The event started with Rajen Sheth, Senior Product Manager for Google Apps, making the case for why businesses should move their IT systems to the cloud to a panel of CIOs. Check out his presentation and leave a YouTube comment to let us know if you're convinced.
Posted by Kevin Gough, Google Apps Team
So what can you do the next time you're bracing yourself for that long flight? Well, we've been cooking up a feature in Gmail Labs, our testing ground for Gmail features, that should help: offline Gmail. If you enable offline access, Gmail will load in your browser even when you don't have an Internet connection. You can read messages, star, label and archive them, compose new mail and more. Messages ready to be sent will wait in your Outbox until you're online again.
Remember, we're still working out kinks, which means you might see some issues that aren't completely ironed out. But this is a major step along the way. It's built on the Gears platform, which has already been used to offline-enable Google Docs, Google Reader, and a number of other third-party web applications.
So if you're feeling lucky, here's how to get started with offline Gmail:
- Sign in to Gmail and click 'Settings'.
- Click the 'Labs' tab and select 'Enable' next to 'Offline Gmail'.
- Click 'Save Changes.'
- In the upper righthand corner of your account, next to your username, there will be a new 'Offline' link. Click this link to start the offline synchronization process.
Standard Edition users can follow these instructions immediately, while Premier and Education Edition users will first need their domain admins to enable Gmail Labs from the Google Apps admin control panel.
Watch this overview video of offline Gmail:
Update, 2/3/09: We noticed that some people couldn't find the offline option in their Gmail Labs settings last week. To clarify, when we launch new features in Google Apps, we typically do a gradual release. Instead of making the new feature available to all Apps users at once, we make the new feature available to all Apps users over the course of a few days. This is what we did with the new offline option in Gmail, and we're happy to let you know that as of last Friday, this feature is now available to all Google Apps users who have Labs activated in their Gmail settings.
Posted by Joyce Sohn, Google Apps Marketing Manager
In November 2008 a large source of the world's spam, the McColo network, was taken offline. Prior to that, spam levels had been holding relatively constant. But when McColo went offline, we saw spam drop by 70% compared with previous levels. However, spammers are recovering with vigor.
While spam is still down overall, it's important to note its rate of growth. Spam levels are up by 156% since November 2008. As spammers recover, the increased rate of spam growth will likely have total spam volumes back to pre-McColo levels within a few months.
Although McColo received a lot of attention, the highest volume of spam in 2008 actually came on April 23, which was an all-time high spam level for Google Message Security data centers. That day, the average number of spam messages blocked per user was 194. This peak was driven by an unprecedented number of non-delivery receipt (NDR) attacks we saw in April. One customer who was the target of a specific NDR attack said that their users were receiving an average of 100 emails every minute.
As spammers fill the void left by McColo, it's reasonable to anticipate a decreasing rate of growth as spam reaches November 2008 levels. However, since the November levels weren't even the peak for the year, and since spammers appear to be quickly recovering, the question remains: Where will spam volume top out in 2009? Will it be near the November 2008 level? the April 2008 level? Or higher?
One way to approach that question might be to compare 2008 overall levels with previous years. Spam threats rose visibly in 2008, reflecting the overall trend of rising attacks. Even with the drop in November 2008, spam levels climbed 25% over 2007. Our statistics show that the average unprotected user would have received 45,000 spam messages in 2008 (up from 36,000 in 2007). All indicators suggest this trend will continue as virus, malware, and link-based attacks become both more frequent and more ingenious.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2009, we expect viruses sent via email and in blended attacks (email and web) to continue to be a serious threat. During the second half of 2008, virus volume increased six-fold from the first half of the year. These spam messages would often try to fool users by mimicking legitimate emails such as package tracking notifications or invoices that included virus attachments. Another popular technique in 2008 was emailing spoofed news alerts with URLs that would link to a website hosting the virus.
We can also expect that viruses and malware will continue to be a key tool and area of focus for spammers to upgrade their platforms. Even though virus attachment volumes have been low so far this year, we expect spammers to work hard to rebuild their networks to replace what was lost in the McColo shutdown.
Of course, the only thing we can really say with certainty about 2009 is that spam and viruses will continue to be unpredictable. And given that uncertainty, virus detection and blocking technologies become even more important. Last year we released advanced new anti-virus heuristics that specifically targeted zero-hour vulnerability (the period of time between when a new virus enters the wild and the release of the anti-virus signature file). When the zero-hour protection identifies a suspicious message, the message is scanned using the new anti-virus heuristics, and if confirmed as a virus, the message is quarantined.
