The shift to cloud-based technology has been the latest leap forward for the net, and Google has wasted no time in getting on top of the trend. The result is Google Apps for Business. The question for the average business owner is: is this new program worth it?

What’s on offer

There are a lot of apps on offer from Google, and not every business will want to use them all. It’s surprising just how many of them you find yourself using though, even without being an Apps for Business subscriber. Gmail, for example, is the secondary email for many office workers, and Google Docs has become a popular way to share documents for all kinds of purposes, making it an ideal way to work on the move.

The difference is really in the scope of each program when you’re on the Business plan, and the access to all sorts of extras. With Gmail, for example, Google’s angle is to replace in-house email servers. To that end, business clients are given 25 GB of storage and a better uptime service level agreement. The ability to import to Blackberry and Outlook, as well as IT admin control, are also attractive features for a business looking to offload their email server activity.

Gmail is only one of the apps on offer. Google Docs is included, as are the useful little apps you’ll find in Google Marketplace. Of more interest are apps like Google Sites, which allows you to create new pages for your intranet with ease. These are the kinds of apps that save on time, and will make the package attractive to technical minded businesses.

Google Calendar can pretty much take over from any mainstream scheduling system, and the integration with Gmail is particularly desirable. Another good feature is the ability to publish events to the Google Calendar gallery or a chosen web page. The usefulness of this feature though, remains to be seen – it could well fizzle out in terms of marketing value.

Perhaps the strongest selling point for the whole package though, is Google Cloud Connect. This app takes Google Docs and effectively puts it on steroids. Instead of the basic doc sharing system, Google Cloud Connect allows multi-user access to any uploaded document, providing all users with the most recent version. This cuts out a lot of finicky uploading and gets past the version control issue that some companies have faced with Google Docs. There is potential for mayhem with this arrangement however, so its real usefulness will depend on your team and how you integrate it within your business.

What it can do for your business

The main selling point of Google Apps for Business is that it takes a lot of work off your hands. Instead of having to organise and run your own email server, source your own scheduling software, upload new documents, manage your information architecture and so on, you can just tap into Google Apps.

Another strong selling point is the accessibility of the package. Cloud-based software offers access wherever there’s an internet connection, which for most people means whenever and wherever they get out their Smartphone. This is an incredibly strong selling point for anyone with a mobile workforce, or even just for small business owners on the go. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting back to the office after a meeting with a client, only to find you’ve missed an urgent email. Or receiving an urgent email via your phone, only to find you can’t do anything about it until you get back to the office.

In summary, Google’s offering a very nice little package indeed with Google Apps for Business. Be tempted.

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