Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Google offer free applications for your organisation

Google has long been king of the internet, but more recent ventures have seen them targeting the desktop, traditionally the realm of Microsoft and its bestselling Office apps. They have launched Google Apps for your domain which allows you to tie existing popular Google services such as Gmail and Google Talk to your own website. So for example I could switch all our users at Hiperprop across to gmail, whilst still using the hiperprop.com domain (ie my email address would still be jamie@hiperprop.com rather than jamie@gmail.com). The users would benefit from the Gmail user interface and I would not have the headache of maintaining a mailserver. None of our clients would be any the wiser.

Sounds tempting, doesn't it. Of course your users would be subject to the normal Google ads which run in the gmail space, but hey, I could live with that for the sake of no more email support calls. The only other potential drawback (as with all these online services) is that you need an internet connection to be able to access your emails or other documents. Not usually a problem, except that recently on the Costa del Sol we have experienced a fairly severe level of piss poor ISP coverage courtesy of Telefonica.

But the advantages far outweigh these rare headaches. All your documents online means a) they are available to you anywhere, from any machine and b) you never need to worry about data loss or back up procedures, since I'm guessing Google has a reasonably together sys admin team.

So have a look at what's available. It's all free BTW, (unless your requirements are bigger than most small businesses) and available applications include:

  • Gmail
  • Google Talk
  • Calendar
  • Google Page Creator - a great and easy to use web page editor, so you can change your website's content as easily as editing a word document.

Also available and well worth checking out, but not (for some reason) bundled with the above suite are:

  • Google Spreadsheets
  • Writely - an online word processing application (similar to Microsoft Word) which was purchased this year by Google.

One of the other benefits of these online apps is that they are all starting to talk to each other. For example I could have written this blog entry using Writely and then with one click published it to my blog. Or as I do now, write my blog entry in gmail and post it by email.

So is Microsoft starting to sweat? Certainly the pace of new products that come from Google labs (or technology that they buy up and then adapt) is breakneck. Fortunately Microsoft are looking to hire some real visionaries to keep up with this type of competition.

Update: had a look around at other online office alternatives and found http://www.zoho.com/

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