Nearly a year after rolling out Google+ to business customers, Google is launching a new set of Google+ features just for businesses.
"We're witnessing how Web-based collaboration and social tools have dramatically changed the way people connect," Clay Bavor, project management director for Google Apps, writes in the Official Google Enterprise Blog. "Whether you're across the street or across the world, you can hold face-to-face meetings, share updates with colleagues and friends and work on a presentation together in real time.
Google Apps enterprise customers can access the Google+ business features for free through the end of 2013. Google says that it has "a lot more planned for the coming months," including a mobile version of Google+ for enterprise users and more administrative controls.
Beginning today, business customers can share privately, access integrated video meetings and set specific administrative controls. Here's a deeper look into these three new features and tips for using them.
1. Private Sharing in Google+
Much like how you restrict your posts to certain circles or people in your personal Google+ account, you can do the same in Google Apps. Restricted posts are private to your organization and can't be reshared with anyone outside it, protecting information that may be confidential. Similarly, you can share a post with specific partners or colleagues outside the organization if you choose.
To set the sharing restrictions for your post, click the drop-down arrow in status update box. Here, you can choose to either restrict the post to your organization (denoted by a building icon) or allow external sharing. If your business restricts sharing by default, you'll see a warning.
2. Integrated Google Hangout Video Meetings
Starting today, you can also add a Hangout to a Calendar event, which lets attendees join the meeting directly from the invite or Calendar entry.
Adding a video call to a Calendar invite is easy: Click "Create" to open a new invite form, enter in your details such as the description of the meeting, location and guests, then click "Add a Google+ hangout" next to "Video Call." Meeting recipients will be sent the invite with a link to the hangout.
3. Google+ Administrative Controls
To ensure that users share only with those they intend, Google+ admins can now set companywide defaults for post restrictions and restrict access to Hangouts.
Default sharing restrictions are available only to organizations with Google+ premium features and control whether your users' posts can be shared outside your organization. If a post restricts external sharing, those who received it can't share it with people outside your organization.
To set a default sharing restriction, sign into your admin control panel. Go to Settings > Google+ > Org Settings. Then, under "Sharing posts," choose either unrestricted or restricted and click "Save changes."
A few things to note: Although you can set a default sharing restriction, your users can override it for individual posts. Also, right now, if you choose to restrict posts by default, your users won't be able to access their Google+ account from the Google+ mobile app. Lastly, if you later deactivate Google+ premium features, sharing restrictions on existing posts will remain but won't be applied to new posts.
Restricting access to Hangouts is similar: Sign in to the Google Apps admin control panel, click the Settings tab, then select Google+ in the left column. In the Org Settings tab, select the organization for which you want to set the Hangouts option.
Google recommends selecting the top-level organization to enforce the same settings for everyone. You can also specify different settings for each unit.
If you don't restrict Hangouts to your organization by default, anyone who has the URL to the Hangout can join, including anyone outside the organization, as long as it's not full. If you do restrict Hangouts by default, people within your organization can join with just the URL, but people outside must be invited.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com