Editor’s note: Last year we launched an improvement that makes over 60 additional Google services available to Google Apps users. This series showcases what’s new and how your organization can benefit.

Welcome to Google Groups
Google Apps for Business and Education customers have traditionally had access to Google Groups for Business, which has allowed the creation of groups and mailing lists within the organization. Today we’re expanding the discussion by making the general Google Groups service, which allows users to participate in public discussions with others outside the organization, available with Google Apps.

Google Groups allows the creation of groups and mailing lists with any group of people from all across the web and includes Usenet archives and archives of public groups. For example, if you’re writing a new mobile app and want to follow the Android Developers forum or are interested in the latest news about Chrome OS in the Chrome notebook pilot forum you can use Google Groups to get involved in the discussion. There are millions of public groups available, so no matter your field or focus, you’re likely to find relevant discussions that you can follow and join using Google Groups. You can also set up your own public discussion community using Google Groups

Google Apps for Business and Education customers will continue to have access to Google Groups for Business, which is part of the core Google Apps suite. Google Groups is a separate service, and will be available to users of the free version of Google Apps as well as Google Apps for Business and Education. Administrators can turn on both services, or only the one that makes most sense for their use case, giving more control over how users participate in groups inside and outside of the organization.

Learn more and get started
Google Groups can be enabled by your domain administrator from the Google Apps Control Panel at[] (replace [] with your actual domain name). If your organization isn’t using Google Apps yet, you can learn more and sign up today at

For more information please take a look at our Help Center.

Note: Google Groups may not be available in all areas.

(Extended post on the Google Docs Blog.)

Starting today, Rapid Release users now have access to these handy new features in Google Docs: folder upload, documents list integration, and drag-and-drop upload.

Folder upload is now accessible via the new Upload menu in the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox and Safari. We’ve also merged the upload page’s functionality into the documents list to create a much better upload experience. When you upload files via the new drop-down menu, a window will pop up in the bottom right of your documents list and show upload progress. Lastly, if you are using Chrome, Safari and Firefox on your Mac or PC, you’ll also be able to drag-and-drop one or more files directly into your documents list to initiate an upload.

For more details about today’s changes to uploading files, check out our extended post on the Google Docs Blog or take a look at our FAQs.

Update: This is now rolled out to everyone.

Lost. Late. Out-of-luck. That’s where we’d be without our administrative assistants at Google. Using Google Apps and the flexibility of our 100% web tools, these gurus coordinate schedules, manage inboxes, and keep our organization humming.

In light of Administrative Professionals’ Week, we’re celebrating with some of our Google Apps customers and their dedicated executive assistants and administrative teams. At Google, we are fond of saying that we “eat our own dogfood,” so when a group of Google admins came forward to offer assistance to our customers’ admin teams to help them learn the ins and outs of Google Apps, the “Admin Assistant Guru” program was born.

The Admin Assistant Guru program officially launched earlier this year and includes a network of 70 volunteer admin assistants from Google who meet with and coach their peers in our customer organizations. The goals of the program are to help our customers’ admin teams increase productivity and foster collaboration in the admin community by sharing best practices.

Since launching the Admin Assistant Gurus program, we have seen great joint-success with more than 20 customers. For example:

SNL Financial, a large global company with more than 1,500 employees, spent time with our Google Admin Assistant Gurus team on their Google Apps go live day in April. Galen Warren, CTO at SNL Financial said, “Our executive assistants were very pleased with how much attention they got from Google and how much time and effort was put into ensuring that they were happy, and that all of their questions were answered. The Admin Assistant Gurus program made a big difference to the success of our launch of Google Apps across SNL Financial.”

Brady Corporation, an international manufacturer with more than 7,000 employees, understands that successful collaboration starts with their exec admin team. Prior to and during their Google Apps deployment, Brady employees and the Google Gurus gave personal attention to the admin team, who “loved having 'Googlers' help them work through issues quickly" said Matt Vandenbush, IT Director of Strategy and Architecture at Brady Corporation. After a year using Google Apps, Lynda Carpenter, Executive Assistant says, "e-mail and calendar are critical to doing my job well. Thanks to the resources Google provides, I know how to get the right answers to my management team quickly."

Making Google Apps easier to adopt and manage continues to be a priority for our team, and we look forward to supporting our customers through innovative support programs such as the Admin Assistant Gurus.

Happy Admin Week!

