Full Speed Ahead

The Google Apps Premier Edition
by: Jerry Liao

Slowly but surely, Google is fast entering the application market and no longer just a search engine. Just recently, Google introduced a new version of its hosted services for communication and collaboration designed for businesses of all sizes – Google Apps Premier Edition. Google Apps Premier Edition is available for per user account per year, and includes phone support, additional storage, and a new set of administration and business integration capabilities.

Google Apps, launched as a free service in August 2006, is a suite of applications that includes Gmail webmail services, Google Calendar shared calendaring, Google Talk instant messaging and voice-over-IP, and the Start Page feature for creating a customizable home page on a specific domain. More than 100,000 small businesses and hundreds of universities now use the service. Google Apps Premier Edition now joins Google Apps Standard Edition and Google Apps Education Edition, both of which will continue to be offered for free to organizations.

Google also announced that all editions of Google Apps now include Google Docs & Spreadsheets. In addition, Google Apps now supports Gmail for mobile on BlackBerry handheld devices.

“Businesses are looking for applications that are simple and intuitive for employees, but also offer the security, reliability and manageability their organizations require,” said Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager, Google Enterprise. “With Google Apps, our customers can tap into an unprecedented stream of technology and innovation at a fraction of the cost of traditional installed solutions.”

Features unique to Google Apps Premier Edition include:

– 10 GBs of storage per user: Offers about 100 times the storage of the average corporate mailbox, eliminating the need to frequently delete email.

– APIs for business integration: APIs for data migration, user provisioning, single sign-on, and mail gateways enable businesses to further customize the service for unique environments.

– 99.9 % uptime: Service Level Agreements for high availability of Gmail, with Google monitoring and crediting customers if service levels are not met.

– 24×7 support for critical issues: Includes extended business hours telephone support for administrators.

– Advertising optional: Advertising is turned off by default, but businesses can choose to include Google’s relevant target-based ads if desired.

– per user account per year: Simple and affordable annual fee makes it practical to offer these applications to everyone in the organization.

In addition to Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Start Page, all editions of Google Apps now include:

– Google Docs & Spreadsheets: With this addition, teams can easily collaborate on documents and spreadsheets without the need to email documents back and forth. Multiple employees can securely work on a document at the same time. All revisions are recorded for editing, and administrative controls allow organizations to define limits on document sharing. According to custom analysis of Nielsen//NetRatings MegaPanel released this week, 92 percent of users of online productivity tools last October used Google Docs & Spreadsheets, making it the number one product in its class.

– Gmail for mobile devices on BlackBerry: Gmail for mobile devices provides the same Gmail experience such as search, conversation view and synchronization with desktop version on BlackBerry handheld devices for users of Google Apps. Gmail for mobile devices joins a list of other mobile options for Google Apps and BlackBerry users that already includes a Google Talk client and a variety of calendar sync tools.

– Application-level control: Allows administrators to adapt services to business policies, such as sharing of calendars or documents outside of the company.

To provide more options and value to customers of Google Apps Premier Edition, Google Enterprise Professional partners like Avaya and Postini are developing a variety of solutions based on our APIs, including email gateways, enhanced security, Google Calendar synchronization, third-party integration with Google Talk, as well as offering deployment, migration, and additional support services.

How this will change the landscape of the business software market will be known in the next few months. This new offering from Google is directly challenging Microsoft’s dominance in this space. Google has been preparing for this for some time now and has garnered some success already. How its competitors will respond to this move by Google is something to watch out for.

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