The chart below is an example of our new heuristic virus detection and blocking at work. On October 1, 2008, our automated technology detected a viral message pattern (later identified as new strain of the Downloader-AAP!zip) in the wild and started quarantining messages with this virus. Five hours later we received the new virus signature file from one of our anti-virus partners and the signature-based blocks began to take effect.
As seen from the roller-coast ride of spam and viruses in 2008, spam has again demonstrated its resiliency. Despite eliminating a major source, spam keeps coming back. Spammers are re-investing with increasing speed to evolve their systems into decentralized, harder-to-detect ecosystems. If you'd like to know more about Google's anti-spam solution for businesses, visit us at www.google.com/a/security.
Posted by Amanda Kleha, Google Message Security Team
Editor's note: We're pleased to welcome SADA Systems, Inc. to this blog to talk about how they used Google sites to create and maintain their homepage, www.sadasystems.com. SADA is a Google Apps Authorized reseller and – as experts in mail migration, Google Apps integration, and custom development – has served customers including Planet Beach, Kaiser Permanente, LaBrea Bakery, and many others with a variety of IT services.
Isaac Brown, today's guest blogger, works at SADA as a Business Analyst and Content Writer. Isaac makes regular contributions to the company blog, "SADA Speaks," as well as creating content for SADA's web clients.
I'd been working as a Business Analyst with SADA Systems for two years when we made the decision to build our new website with Google Sites. From the day I started with SADA, there was always talk about redesigning our website. We had plenty of reasons: making it easier to update content, re-architecting the website structure, adding functions, and more. Whatever the reason, developing a new website is time-consuming, and to keep up with client projects, SADA's website redesign was pushed back several times.
But our team knew that we really needed to do this, and do it in a way that would let anyone at SADA make updates – even if they had no coding or technical training. SADA had been using Google Sites to collaborate with clients on their projects, including everything from websites to large IT deployments. As we used it, we started to get the idea that it could be used for more than a repository for project documents and notes.
Our first major Google Sites project was the creation of a knowledge base for one of our Google Apps clients. We had already created a similar resource using a popular open-source wiki solution. Using the existing knowledge base, developed in an open-source solution as a template, we migrated information from it into Google Sites. Development of the new knowledge base took about half the time of the original project.
It was then that Tony Safoian (president and CEO of SADA) realized that we could use Google Sites to create our website, and advocated for us to get started. I have to admit we were skeptical at first. Since website development is a core SADA competency, we didn't think anything but traditional coding would get the job done. Our web team thought, "A company who has designers and developers on staff, using Google Sites for our website?" And of course, we had some tradeoffs to figure out:
- Google Docs allow you to edit CSS, but Google Sites does not
- Text formatting works differently than with coded design
- Very fast updates
- Pre-formatted tools that made tasks like embedding YouTube videos, or creating a table of contents a breeze
- Quick-formatting page text
We feel confident in telling our clients that now that SADA has developed our website in Google Sites we can do the same for them. If their needs specify having:
- A content-rich website
- The ability to make their own updates
- A website developed in a short period of time
This doesn't mean SADA's custom web development will be going away. We will still provide "hand coded" web development to clients who need a heavily customized or demanding website, but from our experience working with Google Sites I feel comfortable in saying that SADA can use it as a unique and powerful tool to develop websites in the cloud.
About SADA Systems, Inc.: SADA Systems, Inc. is a privately held information technology consulting, outsourcing, and development firm founded in 2000. SADA works with its client base to develop innovative technology solutions to business challenges. SADA designs, delivers, deploys and supports a holistic, cutting-edge suite of best-of-breed technologies. This allows organizations to leverage Information Technology to achieve new levels of effectiveness, efficiency, and collaboration. SADA is headquartered in North Hollywood, CA, but participates in projects world-wide. For more information, visit http://www.sadasystems.com.
Posted by Serena Satyasai, Google Apps Team
- Make your search box easy to find. People don't like to have to search for search! Show pride in your search and put it front and center - or at the very least, make sure it's immediately visible when visitors arrive at your site. Check out retrospect.com for a great example.
- Make sure search is always available. The sun should never set on your search box. As visitors navigate across your site, your search box should be accessible at all times. This will ensure visitors can explore all that your site has to offer, and instantly seek out the pages they need.
