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What are the Free Google Apps Tools?

Find out how the free version of Google Apps can help you with your work.

By
Aliza Sherman,
August 14, 2009
Episode #066

 

Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

I want to talk about Google Apps. Not just any Google applications but the suite of tools that Google has organized for businesses and work teams. I'm going to cover the free Standard version of Google Apps in this podcast but in a future one, I'll talk about the paid premium version.

What is Google Apps?

I'm a firm believer in using the best tools available to get a job done. Sometimes those tools cost money, and other times, they're free. If you're looking for a virtual workspace, it seems that you'd want to cover communications, coordination, and collaboration. Google Apps easily covers these three main types of actions. And just so you know, I haven't accepted any bribes from Google to talk about their products.

As I mentioned a few moments ago, Google Apps comes in two flavors: - Standard, which is free and Premium, which is free for 30 days and then costs $50 per user per year after the free trial ends.

What is the Standard Version of Google Apps?

The Standard version accommodates up to 50 users and starts with four basic features:

  • Google Mail or Gmail to handle internal and external communications with a custom email using your own domain name.
  • Google Calendar to handle coordinating schedules.
  • Google Docs to handle document and presentation collaboration and sharing.
  • Google Sites to easily produce wiki-style web sites for collaboration and knowledge base archives.

You can add on additional features as needed, but at some point, you may end up needing features only offered at the premium level.

When you set up your free Google Apps Standard account, you can enter your own domain name or buy it through Google for $10/year.

Google Apps also includes a Mobile feature to access everything from your mobile device and also sync to your device. You can add Chat to communicate with your team or group via IM and Contacts to help your group members find and organize relevant contacts and groups.

Who Can Use Google Apps?

Signing up for Google Apps is simple to do, but who might benefit from using it? The answer is many people and groups such as

  • Any virtual team working on projects together - Google Apps can help them be more unified.
  • Any club or ad hoc organization - Google Apps can help create some structure to get things done in a more organized fashion.
  • Any organization looking for affordable solutions could use Google Apps.

Really, the possibilities are endless for who might benefit from using this integrated communications and collaboration system.

Why Use Google Apps?

Some of the main reasons why you might want to use Google Apps include

You want to build a community of people, whether for business or for fun;

You want to communicate and collaborate with people who all have different email and computer systems;

You want to use several different tools and want to make sure they are all compatible with one another; or

You're looking for a free solution that can handle a large number of people as your group grows.

Once you set up your account, you can set up users, and each person will have their own custom email with your domain name. You can also set up groups, which are handy for bringing together only certain people within the larger group who have more specific communications needs.

How I Use Google Apps

My own company's virtual team has just started using Google Apps as a way to manage our emails with the company domain name, to share our calendars with one another, to work on documents together, and to create quick reference web pages for each client project we're working on so our team can have key information at their fingertips.

So here is how Google Apps fits into our virtual landscape:

Everyone on the team uses their company email so we can easily track our conversations. It's taken me a while to wean clients off of my personal email address but having the separation has helped me prioritize my email responses.

We are having more and more recurring conference calls so we use Google Calendars to invite participants and also to share and view one another's calendars so we can pick optimal time slots. I then have Google Calendars sync with my iCal on my desktop and my iPhone so I can get reminders and pop-up messages whenever I have something scheduled.

When we have documents that need to be shared with multiple people who need to add their two cents, we post them on Google Docs. This includes spreadsheets where we track social media statistics and lists of resources.

After we sign a contract with a client, I create a quick reference Google Site that includes the new client contact information, our team members working on the project, a list of the contracted deliverables to the client, and quick links to their various existing sites and the sites we develop for them.

Everything we do through Google Apps is compatible for Mac and PC, and I've set it up so it limits access to our team members only. This isn't a high level of security, but it's helpful to make sure information doesn't get accidentally passed around outside the group. You can also set your Apps to be more open if you choose. And if you're currently using Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes, you can easily switch over.

Bottom Line: Though Google Apps isn't the only communications or collaboration solution out there, it does offer a robust solution for a pretty large number of users, and it's easy to use. Plus, you can't get more affordable than free.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

You can also book me, your humble podcaster, for your next event as a keynote speaker or lecturer on topics related to digital marketing and social media. Visit Macmillanspeakers.com/alizasherman for more information.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty!

Resources

Google Apps Standard - http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/group/index.html

Google Apps Premium - http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/index.html

Google Apps Demo - http://www.google.com/a/cpanel/sample/new?hl=en

Google Apps image courtesy of Google Images

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