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

We’re excited to announce that you can now upload images to Google spreadsheets. From the Insert menu, select Image... Then, choose an image file to upload into your spreadsheet.

With this feature, you can upload an image already stored on your computer, search for an image online, or add personal photos directly from one of your Picasa Web Albums.

Let us know what you think in the Google spreadsheets forum!

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog.)

Ever wanted to make your Google site feel even more unique? Today, we added a wide variety of Google Web Fonts to Google Sites, making it easier to style your website and make it look awesome.

Now you can go to Manage Site under More Actions and choose Color and Fonts in the left-hand navigation to choose fonts for the entire site in one go. The web fonts feature lets you select different sections of the site such as the entire page or just the title to selectively choose your styling. Additionally, we've given you control over font sizes for many of these sections.

Take a look at a site that uses multiple web fonts:

We’re looking forward to seeing the sites you create with these beautiful new fonts.

(Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog and Google Mobile Blog.)

Increasingly, people are using mobile phones to access information -- from email to web browsing to editing documents. Part of getting work done on the go is being able to easily access, edit and share content, which is why we’re happy to announce the new Google Docs app for Android.

With this new app it’s easy to filter and search for your content across any Google account, then jump straight into editing docs using the online mobile editors. The app also allows you to easily share items with contacts on your phone, right from within the app.

The Docs app also allows you to upload content from your phone and open documents directly from Gmail. You can also add a widget to your home screen for easy access to three core tasks: jumping to your starred documents, taking a photo to upload, or creating a new document with one tap.

And my favorite feature: Using the app and your phone’s camera, you can turn photos with text into editable Google documents with the power of optical character recognition (OCR). Just create a new ‘Document from Photo' or select the camera icon from the widget, and your converted document will appear in your documents list shortly after you snap the picture. You can also convert photos already stored on your phone by sharing them with the Google Docs app. OCR does a pretty good job capturing unformatted text in English but won't recognize handwriting or some fonts - stay tuned, it will get better over time!

The Google Docs app is currently available in English and works on Android 2.1+ phones. Try it out by scanning the QR code below or by visiting Android Market.

Let us know what you think of the new Google Docs Android app in our forum.

Google Apps launched five years ago. Since then, we’ve spoken with many of our more than three million customers about how we can better serve them. Small businesses in particular often ask us to make Apps easier to adopt and manage. Today we’re announcing several upcoming changes designed to address those requests.
New flexible billing options
Small businesses operate in dynamic environments – everything from workforce size to cash flow can change overnight – and we want our billing options to better support this reality. So we’re making two improvements to our billing programs in the next few weeks to ensure that Google Apps works across businesses.

First, for customers who sign up online we’re adding the Flexible Plan, a new $5 per user per month pricing option which requires no contractual commitment – one of the most flexible plans in the industry today. With this plan, businesses can add or remove users as necessary and will automatically be billed for the proper amount. We’ll continue to offer the current pricing option – $50 per user per year with a one-year commitment – as the Annual Plan.

Second, we’re eliminating upfront payments for new customers to make it easier for them to manage their cash flow. Whether they choose the Flexible or Annual Plan, customers will pay at the end of each month. We’ll also begin to offer direct debit in the US, UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Spain to make payment even easier.

Over the course of the next few months, we’ll also make these billing options available to our many reseller partners.

Change to Google Apps user limit
Starting on May 10, new organizations (excluding schools and non-profits) with more than 10 users will need to sign up for our paid service, Google Apps for Business, which offers valuable features designed for businesses – customer support, more generous storage limits, a 99.9% SLA, and more. This change will allow us to deliver on the expectations of our small business customers and invest in new features that will help them succeed.

Only new customers will be impacted; existing Google Apps customers can expand beyond 10 users (up to a maximum of 50) at no additional charge, and we’ll continue to offer Google Apps for free to groups with 10 users or fewer. Schools and non-profits that qualify for Google Apps for Education will not be affected.

Fewer steps to get started
Two businesses sign up for Google Apps every minute, and we want to get them up and running as quickly as possible. Using our new “setup wizard,” most customers are now able to complete setup in under one hour – less than the average time people spend commuting to and from work each day. And in a few weeks we will streamline this process even further, by launching a single sign-up page that lets businesses create an account in minutes without even pulling out a credit card.

