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A look back as we move ahead: Google Apps management capabilities

Posted by Jeremy Milo, Google Apps Product Marketing Manager

Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered some of the ways that Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites have really improved over time, and in this final installment, we’re shifting our focus to how the administrative capabilities in Google Apps have grown up, too. We’re always looking to streamline how administrators can foster better teamwork, easier mobile access and a more secure environment through easy-to-use management tools.

We hope you’ll discover a few admin capabilities here that you weren’t familiar with before, or just haven’t used in some time. If you’d like to hear more about these developments for administrators, please join our webinar on September 1st (details below).

Designed for Teams
Google Apps is designed with the idea that working together should be easier, faster and more fun than working alone. Google Apps makes this simple for administrators by letting users handle many routine tasks without IT support, and by including collaborative capabilities that you’d need to purchase and manage separately with other solutions.
  • Google Sites lets employees set up private, secure workspaces ranging from team sites and project portals to intranets and status dashboards, all without burdening IT for setup help. End-users can initiate a site quickly, and don’t need any special programming skills to collaborate together on a great site.
  • User-managed groups also facilitate teamwork and take the burden off of IT. Teams can self-assemble and manage their own workgroups and mailing list aliases, so administrators don’t need to constantly keep these lists up to date.
  • Google Apps also makes it painless for organizations to have private template galleries for team-oriented sites, documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations. Administrators don’t need to hassle with setting up special template repositories, because they’re built right into Google Apps.
  • Likewise, administrators don’t need to manage servers and complex file share systems to let employees upload and distribute documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other kinds of files. Google Docs handles this without customers needing any special infrastructure on site.
  • PC-to-PC voice and video chat also comes standard with Google Apps. Instead of needing to purchase, install and manage special software and server infrastructure, these real-time communication channels are part of Gmail, and accessible from the browser.
  • Users can also make calls from Gmail to mobile and landline phones without businesses having to manage any specialized telephony technology.
  • Form and survey capabilities are also packaged with Google Apps as part of Google Docs, so it’s easy for users to collect structured responses from colleagues and external audiences, and you don’t have to license surveying software from another provider.
  • Another powerful collaboration technology included with Google Apps without any additional administrative complexity is translation functionality. Instant translation works in documents, spreadsheets and sites, and Gmail can even translate multilingual IM conversations in real-time between dozens of languages.
  • Want to provide multi-person collaboration in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint without upgrading to Office and SharePoint 2010? Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is a lightweight Office plugin that lets people work together simultaneously in these applications, without the hassles of collaborating over attachments.
  • Administrators also have the ability to fine-tune user collaboration capabilities across Google Apps. Admins can provide different applications for different groups of users, set permissions for who can email outsiders, and enforce sharing controls in documents and sites to limit information sharing beyond the organization.
  • More complex organizations with users at multiple domains can still work like a cohesive unit with multi-domain management. This feature lets people all across your organization share information seamlessly together without the traditional barriers that domain boundaries can create.
  • Finally, our 100% web applications allow administrators to see a snapshot of how their users are working together with these tools, through an intuitive collaboration dashboard integrated into the administrative control panel. You can see stats like the number of active documents, the average number of people documents are shared with and more.

Productive Anywhere
Gone are the days where supporting a new mobile platform or operating system requires a heroic effort.  With Google Apps, users just access their work from any modern browser or major mobile operating system.  We also provide administrators with tools to secure and manage mobile devices at no additional cost.
  • 100% web-based applications mean that users can access their email, calendars, documents and other applications right from their browsers, on any operating system.  This makes it much easier for administrators to support a heterogeneous OS environment without leaving any users behind.
  • Android natively supports Google Apps through a comprehensive suite of mobile apps built right into the mobile platform.  For iOS devices and Windows Mobile, Google Sync enables synchronization of email, contacts and calendar.   BlackBerry sync is also available through Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
  • To help administrators manage and secure a diverse fleet of company- and user-owned mobile devices, our mobile device management tool allows administrators to enforce mobile password requirements, remotely lock devices, and even wipe devices over the air.  Employees can also access self-service tools, like the ability to view the location of a lost phone.

Simple & Affordable
Deploying and managing Google Apps should be as easy as using Google Apps, so we’ve added tools to help businesses get started quickly, integrate with existing systems and customize the experience to their needs.
  • It all begins with a free 30-day trial that takes just a few minutes to start, and you don’t even need to put down your credit card.  If you like what you see, Google Apps for Business is a simple $5 per user per month or $50 per year. 
  • Once you begin your trial, the interactive setup wizard will guide you the process, from creating user accounts to managing mobile devices.
  • For organizations that already have IT systems in place, Google Apps plays nice with other systems through tools like Directory Sync, which can automatically provision Google Apps accounts, groups, shared contacts and more, all based on your existing user directory.
  • Some organizations deploy Google Apps to make a fresh start, while others want to bring along data from old systems to Google’s cloud.  With migration tools for Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange, and many other platforms, you can go with either transition approach.
  • You also have choice when it comes to the pace of innovation that’s right for your business.  With our new release process, you can join the Rapid Release track to get new features as quickly as possible -- often several times per week -- or choose the Scheduled Release track for a bit more time to digest changes before they roll out to users.
  • Flexibility also comes in the form of customizable administrative roles.  Delegated administration lets you assign full or partial administration rights to other users or groups, making it a snap to give teams like help desk staff the right privileges to do their jobs effectively and safely.
  • The possibilities for adding custom functionality to Google Apps are also endless.  You can select from dozens of additional Google applications, layer on integrated 3rd-party applications from the Google Apps Marketplace, write your own custom interactions between applications with Google Apps Script, or tap into a full spectrum of management and application APIs.
  • These same APIs power another essential tool: the ability to take your data and move to a different provider if we ever stop meeting your needs.  Our Data Liberation effort includes a comprehensive set of tools to help you get your information out of Google’s cloud should the need arise.

Pure & Proven Cloud
Google Apps for Business not only has an uptime guarantee, but we also provide transparency by offering a publicly available status dashboard.  In addition to our reliability efforts, we also provide administrators with options to help keep their data more safe and secure.
  • Our 99.9% uptime SLA guarantees reliable access to Google Apps, and our commitment doesn’t have any exceptions for planned maintenance.  This is because our systems are designed to handle updates without interruptions for customers.
  • Our publicly available status dashboard offers transparency about the health of our systems, and 24x7 phone and online support is there when you need it.
  • Google goes to extensive lengths to protect the customer information in our data centers, including extensive personnel background checks, security-focused processes, advanced technology, and around-the-clock physical protection.
  • Google Apps has completed a SAS 70 Type II audit, a SSAE-16 audit, and has achieved the U.S. Federal goverment’s FISMA certification.
  • With default https connections, your users’ information is encrypted as it travels from your web browser to our servers.  This helps protect your data by making it unreadable to others sharing your network.
  • Google Apps accounts can be further secured with 2-step verification, which requires users to sign in with something they know (their password) and something they have (their mobile phone).  With verification codes available via SMS, even basic mobile phones can serve as powerful authentication devices.
  • Account access can also be fortified with custom password strength requirements that administrators can tailor, and the ability to put Google Apps behind your own single sign-on infrastructure.

Customers tell us they love rapid, continuous innovation in our applications, but we’re just as focused on making the administrative experience faster, easier and more powerful over time.  I hope you found a few new management capabilities here that will make Google Apps even more useful at your organization.  Join us for a free webinar on September 1st if you’re interested in learning more about many of these improvements.

A look back as we move ahead: Google Apps management capabilities
Thursday, September 1st, 2011
9:00 a.m. PDT / 12:00 p.m. EDT