What is Google Apps and how does it work?Google Apps is a suite of cloud-based productivity applications that you can access from any computer with an Internet connection, at any time. The data and the applications themselves are run from Google's data centers. Several versions of Google Apps are available: free, standard, education, non-profits and government (see below for more information).Which tools are included are included in Google Apps and what do they do? \nThe Google Apps Suite includes six tools.\n-Gmail is Google's e-mail platform, and allows you 25GB of storage. (For more, read: Google Docs Quick Tip: Uploads and Storage Basics.)\n-Google Calendar,an agenda management tool, lets you schedule and share \nonline calendars, and synchs to your mobile device. \n-Google Docs is a group of tools that lets you create documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations. \n-Google Groups are user-created groups where you can generate and manage mailing lists, enable content sharing and create searchable archives. \n-Google Sites is a tool that creates webpages for intranets and team-managed sites. These webpages are secure and coding-free. \n-Google Video is a private, secure hosted video sharing tool. \n\n[Take a look at "5 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With Google Apps"\u2014a look at some of Google Apps' coolest hidden features.]How is Google Apps different from Gmail tools? If you have a free Gmail account, you're probably familiar with many of the tools listed above. The Google Apps Premier Edition, however, has a few differences.1. Because Google Apps is for your business, you will sign up with your own company domain instead of the email@example.com address. There is an IT administrative control panel built into Google Apps for your business where an IT admin can manage and control the user accounts across your domain.2. A few business-oriented features are available only to Premier Edition customers. These include increased access controls so your company is in charge of how your information is shared outside of your domain; increased Gmail thresholds and improved mailing list capabilities; higher storage quotas; scheduling of conference rooms and other shared resources in your office through Google Calendar; and the ability to share internal videos with your company.Which Google Apps edition is right for me?\nGoogle Apps Premier Edition is the version intended for businesses. With the Premier Edition, businesses have:\n-A 30-day free trial period\n-A 99.9% uptime guarantee as a service level agreement\n-Enhanced technical support through expedited e-mail and 24\/7 phone assistance for critical issues\n-Advanced spam and virus filtering beyond what you see in standard Gmail filtering\n-Outgoing message policy enforcement\n-Message archiving and compliance\n-Integration APIs so you can integrate Google Apps with your existing IT environment\n-Professional service partners for deployments and custom solutions.\nFour other versions of Google Apps are specifically designed to meet the needs of specific groups. These include: Google Apps for Education; Google Apps Standard Edition, intended for small groups such as clubs, families or sports teams; Google Apps for Non-profits; and Google Apps for Government.What do I need to know about privacy and security?\nA few key points about Google Security: \n\t-Google does not own your data, you do. \n\t-Google employees will only access your data when an administrator grants \npermission for troubleshooting purposes. \n\t-Your data will be stored in Google's network of data centers. Only authorized \nselect Google employees have access to these data centers. \n\t-Google keeps your data for as long as you want, and it deletes the data when you \nask.\nFor more information on Google Apps security and privacy, click here.Will I save money by switching to Google Apps? If your business is currently running on Microsoft Exchange 2007, you can determine if your business will save money by switching to Google Apps by visiting this Google site. How can I try out Google Apps? You can sign up for a free, 30-day trial of Google Apps here.Have you checked out Google Labs lately? Read, "5 (More) Google Labs Projects that Should Be on Your Radar."]How much does it cost?Google Apps Premier Edition costs $50 per user account, per year. (Note that one user account is considered to be one e-mail inbox, not one domain.) Google does not offer discounts on volume or bulk purchases. If your business requires additional archiving, you can add Google Message Discovery to your Google Apps Premier Edition account after signing up. This costs $14 per user account, per year for 1 year of archiving; or, $33 per user account per year for up to 10 years of archiving. What is the Google Apps Marketplace?The Google Apps Marketplace offers thousands of products and services\u2014such as installable apps that integrate with Google Apps\u2014for Google users. There's a mix of both paid and free applications from which to choose. \nStaff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.