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Google Apps For Small Business Review

By Erik Folgate

One of the most important aspects of running a small business is to keep an organized office. With a small operation, there typically isn’t a lot of money in the budget to put into an expensive IT infrastructure, and most small businesses don’t worry about it too much because their small amount of employees allows them to communicate and collaborate easily. However, email is still a huge part of the business world, shared calendars are invaluable, and collaborating on documents that are constantly changing is a big part of service-based small businesses. Google Apps offers all of those features and A LOT more. If you own a small business and you don’t want to pay $300 per MS Office license, then keep reading.

Google Apps Standard and Google Apps Premier

For small businesses with less than 50 employees, the recommended product is Google Apps Standard which is COMPLETELY free. You don’t pay a dime. It’s a pretty sweet deal for you business owners out there. The reason it’s recommended for businesses with less than 50 employees is because the free version only allows 50 Gmail hosted email addresses. For businesses with more than 50 employees, there is Google Premier that charges $50 per user, per year but it offers more space and more features. Here’s a chart to show you the differences:

Google Apps for Small Business

Advantages of Google Apps

  • It’s FREE for the first 50 users!! This works out great, because a lot of small businesses have less than 50 employees.
  • It’s cloud computing at its best. All of your email, important documents, calendars, and other project management information can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection.
  • You get all of the great advantages of Gmail such as their sweet SPAM filter and their accurate search function to easily find archived email.
  • Sharing is everywhere.  ou can make changes to a Google doc at the same time that a co-worker is making changes to it. Also, the shared calendar is a beautiful thing.
  • It’s a great solution for a company without an IT department because it’s fairly easy to set up, and it doesn’t require any hardware or software to install.

The Disadvantages of Google Apps

  • If you have a business over 50 users, they charge you $50 per user per year. That’s still not much for what you get, but it sucks for businesses with 52 employees.
  • Technical support is not personal. If something goes wrong or the Google server goes down, who do you call? Your guess is as good as mine. You pretty much just wait. However, Google rarely has outages, so this isn’t that big of a deal.
  • Google Docs may not be as feature-rich as the desktop office apps by Apple and Microsoft, but it’s getting there, and it can easily import/export the most common file formats.

My Experience With Google Apps

I’ve used Google Apps as an employees and I’ve used it with my personal freelance business to keep things organized and to help my partner and me collaborate best. I’ve set it up on my own, and if you have some basic knowledge of DNS name servers and records, it’s really not that hard to set up. I’m a big fan of the Google products, and I’m forever a fan of Gmail, so this is a no-brainer for me. I love that my business lives online rather than on one network or only on work computers. Google Docs is great because it literally allows you to work together with someone on a document without overwriting each other’s changes.

I would highly recommend that small businesses make the switch to Google Apps if they do not already have a cohesive inter-office system. Organization is key to a successful business, and what I like most about the Google Apps suite is that it all connects together. It only requires one login for each user, and it offers simplicity to your employees. Also, Google is in the works of allowing your Google Apps login to be able to be used in conjunction with a ton of their other applications like Picasa, Google Maps, Google Alerts, Google Trends, and Google Analytics, just to name a few. If you want to make the switch but you aren’t tech savvy, look for a Google Apps specialist in your area.

Have you worked directly with Google Apps or even Gmail in general? What’s your feedback on their products and features?

(photo credit: ottopress)

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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Comments

  • http://ottodestruct.com Otto

    Actually, I stole that photo from Google. :)
    http://www.google.com/events/smallbus_apps/

  • http://www.offiserv.com Mike

    Our app, OffiServ, is available in Google Apps. It supports office and administration processes.

    • Erik Folgate

      Cool Mike, we’ll check it out, thanks!

  • Chris

    here is my letter to Google. I hope that I can save others time and
    money with this information. I am not a computer guru and cannot be sure
    of the technical details that went wrong but this is based on the
    information I received along the way and google has enough information
    on my case that they can figure it out and fix it.

    To whom it concerns,

    I spent 4 weeks trying to switch to your Google Apps for
    Bus which resulted in a mess that has taken me additional weeks to clean up, so
    I am finally in a position to have time to give you productive feedback on your
    product and your team. I want to make it clear that this email is intended as a
    learning opportunity for your team and also to prevent your other clients the
    loss of finances and times that I incurred because of your product.

    1. Your Google App for Bus has great potential! If all
    the bugs were out, absolutely great product.

    2. Your support team is polite.

    3. It doesn’t work for folks like me who use folders that
    are beyond the capacity of your labels. It creates a mess beyond belief.

    4. Your support team is slow to respond once it goes to
    the second level, actually the communication was non-existent at that point.

    5. I asked for a manager to call me and in spite of being
    assured several times that they would call me, that never happened. I didn’t
    want to complain, I needed someone qualified to help me with a plan of action.
    Your managers should be readily accessible.

    6. I was left hanging for 6 days with no emails coming
    into Google. I called every day and was told that the 2nd level support would
    call me that day. Never got that phone call.

    7. My labels were a mess and no one had suggestions for
    helping me out of that. Couldn’t use Google because it was so slow.

    8. Migration to Google failed and messed up the synch to
    Outlook. For 4 weeks, I had to work out of my old Outlook and new Outlook and
    continue checking slow Google for what was not synching.

    1. I lost 12 hrs worth of emails that were never recupped.

    2. I lost 4 weeks worth of work and personal time trying
    to make the application work then getting my system back the old way.

    3. I spent $770 hiring a computer specialist in an attempt
    to make the application work then to get my system back the old way. $770!!! To
    get nothing!

    4. I lost emails in the course of the 4 weeks which in my
    case means losing clients/business.

    Suggestions

    1. Please put a warning to your clients that if they use
    a folder system, they are not likely to succeed at this point, but if they want
    to try it, they should have a computer specialist do it. I can recommend a
    fabulous one!

    2. Fix the bugs so we can all use your product.

    3. Get back to clients who are running a business and
    thus making a living with emails within 12-24 hrs with productive result.

    4. Have the 2nd level tech support communicate directly
    with the clients on a daily basis.

    5. Have the managers readily accessible with no paperwork
    to fill out. Your clients should never have to wait for a manager to call back.

    6. Admit when you are stumped in a timely manner and cannot
    help so your client can switch gears in a timely manner.

    Again, I run a small business since 2001 and frankly this
    was the worst experience I have ever had in dealing with another company. I
    think your product has great potential but needs much improvement and in the meantime,
    please be clear on whom can and cannot use it. Your tech support communications
    and level of experience are fair at best. The team approach I heard so much
    about is not yet working effectively. The only plus in all this is having met a
    skilled, timely computer specialist.

    Sincerely

  • Dlevine

    Google Apps for Business would be a great product if they did not change code on the back end that makes the product unusable. I have spent hours trying to figure out why mail was being held in a distribution group only to find out that google groups thinks my internal domain users are spamming each other.

    There was a calendar issue with iphone that took months to fix.

    I would stay away from google apps if you are looking for a stable mail product. I have been using the product for over 2 years and can’t wait to move off of it.

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