We hope these improvements will encourage more businesses to adopt Google Apps for Business. And there’s a lot more to come: we’ve already launched 57 feature improvements this year – including Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, discussions in Google Docs, and an improved control panel for business users – and we’ll continue to provide the innovation our customers expect. We look forward to helping more businesses flourish in the months and years to come.

Posted by: Hunter Middleton, Google Apps Product Team

Success most frequently arrives to those who collaborate. It’s been proven through time: the telephone - Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, the Cubism art movement - Picasso and Braque, and the list goes on. So in the spirit of teamwork (and our hope that it’ll provide you tremendous success), we’re introducing a better way collaborate on your Google Site Search search engine.

With Google Site Search, we provide website owners with an easy way to add a search engine to scan the content on their website and other desired domains. To date, collaborating on a search engine has existed to the extent that we allow multiple users to add websites to their search engine index. Today we’re expanding the scope of our team-based tools by giving you the ability to add administrators with full collaborative control. With administrators, you’ll be able to collaborate on granular elements of your search engine such as refinements, promotions, and much more.

Check out our new collaboration tools by creating a site search engine (tip: enter “collaborate” in the coupon field for a special offer), or logging into your existing Google Site Search control panel. Select “Admin accounts” from the left hand navigation and add collaborators to your search engine. Please reference our post on the custom search blog for more details.

At Google, we run a network of data centers that are built for scale and reliability. They’re also designed for security and data protection. For the 3 million businesses that have gone Google and the thousands more that join them every day, these features help ensure that their data is kept safe.

Many of you have been interested in visiting our data centers to see how we work to protect your data, but access to them is tightly restricted. Since we can’t give everyone a tour, we look for other ways to provide some visibility into these buildings. Last year we published the Google Apps security white paper, earlier this year we hosted a security & privacy webcast and today we’re sharing a video that highlights some of the capabilities in our data centers, including:
  1. Physical security
  2. Data protection
  3. Reliability of operations

Of course, we’re also committed to bringing you product features that help ensure the security and protection of your data. To that end, we’re the first major cloud provider to offer 2-step verification, default https encryption, attachment viewing and mobile device management in the browser, and many other security and administrative capabilities at no additional charge.

Our data centers aren't just designed with data protection in mind, they're also some of the greenest in the world. We've reduced our energy consumption by over 50% by building highly energy efficient facilities, and just yesterday we announced a power purchase agreement for clean wind energy - our second in less than a year - with the goal of supplying our Mayes County, Oklahoma data center with renewable energy. Read more about our efficiency efforts and our approach to purchasing renewable energy.

For additional information about the security and privacy of Google Apps, please visit our Google Apps Trust site.

Posted by Adam Swidler, Sr. Manager, Google Enterprise

Google has a contract with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for the first instance of Google Earth Builder. Google Earth Builder will enable NGA to use Google’s vast geospatial processing power to enhance its ability to provide timely, relevant and accurate geospatial intelligence to its customers, who span a broad range of U.S. federal government departments and agencies.

Google’s work with NGA marks one of the first major government geospatial cloud initiatives, which will enable NGA to use Google Earth Builder to host its geospatial data and information. This allows NGA to customize Google Earth & Maps to provide maps and globes to support U.S. government activities, including: U.S. national security; homeland security; environmental impact and monitoring; and humanitarian assistance, disaster response and preparedness efforts. This is particularly critical to provide damage and mobility assessments after natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan or Hurricane Katrina.

NGA has been a long-time user of Google Earth Enterprise. As part of NGA's Geospatial Visualization- Enterprise Services, Google and NGA have teamed up to make it easier for the government to get useful and current geospatial content to federal employees who need it to execute their respective missions. Once an individual has been authorized on one of the government’s secure networks, he or she will be able to access maps customized to his or her specific department or role using Google Earth, Google Maps or via widely-used Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) services.

Behind the scenes, Google Earth Builder will host and serve NGA geospatial content to its mission partners and customers, equipping them with timely information using the user’s tool of choice. NGA will have the ability to use the vast number of cloud resources for rapid processing of the ever-growing quantities of geospatial data and then provide the GEOINT in an online, on-demand environment.

We’ve been excited to work with NGA as one of the early adopters of Google Earth Builder, and are pleased to make the product available to other organizations who want to take advantage of Google’s vast processing power to manage and publish their own geospatial data.

