GoogleAppsHey Everybody! [Pause for Simpsons Fans]

Today’s topic, and a personal favorite is Google Apps.  In case you’re unaware, Google Apps is a suite of applications that enable users to collaborate through e-mail, calendars, documents and customized sites.  Businesses small and large can use a combination of Google Apps and Microsoft Office to keep themselves organized and productive.

Most people are familiar with gmail and google docs, etc, but Google Apps Standard Edition allows you to setup these and other applications on your own customized domain (e.g. docs.yourdomain.com).  This allows for companies, teams, organizations, etc to create their own set of hosted apps and intranet to keep everyone organized and facilitate communication.

I’ll get into more details of Google Sites in another post, but for now you can see some examples from Google here.  The sites are simple to setup, easy to customize and support integration with numerous widgets that extend the functionality and crossover to other companies (like Salesforce.com).  I’ve used Google Apps as both a company’s intranet as well as a customer facing dashboard and CMS.

Anyway, enough on what it is and on to why you should care…

  1. Google Apps is well known and easy to use.  New employees and customers will probably already be familiar with the applications and how to use them.  And in many cases they can integrate multiple Google accounts.
  2. All the basics are there from document creation, to chatting and collaboration to Exchange-like features (available in the Premier Edition, more on that later) to excellent mobile access.
  3. It’s freakin’ Google! They are constantly rolling out improvements, better cross platform integration, mobile access, etc and it’s all backed by one of the world’s biggest internet leaders.  Generally the upgrades you see public versions of gMail, Google Docs, and gCal are the same you see in your Google Apps setup.
  4. Low overhead.  No hosting on your side (!!!) and if you hire a new employee there is no need to set them up with MS Office, just create an account for them and they’ll automatically have a calendar, document repository, and web based e-mail access (plus all Gmail’s bells and whistles).
  5. Most importantly… Google Apps integrates with everything.  Whatever other decisions you make or platforms you choose in the future Google Apps API and open nature will support, integrate or export to make a transition simple.

These are just some of the reasons that you should check out Google Apps both for apps you use for personal reasons (like I do with jeffshariat.com) and for businesses.  It’s definitely not as powerful as Microsoft Office, but it IS easier to use and still provides the majority of functionality that most people need (and who needs MORE Microsoft in there lives?).

So, to recap, Google Apps = awesome.

In future installments I’ll cover Google Apps Premier Edition ($50/user/year gets you actual real live phone support), Google Sites, Google Labs, and some of the really cool features that Google has recently rolled out in response to customer feedback and need.