The return of BlackBerry may be a wonderful thing for those business professionals who are still hanging on to the platform. Their reintroduction to the marketplace should intensify the enterprise solutions race. Google and Apple may have an edge in enterprise, but new developments could throw a wrench into their plans. What about those that aren't impressed, or simply want an alternative? Is there a way to do business in the real world, in real time? There is and it’s easier to use and adopt than you think.
The first major upside is that you have a tried and true partner in Google on your side. Its commitment to business is second to none and it has a ton of solutions to help you get up and running. Whether you’re a start-up or a large municipality, Google has solutions for you.
One of the major benefits is your documents and files being stored in the cloud. No more fussing about with expensive servers or wondering who in the office has what file on which machine. With the cloud, you can save yourself the trouble and upkeep of a VPN and allow or retract permission of files at your leisure. Files can be accessed anywhere, anytime, on any device.
The cost for the service starts at $5/month, per user, which is a flat fee. Depending on your storage needs, an additional monthly fee may be required for cloud storage. 25GB of email storage and 5GB of cloud storage for each user is included, which should prove more than adequate for many. There are also discounts for non-profit groups and the annual plan gives you a discount based on a fixed number of accounts.
For a better understanding of what the actual cost is for your business, check out the calculator function on the Google Enterprise site. It will run down some interesting dollar allocations you may not have previously thought of. For instance, how much time is wasted on deleting spam emails monthly? Gmail has chat and voice calling built in, so maybe you can cut cost there.
Google is ready to meet all your needs, from devices to hosted websites. Everything Google can expose you to is meant to aide you in productivity and save you money. From email to creating a spreadsheet, it’s available with Google and, for most businesses, these solutions will prove adequate.
Gmail provides a clean look that is easy to use and is integrated well into other Google services. The service easily allows users to add contacts to their social circle (which we’ll touch on in a bit) or contacts. With the cross-platform availability, you can add someone to your contacts and it will be available on all devices. This makes staying in communication easier and more effective. No more fumbling around for an email with someone’s contact info. The 25GB size of each Gmail account means no more deleting emails to save room on the company server and integration with Outlook gives another level of utility.
Google Drive is a lot like MS Office, but much more streamlined. While not as robust as MS Office, it does have a lot of benefits not available with any other service. Being in the cloud has certain perks and easy access to all files at any time is one of them. Another great benefit is collaboration. Simply make a file or folder available to whomever you like and they can edit, view, or comment on your file. It’s also a great way to make company-wide documents available at-will.
Calendar has wonderful integration with Gmail, making it a central part of scheduling your life. From Calendar, you can invite people to events and view other calendars, much like you can with Outlook. Multiple views mean easier functionality for anyone and custom reminders allow you to work the way you need to. A different interface, but just as useful as Outlook.
Perhaps the spine of all Google services, Google+ is the social thread that runs through all services. Adding people to your circles is easy to do from Gmail, as their profile will pop up on the right hand side in any open email. It’s a great way to add clients or coworkers into a circle created to focus on a project, making for an easy way to keep people informed about things.
In Google+, the option to have a community or communicate directly with a circle is the best way to mass communicate. Simply allowing someone entry into a community or circle means you can comfortably discuss the topic at hand and collaboratively come up with solutions. The Hangout feature is also great for video conferencing and allows for screen shares should you have a photo or document you need everyone to see.
Safety is a paramount concern for any business. Your documents often have very sensitive information on them and storing them in a cloud setting may be a bit new to you. Is Google secure enough? Isn’t the cloud easily hacked? The answers may surprise you.
In the account settings for each user, the option for a two-step verification is present. In this verification process, the user enters both the username and password for the account, then a special code sent to their mobile device from Google. Essentially, the person must have all the devices present and operational and it would be very difficult for a thief to get all devices at once. If you have a team in the field that has sensitive account info on-hand in the cloud, this is a great way to assure it’s them accessing it.
