Supercharge Your Business with Google Apps

All businesses need basic services such as e-mail hosting, document sharing, and file editing. The ways to set up these functions vary greatly, however--pick the wrong method, and you'll waste time and money.

By Zack Stern
Wed, August 25, 2010

PC World — All businesses need basic services such as e-mail hosting, document sharing, and file editing. The ways to set up these functions vary greatly, however--pick the wrong method, and you'll waste time and money.

Google Apps FAQ
Understanding What Google Apps Is (And Isn't)

For example, you don't need to cover the costs of your own server, since the various Google Apps for businesses shift these tools into the cloud. Plus, the online approach makes your organization more mobile, since it allows you and your staff to connect from any computer and from most smartphones.

Google's (GOOG) offerings for businesses differ from the company's consumer applications. But that's just the beginning. In this article I'll reveal tips and tweaks that can supercharge Google's tools to improve your business's productivity. Whether you are just beginning to explore Google Apps or are already a subscriber, these tricks will help you get the most from the services.

Google Apps Collaboration Tools

In addition to handling your e-mail, Google Apps can help people in your business collaborate. Many tools are available, covering everything from scheduling to document creation to videoconferencing. And though you save everything in the cloud, Google maintains good security to protect your data.

Google Calendar can help you keep appointments and share scheduling with groups. The business service is similar to the consumer version, but oriented toward clusters of employees. You'll be able to share workday details with coworkers so that they know when you're free for a possible meeting, for instance. The tool can send meeting invitations and update itself as recipients verify their attendance.

Google Docs imports and edits basic office-suite files, including .doc, .ppt, and .xls files in its word processor, presentation tool, and spreadsheet app, respectively. Multiple staffers can share documents, each person editing them without worrying about losing someone else's changes (as they might when downloading and uploading documents to a file server). Google keeps a complete history of each contributor's updates, and colleagues can even edit files at the same time. This setup can serve as a great group note-taking space for a conference call or during a presentation.

Google Sites, available in each edition of Google Apps, acts as an intranet Website. You can use it as a company bulletin board for everyone, store HR policies, highlight an upcoming event, or otherwise organize information. Google Sites and Google Docs can store any document type, so you can use them for simple file sharing, too.

Google Groups, available in the Premier Edition, acts as a center point for collaboration. Groups allow staffers to send messages within mailing lists at your company, such as a sales-team list. In addition, members can share a calendar and documents as a group. When new people join the group, they gain access to the message history as well as to the rest of the information, so that they can get up to speed with in-progress plans.

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