Just about every business in existence must use some sort of system of programs for communication and productivity, usually referred to as "office suites." Companies, large and small, use computers for just about every aspect of their business from customer service, to records and billing, and payroll, ordering and supplies, and others. One of the most wide spread office suites in use is Microsoft Office, and includes programs to create and transfer documents, text files, spreadsheets, and presentations; as well as a series of communication tools like email, video communication, web page design, and other such things. But in the past, any program that would allow a user to create such things needed to be PC based, in other words, the user had to purchase software and install it on their computer to use the programs. These programs were usually very expensive as well. Over the past few years, Google has been developing a collection of programs that will do what these other programs offer, and more, for a fraction of the price. Called "Google Apps," it is a web-based system of programs that can be access from any internet connection point, and does not require any programs to be loaded onto the user's computer. While this grants the users new and exciting capabilities, it also opens the user up to new types of problems. Web-based systems have been criticized for their security, storage capabilities, but most importantly because internet disruptions can cut off access to the programs. While Google Apps is a good set of programs with many benefits, it liabilities and potential problems currently outweigh the necessity to purchase the Premium Edition of Google Apps at this time.
A recent article by Educause, a leading nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology, described Google Apps as "a collection of web-based programs and file storage that run in a web browser, without requiring users to buy or install software." (Educause) The programs that Google Apps offers include what Google calls their "communication tools;" which contain a version of email, called "Gmail," as well as a voice communication and messaging system called "Google Talk," and a personal daybook and appointment book system called "Google Calendar." Google's productivity tools that are offered through Google Apps are encompassed in what the company refers to as "Google Docs." These programs include a word processor that can create text files, spreadsheets, and presentations, and can be considered to be the capability equivalent of Microsoft Word. Google Apps also allows for each user to create their own customizable start page, called iGoogle, which can be accesses from anywhere. Besides these features, users can design and create their own web pages with the "Google Sites" tool that is offered.
Google offers all these tools to users for free, in what they formerly called the Standard Edition but now simply call "Google Apps," but there is a catch, they only offer a basic version as well as a limited amount of storage space, 10GB to the non-paying user, and . However, a user can upgrade to a Premium Edition, now called "Google Apps for Business," which provides 25 GB of data storage. While the Premium upgrade cost the user $50 per year, it does provide for some extra services. For instance, the Standard Edition only allows for a maximum of 10 users within the same domain; this means that if a person needs to collaborate with others on a project, they can only do so with up to 10 other people, no more. The Premium Edition offers unlimited access, so any number of coworkers can access, and edit, the document, as well as also offering a number of extra tools not found on the Standard Edition. These include integrated Postini security, compliance, policy management, and message recovery services, conference room services for web conferences, 24/7 phone support, and Google Video, a Google version of YouTube. And while the Standard version is limited to sending email to no more than 1000 external recipients, the Premium Edition allows for more than 2000.
Google also offers a free edition to schools, colleges, universities, and accredited not-for-profit entities, called "Google Apps for Education." This edition is virtually the same as the Premium Edition, except that there is no cost involved to the institutions, and it only offers 10GB storage space for individual Gmail accounts. The system also allows for advertisements, but not for students or administrators, and can be utilized by as many students and faculty as the school or institution can muster.
Google Apps communication tools, Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar may be similar to other tools offered by other companies, but there are also some differences. Gmail is a free email service that can be accessed as secure web mail, but also through IMAP and POP3 protocols as well. The Standard Edition, "Google Apps," as well as the "Google Apps of Education" Edition, offers only 10GB of storage per user, but this can be upgraded to 25GB if one will pay the $50 per year charge of upgrading to the Premium "Google Apps for Business." However these are still some serious problems with the system: first of all it is an advertising support system, meaning users will be exposed to unwanted advertisements. Also, Google's own forum entitled "Gmail Known Issues," currently details 9 problems users have with logging in, 3 chat and contacts issues, 13 issues composing and reading mail, 4 problems with POP and IMAP compatibility, and 3 issues with the social networking tool known as "Google Buzz" ("Gmail Known Issues") Google's communication tools are far from perfect, and the number of problems Google is currently working on displays a system that is still being polished.
Google Talk is a "Voice over Internet Protocol" (VoIP) that allows users to talk to each other through their computers. In other words, this tool can provide free long-distance communication through the use of PC to PC calls. It can also provide for conference calls, as well as voice mail and messaging, Gmail access and chats, instant messages, and file transfers. (Google Talk-About) It can also be accessed through many current wireless communication devices like blackberries and others and provides one of the potential cost saving measures Google Apps could eventually provide.
The last tool in the list of Google Communication tools is the Google Calendar. This is a personal appointment and schedule application that can also share your schedule with others, access your schedule from anywhere, send invitations and track RSVP's, "sync in" with your desktop applications, and even if your internet service is interrupted, this provides a "read-only" version of your schedule anytime. (7 Reasons) This is about the only feature of the entire system that can be accessed during an internet outage.
If one becomes a subscriber to Google Apps then they will get to personalize their own homepage, the page where you go after signing in. This page can be designed for each users individual needs with a number of gadgets that will allow the user to view Gmail messages, check headlines from Google News or other news sources, find stock quotes, weather forecasts, and movie information. Whatever the needs of the user, the homepage can be designed for it. And if a user wishes to create their own wiki or web page, Google Apps has a tool for that as well. Google Sites can create almost anything a user wants, there are dozens of templates to start from or a user can create their own from scratch, but users are forced to upgrade to the Premier "Google Apps for Business" if they want more than just 10GB of storage. And is they still want more storage space, users can purchase as much as necessary in 5GB units. Google Sites application will also allow a business to manage Google site sharing across your business, as well as easily publish Google Sites within your company. (Google Sites)
Google Apps has some very good tools and services which offer the user a wide range of capabilities. As a result there are some very good reasons why a company may want to switch to Google's web-based office suite, known as "Google Apps for Business." First of all there are cost factors, a full version of Microsoft Office Professional 2007, a system comparable to Google Apps for Business, will cost approximately $500. There are also costs for IT support as well. Google Apps for Business is only $50 per year, and it would take ten years to equal the cost of Microsoft Office. And is there anyone who thinks that Microsoft Office Professional 2007 will still be an up-to-date and usable system in ten years? Of course not, and as new applications and technology come along, Google Apps for Business will be able to better adapt to them, while Microsoft users will need to download updates, or purchase another $500, or more, version. Businesses who switch over…