Your information is always yours, Google simply hosts it. The work you do is always backed up in real time, as you do it. Google also promises a 99.99% uptime, so you never have to worry about being out of touch. There is also disaster recovery built in and the optional Vault keeps track of all your archived emails. The Gmail spam filtering is also top-notch, preventing quite a bit of malware from getting in. If you ever do have a problem, 24/7 support is included… which is probably more than you can say for what you have now.
The best part about switching to Google for your enterprise solutions is it only takes a Chrome browser, which is free. You can run that on any computer, meaning you don’t have to purchase anything new. Then again, some Google hardware solutions may be better for your company and staff.
Google is a mobile-first company and all its products reflect that. All Android phones and tablets will work perfectly for what you or your staff want to do while out and about, so it’s really a matter of preference. With so many options available from any carrier you prefer, finding solutions for everyone is easy.
If you feel like your current hardware is old, costly to update, or simply not capable of keeping up with your needs, a Chromebook may be the right solution for your company. The slim computers operate on Google’s Chrome OS and their purpose is fairly straightforward: you. A Chromebook utilizes a very secure environment in Chrome OS and it’s a very linear gateway to all your apps and business solutions with Google. Instead of a Windows-based environment where everything is an add-on, Chrome OS comes with all your services baked right in.
The security of Chrome OS means your IT department (if you have one) won’t have to fiddle with security software, updates, or recovery. Everything is in the cloud and Chrome OS updates each time you turn it on. Everything comes from Google, so there is no manual updating. Each web page also operates in what Google refers to as a “sandbox”, meaning each is its own separate service. If one crashes or malware is detected, it’s isolated to that page. Multiple layers of protection make it extremely difficult for malware or viruses to infect a machine. If the machine is compromised, it’s nearly impossible for your data stored in the cloud to be affected.
That really depends on your company’s structure. Everyone has different solutions and different concerns for their respective businesses. If the calculator on the Google Chromebook site is to be believed, a business of 20 employees stands to save over $100,000 over the course of three years. That’s a number worth conversation. A $5,000 per device (per user, really) savings is not something to dismiss.
Quite a bit, really, but not so much that it will affect everyone. Some of us use functions in MS Office we can’t live without, while others are fairly basic in their needs. Certain Google services simply aren’t as robust as those of its major counterpart, but many won’t notice much of a difference. Is Gmail better than Outlook? That’s for you to decide. Does Google Sites satisfy your needs? I'd be surprised if it didn't.
While some functions in MS Office are lacking as a Google service, there exist a lot of Chrome apps that may serve your purpose. Chrome has a Web Store you can access to look for solutions to your needs. For instance, I find the lack of a robust CRM an issue with Google enterprise solutions, but a simple search for “CRM” on the Web Store yields pages of results. It may not be a Google service, but it’s available in Chrome.
If anyone is going to knock Google for business, it will be because Drive is not as well heeled as MS Office. Only you can decide if your needs will be met. Google Drive is available to anyone, so starting a pilot program at your company may be the best way to get the real data you need. Google will give you a 30-day trial to use Google Apps for business, so giving it a go may pay deep dividends. You may not have the same functionality, but the potential savings may be worth the exercise.
We’ve touched on a lot, but at the end of the day you want to know if it’s workable. Will Google, with all its apps and business solutions, actually work out? I’d like to think your employees will like the functionality of real-time collaboration and the ability to access files so long as they have a web connection. No clumsy VPN to mess with, just the need to access the Internet.
Sure, it will take a little getting used to. Things like Gmail “labels” rather than Outlook “folders” is different, but not so different it can’t be learned. The lack of a Windows environment takes a few days to assimilate to, but the web environment, and Chrome OS for that fact, is a true breath of fresh air. Maybe your employees breaking out of the doldrums of normal business thinking will yield results you can’t yet conceive.
If you’re still not sold on the web and breaking away from the status quo, think of all the major businesses that have switched to Google Apps. Would you hire a Googler to run your IT department? Sure you would, so why not just hire Google to do it? Besides, I just wrote this whole article on a Nexus 7 with a Bluetooth keyboard. It’s easy to think outside the box when you’re not confining your mind to Windows.