Google Apps is a collection of online services from Google aimed at small to medium enterprises. Google Apps consist of GMail (which includes spam filtering), GoogleTalk, Google Calendar for communication, Google Docs, Start Page and Page Creator for collaboration and a control panel, access to APIs as well as 24/7 support for managing your Google services.
With these services you get either 10GB or 2GB of online mail storage, depending on your plan. You get support for mobile devices including Blackberrys. You use your own domain name and your emails are to and from firstname.lastname@example.org. You can even integrate Google Apps into your LDAP or Active Directory.
The biggest advantage of Google is that it is completely hosted. When we looked at Google for our enterprise we calculated that we could get rid of three systems – Exchange (2 servers), the Blackberry Server, and the spam appliance. It would also free up about 1 full-time employee.
So how much does this all cost? If you are an enterprise and you sign up for the premium service, it will set you back $50 per user per year. Yes, that is per year not per month. If you are a school or a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – the cost is free, zip, nada.
For me that means we can support our 5000 volunteers with “official” email addresses. We couldn’t afford that even with Microsoft’s generous non-profit discounts. That means our volunteers can access their email and collaborate with each other anytime day or night, anywhere in the world and I don’t have to worry about whether our system is up or our ISP is down.
Let me just take a minute to add that while I am not a fan of Exchange because it is so proprietary and doesn’t play well with others, my hat is off to Microsoft for so generously supporting the non-profit community. A few other large software vendors – let’s start with Oracle – could learn from Microsoft in this regard.
So what’s the catch? There is some Exchange functionality missing. Some people think that GMail doesn’t support distribution lists. However, distribution list functionality is achieved by using the groups functionality in GMail contacts. Watch this three minute demo to see how it is done.
But, there are at least two significant pieces of Exchange functionality that are missing from Google Apps: public folders and delegates. Public folders allows a group of people to access the same set of emails and documents. Delegates allows me to let my assistant manage my calendar and appointments – which is a full-time job. But there is hope. See my upcoming posts on using Google Groups as a replacement for Exchange public folders and how to let your assistant manage your (Google) calendar.
View this Google Apps Q&A with Google Engineers