Google Apps for Business – A First Look

14 Apr

With IT costs being one of the biggest costs of the company, and not my wages unfortunately, Im always looking into ways of saving money and making the company more efficient and profitable.

Stuff like the Exchange Server, Exchange CAL’s, Office and Outlook Licences etc all add up, to quite a lot as it goes. I have a domain name which I don’t use, it’s basically the one for the parent company of the company I work for, so it was ideal to use to test out Google Apps. There is not only the cost of the Licences for a lot of this, but also keeping it up to date and then of course backing it all up. Some of you who have read my previous posts may be wondering why I would even look at this after spending a long time getting everything virtualised in the office, including Exchange. Well, I am wondering too, lol, but I learnt a lot doing the virtualisation, and now I can learn a bit more by trying out what Google has to offer.

Google Apps for Business basically offers Email (via Gmail), Calendars, Documents (similar to Office etc), Groups, Sites (intranets etc) and a heap of other stuff and its all stored up in the ‘cloud’. They (Google) then look after all the hardware required, spam filtering, backups and uptime, I just need to make sure my internet connection works. I guess if I do opt for this long term then the money saved on M$ licenses, can then be spent on another, or better primary internet connection at the office. I’m currently running the free version, but will soon upgrade to the 30 day free trial of the premier edition (this requires a credit card). The premier edition offers SLA’s, support, 25GB of email storage the ability to link in M$ Outlook (Mail, Calendar, Contacts etc) and a few other bits. There’s a few nice videos here for you to have a gander at.

It all seems pretty powerful, and at $50 per user per year the cost isn’t bad either. I guess there are of course pros and cons. (There’s a great article here on it) Lets see:

Pros:

  • Should be cheaper than Exchange plus all the CAL’s, even at $50 per user per year.
  • Remote workers (and those working from home when their S2000 can’t cope with the snow) will also have far better and easier access.
  • Hopefully a huge amount of my workload will be reduced and mission critical applications such as email will no longer be purely my responsibility.

Cons:

  • The lack of control I have over this, if there is a problem, there is nothing i can do to fix it.
  • I’m 99% sure my bandwidth usage is going to increase aswell, although it has decreased significantly since installing WSUS.
  • No Public Folders
  • No Out of Office
  • No Multiple Signatures
  • No Notes or Tasks
  • No RSS Feeds
  • No Shared Mailboxes

So, I signed up and then set about configuring the DNS for the domain. Firstly I had to add a CNAME entry to prove that I owned the domain (This was google followed by a unique code which pointed to google.com). I then went about adding CNAME’s for all the apps, such as mail., docs., sites. and calendar., these all pointed to ghs.google.com. I would guess that the ghs.google.com checks the referral to work out where to then point you to. You don’t need to add in these CNAME’s, but I think it will be a lot easier for my users to remember than the default, http://mail.google.com/a/domain.com. After that I added in all the MX records for the mail, all 7 of them, so I shouldn’t ever lose any mail. I also have an A record for the public website at www.

Here’s a shot of my DNS right now:

I’ve also downloaded GoogleTalk which i’ll be having a play with. I currently use MSN, IRC, AIM and Skype quite a bit to chat with colleagues all around the world, but maybe, just maybe we can all use just one program, it would make my life a lot easier.

It takes a bit of time for Google to check that the DNS is all ok and I’ve got footy tonight so I need to leave a bit early, so I’ll get back onto this tomorrow although my initial feelings are that without the basic features (Public Folders, OoO etc) this is a no go.