As a professional practice (such as a law firm, professional consultancy, accounting business or architects practice) you want to stay up-to-date and work efficiently; but at the same time, you will be very concerned about maintaining high standards of security and integrity in your migration to the cloud. In our FAQ we answer some of the questions using Google Apps in such a business and provide you with some case studies.
It's inexpensive, it's robust, it's collaborative.
Sounds good, but what does that mean?
Google Apps is the perfect fit for professional, whether you are a sole practitioner, small firm, or large firm. Most professionals are used to using Microsoft Outlook running off a Microsoft Exchange Server. But maintaining and managing the systems is expensive and difficult to use in today's dynamic environment where you're on the move all the time.
With Google Apps, you’ll get an enterprise class email system with spam protection and a 99.9% up-time guarantee. Further, with Outlook Sync, you’ll be able to continue to use Microsoft Outlook and have the ability to sync everything with Google Apps. This will give you and your partners the ability to use whatever email platform you prefer, whether that’s Outlook or Gmail.
You also have the ability to access documents (be that the Google format or the more traditional Microsoft documents like Word, Excel and PowerPoint etc) wherever you want and practically on any device. Just imagine, (security policy allowing) bumping into one of your clients informally and being able to look up their files and folders on your phone.
Security for everyone is a big issue especially in a professional practice environment where you have a duty of care towards clients. In our experience, Google apps is extremely secure. In addition, you have the option to put into place 2 factor-authentication which means that it is extremely difficult for anyone to access your accounts. (this is the sort of technology only used by the very biggest firms for example using RSA security fobs).
Google data centre networks provide exceptional security and guarantees including reliable access to data 24x7x365.25 (that’s right: no rest, even on leap years apparently).
All data is automatically backed up on Google servers. So when accidents happen – if a computer crashes or gets stolen – you could be up and running again in seconds.
Google also stores all data in at least two different data centres, so that if one datacentre, for example in Ireland is lost, one in Finland will take over. Google's policy seems to be that they understand that failures will happen so they build in multiple levels of redundancy. It's rather like a Formula One team maintaining your car, they can replace a tire in seconds which would take you as an individual minutes or hours.
Of course not every user will be happy with Google's proclamations or our assertions! You can of course back up all of your mail in a mail program - examples are:
- Apple Mail
Outlook Express/Outlook (if you use the Google apps for business Edition)
Windows Mail or
Gmail offline (which works in Google Chrome Browser)
In summary, know that Google is likely to be a lot more secure than your own systems, or indeed most of the third-party systems out there today.
It's up to you, you can use it with a normal username and password or you can secure it by using two factor authentication, which greatly reduces the risk of hackers stealing usernames and passwords. Google also automatically encrypts browser sessions with SSL for Apps users without the need for VPNs or other costly, cumbersome infrastructure. This helps protect data as it travels between the browser and Google’s data centres.
In techno speak, several banks are using this in the US because Google Apps is SSAE16/ISAE 3402 Type II SOC II audited. In Europe - BBVA Google apps is also ISO 27001 certified which is the world's most recognised International Security management system.
With Google Apps for Business, everything is automatically saved in the cloud - 100% powered by the web. This means that emails, documents, calendar and sites can be accessed and edited on almost any mobile device or tablet - all you need is a web browser. This can be anytime or anywhere. In our experience, this allows for amazing flexibility. Once you start using Cloud computing through Google, you will wonder how you managed before!
For example you may be doing a legal due diligence at client site, you may have a back-office team in another country, and you may have to share your work with reporting accountants. Instead of sending files around with multiple version numbers which have to be reconstructed by some poor administration member of staff, there is only one version in Google Docs and (one version of the truth). Of course you will be perhaps slightly concerned that you won't be able to tell whose edited what. Happily to say Google has an amazing version history - you can get provisions of documents down to the last minute and you can tell who has edited what.
In our experience, you will spend less time managing your IT infrastructure. Your co-workers and administrators always have access to the latest software, including the newest features and security updates.
Out of the box you can use Google sites to create a portal, using Google Sites. This can be also be use for document management system or say a managers and acquisitions based Data room extranet.
£33/or $50 USD per user per year. An added bonus is that running Google Apps is greener than having in-house servers so it is better for the environment too.
Does using Google Apps mean that I have to stop using Microsoft Office products (Word, PowerPoint, Excel etc)?
No, you can continue using Microsoft Office in conjunction with Google apps for Business.
Google Apps can be used to supplement existing software as well as replace it. We find that once you start using Google Docs (Google's version of Office), you will prefer the flexibility, functionality and collaborative working opportunities it offers. You will not want to use anything else!
Files get saved in something called Google Drive, your own files also get downloaded locally to your PC if you choose it to be that way.
No. If you wish to use Google for personal email or document sharing, we would recommend that you have a separate, personal account. In practice, this works well and there is a clear separation between work documents and personal documents.
Most Google tools simply require a computer or mobile device with an internet connection and a current web browser. However, not all features of each tool may be available on all platforms/browsers. For more details, check the help manual for the product you are interested in using.
Alternatively, we suggest you contact Steegle.com and we can manage the entire process for you. Along with signing you up, we can also:
- Create a project plan for you including defining roles and responsibilities.
- Keep you updated on progress with the plan.
- Help migrate email accounts and data for your users .
- Create sites that allow you to speed up administration activities
- Create Portals for you
- Train your users
Yes, there is a special team that specialises in so-called "data liberation" See http://www.dataliberation.org/home/faq
If you have ownership of the domain, you do not need to use the .gmail domain for your email addresses. You can use your own. This combined with the fact that you include professional looking autosignatures means that google apps is a truly professional solution for your organisation.
Sometimes you will need help to configure this or indeed migrate your old mail system into the Google environment. We strongly recommend using a reseller to help you on this process as there are a number of issues where are specialist help will make a big difference to the smoothness of the process.
Only by the amazing improvement in your efficiency! ..
Your logo will be built in to the web browser interface - although it looks like Gmail a client if they do catch sight of your systems, they can clearly take comfort that you're using your own systems albeit built on the Google platform.
The Google enterprise apps marketplace offers a myriad of applications which are brilliant in the professional practice. For example there are applications which link to your system to do time recording, invoice preparation, HR management, and accounting.
Here is a screenshot of the marketplace and then a video of an accounting package that links into Google Apps.
We understand that in a professional practice you may have to hold onto your email and data for 7, 10 or even more years. Google Apps has an add-on called Vault that accommodates for this as well as other tools that allow forensic searching across data.