Today, more than 3 million businesses run Google Apps, and that number grows every day. With the popular web-based hosted solution, businesses essentially place all data and workflow in the cloud in lieu of using traditional business IT and desktop software.
In simple terms: Businesses can access their data and information anywhere, anytime with just an Internet connection. There’s no IT infrastructure to maintain since all IT applications are hosted on the Web.
And at $50 a year for the Premier version (Google Apps offers a free Standard version for up to 50 accounts), it’s a cost-effective solution for even the smallest business.
As part of Google Apps, Google offers a host of relevant tools for small businesses. We spoke with several small businesses leveraging Google Apps to find out which applications are most useful to them.
With Gmail for Business, rather than having a firstname.lastname@example.org email address, you can create company email addresses like email@example.com. Gmail for Business also offers enhanced features over the standard Gmail service, including improved mailing list capabilities and increased mail thresholds.
Cory Huff, a social media consultant and digital strategist in Portland, Ore., syncs his professional email addresses with his Gmail account to manage, sort and keep all his emails in one location. “Gmail is command central for my business,” he says. “I use Google Tasks to convert my emails into tasks to get done, take a quick look at my calendar and chat with collaborators using Google Talk.”
In addition, because Gmail syncs to his desktop, Huff can work on emails even when he has no Internet access.
All appointments and events across a business can be kept in sync with Google Calendar. Through calendar sharing, employees can view each other’s calendars—or one person can view and manage everyone’s schedules.
Michael Mogill, owner and founder of ATL Nightlife in Atlanta, relies on Google Calendar to share multiple calendars (e.g., events or meetings) that are specific to different users. For example, the team of photographers and videographers can view upcoming media events, while the management team can view upcoming meetings.
“Google Calendar is also easily synched across all of our devices, including desktop applications and mobile devices,” he says.
The most beneficial application for Ted Gorsline, president of MobileVantage in Ontario, Canada, is Google Docs. The tool enables Web-based documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations to be shared and edited by users at the same time.
“As we move customers through the sales pipeline, there are several documents that must be produced in order to record account changes, demonstrate tangible results to the client, display costs and so on,” he says. “With Google Docs, we have ready-to-go templates of these important documents in a place where we can all read and edit them easily and quickly.”
Another bonus of Google Docs is its synchronization with mobile devices, Gorsline says. “Whether it’s my iPhone or my partner’s Blackberry, we are able to view, edit and upload documents to our shared Google account, use our Gmail contacts when we’re on the go, and create and be reminded of events and meetings,” he says. “The features and functionality have been instrumental in making our business more productive and efficient.”
Corina Kellam, founder of Life History Books Ltd. in New York, leverages Google Voice, which gives users a single phone number that can be used anywhere around the world. So no matter where Kellam is, and what phone she is calling from, it appears that she’s calling from a set location.
But Google Voice’s online voicemail feature is what really sold her. Kellam maintains an IP phone through Yahoo! When she’s on a call and a second one goes to voicemail, her Yahoo! number forwards to her Google Voice number, and voicemails are automatically transcribed and emailed to her.
“Because of Google Voice’s transcription service, I’m able to get people’s messages to me hours earlier than if I had to wait until I got a chance to listen to the audio file that Yahoo! sends me,” she says. “I get back to missed calls so much faster now that I have Google Voice.”