Google Apps for Work – Rapid Collaboration

By: Elizabeth Bookspan

Google Apps for Work  – Blacktip’s Perspective

[This is part two in a four-part series]

Google Apps for Work (GAfW) makes collaboration simple. It has a bevy of tools from email to calendaring, document creation to file management and much more. Blacktip has been a GAfW partner for over five years. To say that we are experts in the service is a mild understatement.

What makes GAfW an amazing toolset is its ability to automate process. When you leverage the Google Apps platform inside of Google Chrome is where you can really make the “suite” sing. Let’s cite some examples:

  • From within Gmail, you have the ability to link to Google Drive files, set permissions (who can read or edit the file) and then send this email message, negating the traditional “file attachment.” Otherwise known as: stop clogging up the interwebs with your large files…
  • From within Gmail you can start a conversation via a Google Hangout and then immediately collaborate on a Google document within that Hangout.
  • From within Google Calendar you have access to many different Chrome extensions, from HighFive or RingCentral, where you can schedule virtual meetings or conference calls. Example:

High Five Video Conferencing

And there are many more examples. Many articles have been written on the extended capabilities of Google Apps for Work.

As we said, GAfW is a platform. For example, when you leverage your Google Apps login, you can link many services, providing even further integrations:

From an Administration perspective, the Google Apps Admin console enables folks like Blacktip to easily manage, deploy and setup Google Apps for Works accounts with minimal effort. However, Blacktip takes administration to the next level, leveraging BetterCloud. This tool provides for easy provisioning, email signature management and more.

When it comes to document creation and management, Google Drive makes life a breeze. First, Google Drive is a storage and sync tool, similar to Dropbox and Box.com. The value here is that you no longer need to spend money on those services, as each user within GAfW receives an account. Further, each user receives 30GB of combined Gmail/Drive storage, which is plenty for most users.

You can make Google Drive your own with custom colors as well as defining your overall file hierarchy. Further, you can see the latest activity across all files within your Google Drive.

Here is an example:

Visual of Google Drive Colors

 

Some tips for Google Drive:

  1. Native Google Documents (Docs, Spreadsheets, Presentations) do not count against your storage. Only other formats (PDFs, Microsoft Office files, movies, etc) count toward your individual storage limits.
  2. Upgrade to Google Apps Unlimited and you’ll have exactly what the name says – unlimited storage.

Weaknesses of Google Apps for Work

Gmail. Yes, one of the most powerful components with GAfW is also one of the biggest challenges for most users. Gmail eschews the traditional folder structure with a fancier “label” mechanism. Further, there is no sorting in Gmail. You may only search. This can be a show-stopper for many.

Hangouts. Although it works on every platform, its still not as smooth of an experience as other similar tools (Slack, being a key example).

Drive. For the most part, native files exported out of Google Drive round-trip to their major counterparts (Docs -> Word, Spreadsheets -> Excel, etc.). However, there can be some visual fidelity loss

Presentations. It doesn’t hold a candle to Apple Keynote or Microsoft Powerpoint. Many features are missing and overall usability is clunky.

Summary

Ultimately, Google Apps for Work has a lot of value, given the cost. You’re looking at $5/user/month for the basic account and $10/user/month for Unlimited. You make some trade-offs in usability (Gmail, Presentations) for the amazing flexibility of the overall platform. Is this collaboration suite right for you? Hang tight until Part 3, as we’ll discuss Microsoft Office 365 and its features.

There is much overlap between the two platforms, although each on does have its own unique capabilities. Stay tuned…