At Google we’re committed to opening up our cloud infrastructure so that others can benefit from our enormous computational power. Today I’m going to share some exciting details on our plans to make our cloud technology available for processing and serving geospatial data.

Over the past six years, the way we explore the world has changed dramatically. Online tools like Google Earth and Google Maps have given people the ability to easily view rich geographic information from desktop or mobile devices. Google Earth helps us understand the effects of climate change on our ecosystem, Street View provides a panorama of our neighborhoods, and Google Maps Navigation guides us home.

However, in the enterprise a lot of geospatial data remains trapped on costly servers and inaccessible to those who need it. We’d like to help free that data and bring the same benefits that consumers have enjoyed for years to businesses and government agencies.

So we created Google Earth Builder. It lets you upload, process and store your geospatial data in our cloud. Your employees can use familiar tools - Google Maps and Google Earth - to easily and securely share and publish mapping data. No technical expertise or GIS training is required. The benefits of Earth Builder’s 100% web approach include:

  • Anytime, Anywhere Access: view your maps from any computer or Internet-enabled device

  • Speed & Scale: process your complex geospatial data quickly and efficiently; effortlessly scale to manage traffic spikes (for example, in cases of emergency)

  • Lower Cost: significantly reduce IT costs and eliminate time spent buying, maintaining and patching software and servers

  • Constant Innovation: just refresh the browser for the latest features

  • Secure Storage & Recovery: no longer worry about storage limits and backups; data is backed up to multiple data centers for near-instant recovery

Whether you have terabytes of imagery or just a few basemap layers, now you can create multiple map layers from your data, such as shapefiles of demographic data, spreadsheets of worldwide customer locations and files of your recently acquired imagery for a new development. You can also integrate the map layers with our own imagery basemap, road data, Google Street View, Terrain View, or Directions in order to find your next best store location.

Geo has been a big area of investment for us. The Google Maps API delivers more maps to more people every day than any other service, and Google Earth has more than 700 million downloads. We hope that more people can use Google Earth Builder to make better location-related decisions within business and government. Ergon Energy, based in Australia, has already signed up to be a Google Earth Builder customer in order to manage and share geospatial data. With Google Earth Builder, Ergon Energy’s 4600 employees will be able to view maps anytime, anywhere.

If you’re interested in learning more today, you can find more information here.

Posted by Tarun Bhatnagar, Head of Geo Enterprise Sales

This week the Google Enterprise team is excited to be participating in the Center for the Application of Information Technology (CAIT) Information Security Roundtable. CAIT is a non-profit organization within Washington University in St. Louis that serves as the center for information technology leaders in the St. Louis region. The Information Security Roundtable is an ongoing series of events and the next one, focused on cloud computing, will be held on April 21.

At this roundtable, I’ll be presenting "Working in the Cloud: How Cloud Computing is Reshaping Enterprise Technology", where I will discuss how cloud computing is influencing enterprise IT and what this means for businesses. The session will provide insight into how Google works to protect the data that is stored in our cloud, and it will also describe how businesses and organizations can start to leverage low-risk cloud computing solutions.

If you’re not able to attend the roundtable, you can visit our Google Apps Trust page and find more information on security and data protection in Google Apps.

Posted by Adam Swidler, Sr. Manager – Google Enterprise

Editor's Note: We're pleased to welcome guest blogger Andrew Murrey, Vice President of IT Infrastructure Cinram North America. Cinram specializes in optical disc manufacturing, packaging, distribution and demand planning solutions for the home entertainment, telecommunications, and retail industries. Learn more about other organizations that have gone Google on our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google Cloud Calculator.

For more than 40 years, Cinram has worked with some of the biggest names in home entertainment and retail to produce and distribute movies, music, and video games. We have grown organically and through acquisition to more than 10,000 employees and 20 facilities in North America and Europe; many locations still operate independently – including selecting their own technologies. Everything was very decentralized, and this made it difficult to collaborate and communicate. Even scheduling meetings was a challenge; we’d have to hunt to find contact information, and email back and forth multiple times just to find availability and rooms.

Decentralization meant we also had a combination of email and collaboration solutions, with 80% of our offices on Microsoft® Exchange 5.5 – 15 year old technology with no support or future updates planned – and the others using Exchange 2003 and 2007. With inbox quotas ranging from 50-500MB, many of our users were storing their mail in .PST files on their computers, making backups and restoration of critical data almost impossible, and creating a giant risk in the case of corrupt or stolen machines. Running a mail system from the mid-1990’s also meant that we had all kinds of limits on attachments, and a ton of other frustrating issues. Between server failures, incompatibilities and corrupted PSTs, we were running close to $220 per mail user per year just to keep the old system running.