- Customize the appearance of search to fit your site. Think of your search box as the ambassador of all the pages beyond your homepage. You want to greet visitors with a search box that shares the same design principles and colors they'll encounter throughout your site - it doesn't have to look just like Google!
- Experiment. For many, it makes sense to keep it simple: one box, one search button. If you have distinct categories of information, though, it may be worthwhile to try adding buttons to help visitors narrow their searches right from the get-go. You may even want to add your own "I'm feeling lucky" button.
- Be open to feedback. It's important to do what's right by your users. As you design and position your search box, it can never hurt to ask for thoughts. Use this as an opportunity to ask for user feedback generally about your site. One other piece of advice: keep it fun! Offer a t-shirt, or a search trophy - you can even use a Google Spreadsheet Form to make collecting feedback quick and easy.
- Learn what users are looking for. Though we are relentless in our pursuit of a perfect search, we realize there's a lot to gain from user feedback and interaction. Often if a user doesn't immediately find what they're looking for, it has to do with the particular keywords they're using, and how these words relate to your site. To help get users where they're going, it's always good to provide a 'Didn't find what you were looking for?' link at the bottom of your search results to allow your site visitors to contact you. Additionally, Google Analytics can help you track what users are searching for at a macro-level, and what they are and aren't finding in the process.
- Let visitors know who's got your back. It's entirely up to you, but we've heard that if you add a "Powered by Google" logo next to your search bar, visitors are more likely to use search to find what they're looking for.
Posted by Nicholas Weininger, Software Engineer
Our rapid population increase also put a strain on other parts of our city infrastructure. On the IT side of things, spam emails were overwhelming our security systems and our email server required constant maintenance. With only one IT person (me!) serving 185 city employees, I spent a lot of time trying to ensure our IT infrastructure was keeping up with our growing needs for fast and effective communications and easy-to-use collaboration tools. In the end, my on-premise software couldn't keep up, so I moved our IT infrastructure to Google Apps. And I have to say, I've slept better since I did!
We now have a first-rate solution at a fraction of the price of our old one. Our employees have more functionality than they did before – instant messaging, video, and site publishing tools in addition to the basics of email, calendar, and word processing/spreadsheets. Because everything is hosted by Google "in the cloud" our employees can access their docs or mail from anywhere – a nice solution in the event of disaster. What I like most of all is that we can add or subtract user accounts as our budget dollars go up or down.
Many people have asked me about my experiences and I am happy to share lessons learned. Please join me for a webinar next Thursday, January 22, 2009, at 1:00 PM EST, 12:00 PM CST, 10:00 AM PST, where I will be on hand to answer questions about how we brought Google Apps into the City of Canton government offices and why that decision is helping us succeed.
All of this information is usually centralized on the university's web site – but structuring the diverse data these sites present in a way that makes it "findable" can challenge even the best web architects. That's where the Google Search Appliance (GSA) comes in. By powering a university website with search, the GSA lets any visitor type zero in on the information they're after without having to navigate page after page, or seek one-off answers through phone calls or emails.
Especially in these financially-stretched times, universities (and everybody else) appreciate the savings when successful website search minimizes follow-ups and employee attention and time.
Illinois State University, for example, uses the GSA to streamline the way that students find the latest information on classes and schedules. Their customized "Course Finder" delivers results through the familiar Google search box, so visitors already know how to search for answers. Users easily customize searches by departments, time slots, instructors, or other criteria – and, because the GSA reaches beyond website data for results, public information on the university's mainframes or servers is instantly findable.
Mark Troester, Illinois State University's Director of Web Support, says that using the GSA accelerates the speed at which information reaches visitors. “The Google Search Appliance saved enormous time and effort,” he says, “and integrated seamlessly with our existing IT infrastructure.”
The team at Illinois State University has offered to share their experience with GSA – along with updates on Google Apps and Security solutions on campus – at an upcoming webinar, Google Search for Your School, on January 21, 2009 at 11:00 AM PST. We hope you'll join us by participating in the webinar and learning what Google search can do for your website.
Posted by Vijay Koduri, Google Search Appliance Team
Today we're adding a new layer of security: the ability for administrators to set password length requirements and view password strength indicators to identify sufficiently long passwords that may still not be strong enough.
What's more, because the Google Account authentication system continuously sees new variations of password attacks from around the world, we can assess password strength in real-time and help administrators spot passwords that were relatively secure in the past that are more vulnerable to the latest patterns of attacks.
