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Google Apps Finds a Home in Real Estate

Posted by Jim Lamb, Director of Computer Services, Ebby Halliday Realtors

Editor's note: In business since 1945, Ebby Halliday is one of the largest independent residential real estate companies in the U.S. with over 1,600 sales agents. Ebby herself, at 100 years old, is still very involved in the business and a well-known figure in the Dallas area. Ebby Halliday joins other real estate businesses like Baird & Warner and Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in going Google. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

As we approached our seventh decade of doing business, we needed to modernize our technology infrastructure to provide better communication and collaboration tools for our employees and sales agents.

Before Google Apps, we had an outdated, in-house email system, a continuing battle with spam, and a distributed base of real estate agents with no effective way to collaborate. Each user was allotted 1GB of email storage and email service was provided by a lone Unix server, a single point of failure that crashed every couple of weeks, frustrating agents. The web-based interface was slow, an ongoing source of complaints. Spammers, having tricked users into divulging passwords, would occasionally use the server to send spam, resulting in our email domain being temporarily blacklisted. Mobile functionality was sub-par in an industry that demands anytime-anywhere access.

Among the options, Google Apps was the best choice based on cost, simplicity, and functionality. With help from Google Apps partner Cima Solutions Group, we migrated email from the in-house server, trained 1,600 users, and got everyone operational within serveral months.

Being cloud-based, Google Apps is accessible from anywhere with Internet connectivity. Our agents can access their email, calendar, and contacts whether they’re at an open house, home or the office. That kind of access is key in a business where communication is essential.

Outages are no longer a worry and with each user having 25GB of storage, running out of space is a thing of the past. Spammers no longer bother us. However, the biggest benefit we've seen is the speed and functionality of Google Apps. Using Google Docs to compose a document, for example, is just as fast as using other word processors, and much simpler. Plus, the document is automatically saved every few seconds. We can continue working on the document at home, a coffee shop, or a field office. Little things like these add up to increased productivity and on the go access that's critical in this industry. Google Apps is the perfect suite of apps for the real estate industry. At Ebby Halliday we see this first-hand every day.