
    Personally, I'd still be hesitant on using web-based office apps. I mean, what do you do if you're in the middle of working on some document and a storm pops up outside, knocking out your internet connection? What can you do? Sure it “autosaved” some minutes ago – but what about the last few minutes (or longer) of work? I take for granted that I can hit Save and know my data is saved.
    Then there's the issue of being offline and wanting to get some work done – in a car, for instance. What can I do, type in notepad and paste into Google Whatever later?
    I just don't see enough advantages for Google Apps over desktop office suites. For price and functionality it's just hard to beat things like OpenOffice – and I don't need an internet connection to get work done.
    Google Apps is cool – but I'll take my desktop apps, thanks.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Security is big, no doubt. And see my other post regarding an Apps Appliance.
    Just out of curiousity, what is your experience with corporate email/calendar functionality? I've been very impressed with the Exchange->Outlook->Sharepoint Server combo that Microsoft continues to make advances in. Have you seen Sharepoint and the recent versions of Office and what they're really capable of?
    I'm not saying that Microsoft is or is not the way to go, but that's what many companies are indeed paying for right now. And I would venture to say they are getting their money's worth.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    [quote]I mean just imagine reducing staffing, server, licensing, (etc.) costs by simply adding in one box[quote]
    I thought that you were promotion the Google hosted approach? Doesn't the Appliance model make Google Apps just like any other mail server? I would imagine that they would charge for licensing on the appliance. Otherwise, they wouldn't have the services based income that all of the software companies are trying to get. That is what this is about. Microsoft, Google, etc want you to pay to use services and have no control over the nuts and bolts. Microsoft is also planning an online office suite. I wouldn't want to use Microsoft's either. I will stick to my desktop application. If I am on the road, I don't want to be required to have an Internet connection so that I can write a document.

  17. Dustin Weber Says:

    I don’t use it currently, but I have plenty. It is good, you are right… but it’s too complicated. There is something to be said for simple elegance.
    Let’s just wait and see what happens. I’ll revisit this topic in a year or so and it will be interesting to see what happens.
    - Dustin Weber

  18. Dustin Weber Says:

    I think it all depends on a particular business or home user. I know many companies I’ve worked for (both small and large) that have serious problems with mail never getting sent/received properly. Especially anything international.. servers, routers, switches, connections.. there are so many points of failure, but all that is off topic.
    Let’s just put the debate on hold and see what Google does. I bet we’ll see a change in the IT culture as Google moves in to compete with MS.
    - Dustin Weber

  19. Dustin Weber Says:

    Word doesn’t autosave after every letter you type. It does it every few minutes, just like Google Apps does… so how is it any different? Assuming you didn’t have a battery backup, the only situation that would be different was if the storm caused your computer to stay on and your internet connection to be lost (not likely).
    Besides, guess where many of the head-hanchos of Firefox work? Google!
    It’s no surprise, in my opinion, that Firefox 3 will support offline applications (ie: Google Apps offline). That would allow you to work on your precious documents anywhere offline.
    Until then, you could always save your Google app document in word/excel format, or any number of different formats to work on off-line.
    You could even use ::gasp:: open-office to do your work offline! The callaboration feature of Google apps is what is truly killer. You should check it out if you haven’t yet.
    In the mean time, let’s wait and see what Google does. If Firefox 3 supports offline apps, we’ll see a paradigm shift in this arena (IMHO).
    - Dustin Weber

  20. Dustin Weber Says:

    Right, but the Google Search Appliance doesn’t require babying or monitoring. You basically, plug it in to your data, set a few things up, and it just works.
    That’s how the Google App Appliance would work too. You wouldn’t need staff to manage complex servers. You just have one (or two redundant) box(es) sitting there in the rack looking all colorful and cool making all the other servers jealous.
    As far as licensing go’s, I’m guessing Google would vastly undercut Microsoft’s costs. No one offers anything comparable to the Google Search Appliance for the price (last I heard). I don’t think Google is interested in licensing as much as MS. I’m guessing you would purchase the appliance based on how many users, but that would be the limit. No client costs for the desktop, no server licensing, no server costs at all!
    Like I told EJ, many of the head-hanchos at Firefox are employed by Google. Guess what Firefox 3 is going to support? Offline applications.. (ie: offline google apps). That will change the way some users do their work.. I predict.
    Let’s just wait and see what happens!
    - Dustin Weber

  21. Anonymous Says:

    “Assuming you didn't have a battery backup
    My desktops do have battery backups, and my laptop has its battery. So given a power loss, I'll have plenty of time to get my document saved. Wouldn't work today if my internet dropped and I'm using Google Apps.
    So, FireFox 3 eh? Their official roadmap doesn't really mention Offline Apps. It's only buried in 2 lines of the feature spreadsheet – I wonder how deep the support will really be.

  22. Rancho Santa Margarita Appliance Repair Says:

    Necesito saber todos los comentarios de tomar una buena decisión mía. Me gusta participar de la discusión en el futuro también.

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