Premier and Education Edition administrators can access these features from the administrative control panel under 'Advanced Tools' > 'Advanced Password Settings'.
To help their users choose strong passwords, admins can share our password selection tips.
Posted by Eran Feigenbaum, Director of Security, Google Apps
We shared some big news today on the Official Google Blog, Google Enterprise has launched another way of bringing Google Apps to business users around the world through a new Authorized Reseller program focused on partners and the services and solutions they provide: www.google.com/apps/resellers.
While Google Apps is easy to use and many businesses will continue to come to us directly online or through our Enterprise team, many appreciate the services provided by local firms who are intimately familiar with their particular needs. We're looking forward to working with a broad range of partners, from VARs and IT consultants to professional services firms and global systems integrators, to ISPs and other SaaS providers.
With over 1 million businesses and 10+ million active users in more than 100 countries, Google Apps adoption is set to accelerate even further in 2009. This provides partners with a great opportunity to expand their expertise into cloud computing while building profitable new businesses.
Over the past few quarters we worked closely with a group of 50+ pilot resellers from more than 25 countries to develop and refine the program. We've also built our channel program around the SaaS model from the ground up. Even the tools for reselling are built directly into our cloud-based service, so that even the smallest providers serving the smallest companies can easily set up and manage many customers efficiently.
Google provides resellers with a full set of marketing and sales materials, available in 25 languages, along with technical training, a reseller discount, and the suite of tools for ordering, provisioning, and managing customers. Resellers have the ability to market and sell Google Apps, bundle in complementary offerings, and get customers up and running. They also set commercial terms with their customers, manage all customer billing, and can thereby grow their client relationships. Partners receive recurring revenue streams both from reselling Google Apps and from their complementary services, for the lifetime of the customer.
Google is committed to the success of our Apps users, and so we are committed to work very closely with our resellers to help them develop industry-leading SaaS expertise while we continue to focus on building powerful, easy-to-use cloud computing products that will provide partners with additional reselling and services opportunities.
We look forward to delivering even greater value to our business users in 2009 by working with highly skilled, locally deployed resellers who share our commitment to customer success with Google Apps.
Posted by Stephen Cho, Director, Google Apps Channels
We're making this change for two key reasons. Besides achieving tremendous savings, many companies, especially those with more than 50 users, choose Premier Edition to meet critical business needs like data migration and integration tools, granular administrative controls, larger storage quotas, and phone support. Providing Premier Edition customers with new, innovative capabilities is a key area of focus for us; in the last few months we've added secure video sharing, SSL enforcement options, shared contacts, and support for OAuth while also expanding our uptime guarantees. Companies that have selected Premier Edition over Standard Edition have been more satisfied with the experience, so this adjustment to Standard Edition reflects the needs of our customers and mirrors market demand.
Second, more clarity about which version of Google Apps is suited for larger businesses allows partners to participate in the new Google Apps Authorized Reseller program (just announced today) without concerns about competing against a free service offered directly from Google.
All in all, we expect this change helps more business adopt Google Apps through the reseller program and that our messaging and collaboration suite provides more value to businesses. It's also important to us that organizations with less advanced needs, those already active on Standard Edition, and all schools and non-profits can continue to use Google Apps at no charge.
Posted by Rishi Chandra, Google Apps Product Manager
I guess it was kind of like tossing a balloon from cubicle to cubicle, if you will – except in this case, the cubicles were cities, continents, and timezones away from each other. But the "toss" worked, just the same, and we had enough fun with it that we wanted to share it with you here. Enjoy, and Happy 2009 from all at Google Enterprise.
Posted by Kevin Gough, Google Enterprise Team
Google Earth Enterprise lets customers build globes with their own data that can be accessed with the same fast, easy-to-use technology as Google Earth. Previously, Google Earth Enterprise customers could only access their private Google Earth globes when connected to the network. Sometimes, when working in the field, limited or no network connectivity prevented our customers from accessing the full potential of the geospatial data.
The portable version of Google Earth Enterprise allows organizations to distribute geospatial data to their employees where bandwidth is limited or unavailable – such as emergency workers responding to a disaster. Customers can deploy the portable solution for a single individual, or for a multi-person team.
This version is also appropriate for situations when users are away from their desks and need to access an organization's geospatial data. Data collected in the field can also be transferred to the primary system when network connectivity is available.
Posted by Dan Israel, Google Enterprise Team