Our goal was to have everyone at Cinram using the same technology for email and daily collaboration, so we explored three different options: (a) upgrading all of our internal systems to Exchange 2007, (b) migrating to hosted Exchange, (c) Google Apps. Staying on-premise and adding quite a bit of storage would require a heavy capital investment, and we would still be paying for backup agents, tapes, vaulting, patching, and still have all of the other headaches of managing a mail system. Hosted Exchange didn’t really fit our needs because we wanted to move away from paying for an Outlook client, and Gmail’s web interface was just as powerful.

However, when we looked at Google Apps, we calculated that we could be saving 60% on email alone by moving to Google Apps for Business – a clear winner when it came to price per user – but we also knew we’d save serious time on IT management, freeing my team up to do more strategic work. In addition, we would have superior disaster recovery options and best of all, our employees would be more productive. We chose to go Google.

In just four months, Google Apps is 100 percent deployed in North America and Europe – about 3,000 people so far. The positive changes we expected are now being revealed, and we’re even uncovering some unexpected benefits as well. For starters, my IT team is happier as we previously had 16 full-time people managing our messaging systems, spending about 8,000 hours per year backing up email, fixing file storage problems, or managing server issues. If one of our servers at our Toronto headquarters went down, the entire company lost email access – it seemed like we had a company-wide email delay or outage every couple of months. Google Apps provides us with disaster recovery capabilities that we could have never dreamed of. In addition, we now need only two folks to look after messaging and the other 14 are now more focused on business-critical projects. They’re so happy they wear Google t-shirts about once a week!

Our employees are also adjusting well, and are more productive. We’re working closely with our Google Partner, Onix, to provide an end-user support site using Google Video for Business for training videos and webinars. One of the biggest benefits we’ve seen is that, since all employees have one user interface with easy processes, they can collaborate more efficiently. Scheduling meetings for example is infinitely easier, we just click on Google Talk video chat, and we can easily view employee calendars to facilitate scheduling. That’s something we didn’t calculate – all the time we spent trying to do these small, day-to-day tasks across all of our employees.

We’re also really pleased and excited to see employees adopt tools like Google Docs – we’re at a growing rate of about 150 new, shared documents each day. The HR and compliance teams in particular have been using Google Docs to store their different policies and procedures. We can give them exactly what they need in Google Docs or Google Sites, whereas before we had three or four different Microsoft SharePoint sites, and we’d have to spend money on auditors to track everything down. Now that’s all moving to a central repository, and we’re already seeing significant cost savings and productivity gains there.

We have only begun scratching the surface of capabilities that Google Apps brings to us. We have an open door to bring Google Apps to all 10,000 Cinram employees in the future, from the current user employees in our distribution and manufacturing facilities, to the folks who have never had a Cinram account before, so everyone can see the benefits. With the flexibility of Google Apps, the sky is the limit. We’ve gone Google, and we’ll never go back.

Gables Residential, an Atlanta-based Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), turned to Google Message Continuity to supplement their Microsoft® Exchange 2007 email environment and minimize email downtime. Gables Residential owns, manages and develops property throughout Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, South Florida, D.C., and Southern California, contributing to a portfolio of over 38,000 apartment homes. With their managed properties distributed across the country and over multiple time zones, it was critically important that their employees always have access to their email. Gables Residential turned to Google Message Continuity, a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, to enhance the reliability of their email environment.

Google Message Continuity works by synchronizing all email stored on Microsoft® Exchange servers into Gmail, using a simple plug-in that ensures all messages are always present in both email inboxes. If Microsoft® Exchange is unavailable, users can simply login to Gmail with their usual credentials and take advantage of Gmail’s reliability–available 99.984% of the time in 2010–to send and receive messages. The simplicity of the set-up, the minimal maintenance and deployment costs, and the ability to keep their distributed workforce productive during email outages is what differentiated Google Message Continuity over other continuity alternatives.

What’s more, through using Google Message Continuity Gables Residential learned first-hand the benefits of a 100% web environment, and plans to switch from Microsoft® Exchange to Google Apps for Business later this year. With emails constantly being replicated in Gmail, switching to the rest of Google Apps can be a seamless move, both for IT admins and for users. Gables Residential plans on taking advantage of this smooth deployment path in May and looks forward to deploying Google Apps across its entire user base.

