What is Google Apps for Business and how can it change the way you work

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The first thing to be clear about is that Google Apps is not another name for the Google Android app store (or “Google Play” as they want us to call it now). Google Apps for Business is a premium suit of 9 Google tools which can be customised for organisations specific needs.

The tools are all useful business applications and some you are most likely already familiar with such as Gmail and Google Docs. We’ll discuss the full list soon, but you might be asking yourself why you would pay to use tools which are otherwise free.

Each tool can be customised for an organisations needs in ways that the standard version of the tool cannot. A simple example is that you can have the power of Gmail (arguably the most powerful email service) with a more professional looking personalised email address such as .

All of the apps are hosted in the cloud meaning your work, emails, calendar information and other data are accessible and editable from any location with internet access. Unlike standard editions, the Business editions of apps are covered by a 99.9% uptime service level agreement, and in the unlikely event of downtime, there is a 24/7 emergency phone support service. Email support is also provided exclusively to business customers. Ads can be removed from business editions too.

Gmail
As explained above, probably the most significant addition of the business edition of Gmail is that organisations can have a customise email address. Other benefits include remote management from mobile devices, Outlook access, extra email storage, and unlimited users on the domain and customisable email filtering and security settings, such as password strength requirements.

Calendar
Scheduling team meetings is made easier with delegation sharing features in Calendar. You can share and integrate your schedule into others’ calendars or even publish yours on the web and show available appointment slots to your customers.

Drive
As cloud storage increases in popularity, Google Drive is included in Apps for business and comes with 5GB per user. If that’s not enough, it can be upgraded by another 20GB for an extra $4 per month. Files can also be shared with your team or customers. Many types of files stored in Google Drive can also be opened from within your browser.

Docs
Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations can be built and collaborated on online. This also includes interesting features you won’t find in Microsoft office such as being able to pull data directly from the web and into your spreadsheet. But at the same time Docs lacks some of the more advanced features you find in Microsoft Office and is less reliable. While it is generally agreed that for all but the most basic uses, businesses should stick with MS Office or Open Office, Docs is the best for collaborative work (assuming you don’t have Office 365 running alongside MS Office).

Sites
A website for your project can be built with Sites without requiring any coding knowledge. Pages of the website can be shared publically on the web or more selectively with team members or customers.

Groups
Sharing docs, sites, video and other information with co-workers is made easy with Groups for Business. Groups can be set up to share projects with various set groups of people quickly.

Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office
This lets you collaborate online with Office documents so you can share, backup and edit documents with co-workers.

Google Apps for Business includes all of these features for $5 per user per month or $50 yearly. Whether it is worth that or not depends on which features you will want to use and if you already have solutions in place for those. In comparison to other solutions for working remotely and collaborating, Google Apps is fairly easy to set-up and especially easy to maintain. For large businesses it might not have the robustness of Microsoft’s Exchange Server, but for small and medium businesses without the need for deeply customised methods of operation, Google Apps is a simple and cheap option.