Join us during a live webinar as James Hamrick, Director of IT, explains how Gables Residential was able to successfully use Google Message Continuity to improve the reliability of their Microsoft® Exchange environment while paving the way for a 100% web future with Google Apps for Business.

Register for this live webcast on April 20th, 11 a.m. Eastern Time, 2011. We hope to see you there!

Today we announced Google Map Maker for the United States, enabling users to add their expert local knowledge to the map directly through this free online tool. Users often have the best and most up-to-date knowledge of the places that matter to them, and with Google Map Maker–now available for 187 countries and regions around the world–we’re working to make this information available to you and your customers.

Each edit will be reviewed to confirm accuracy, and once approved, user contributions will appear in Google Maps, and then in Google Maps API Premier and Google Earth Pro. The collective knowledge of these citizen cartographers will contribute to more detailed information for you, helping you make better location-based business decisions.

If you’d like to add your local knowledge directly, you can learn more or start mapping now at

Posted by Natasha Wyatt, Product Marketing Manager, Google Earth and Maps Enterprise

Google Enterprise is pleased to announce weekly product tour webinars for individuals and companies interested in learning more about Google Earth Pro. Live webinars are typically held every Friday at 10 a.m. PST / 1 p.m. EST (subject to change). Visit our events calendar to browse and register for an upcoming event.

Interested users are also welcome to sign up for a free 7-day trial to test drive the program before the webinar, but this step is not required for attendance.

The one-hour webinar covers the advanced tools and features that make Google Earth Pro a valuable tool for business professionals, such as measuring area (pictured below).

Key topics include:
Spreadsheet import tool (geocoding addresses)
GIS data import
Pro-only data layers: parcels, traffic counts, and demographics
Online advanced learning tutorials

If you can’t make it to a live webinar, we’ve made past events available online for syndicated viewing.

Posted by
Coleman Rusnock
The Google Earth Pro Team

Nearly one year after Oregon blazed the trail as the first state to bring Google Apps to students and teachers, Rhode Island (the Ocean State) and Missouri (the Show Me State) will begin offering support for Google Apps to K-12 schools and districts across their respective states. Together, they will provide over a million students and over 100,000 teachers with the ability to move to the cloud with Google Apps.

The RISTE organization will help Rhode Island schools who decide to "go Google" with both technical deployment assistance and training opportunities. Paul Barrette, executive board member of RISTE and Director of Technology at the Burrillville School Department, has already moved his district to Google Apps and is excited to offer this service to the other 32 districts in Rhode Island. "Google Apps also integrates very well with a wide variety of handheld and portable devices," Barrette adds, "making it a perfect fit with the ways that teachers and students are now accessing technology."

In Missouri, the Missouri Research and Education Network (MOREnet) – a consortium of schools, public libraries and higher education institutions – will assist K-12 member schools in the adoption and configuration of Google Apps by providing training to administrators, faculty, and staff. MOREnet hopes to help members faced with budget constraints move to Google Apps to reduce IT costs while also improving technology integration in the classroom. As John Gillispie, MOREnet Executive Director explains: “It’s more than just a fiscal decision. Google Apps provides communication and collaboration tools that enhance learning across the curriculum not only in reading and writing, but also in areas like math and science.”

We're excited to welcome Rhode Island and Missouri to the growing Google Apps family, which also includes Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, New York and Oregon.

Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Colleen Barry, Director of Marketing for Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty, a luxury real estate company in Boston. Gibson Sotheby's International Realty joins other real estate businesses like Baird and Warner, Ray White, and Cadillac Fairview in switching to Google Apps. Learn more about other organizations that have gone Google on our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google Cloud Calculator.

We are the Boston-based franchise of an international luxury real estate company. To support sales and marketing, as well as 200 independent agents who are constantly on the go, we needed a more mobile, secure, and fast solution for communication and collaboration. We were providing email services centrally for 300 mailboxes using SmarterMail, but this solution’s capabilities were very limited. People only had 10MB of storage. The service was slow and somewhat unreliable. Everyone had to use an email client, and because many are independent contractors, they chose whatever they wanted to use. This ultimately led to complexity and a higher likelihood of data loss. With Google Apps for Business, the company now has a more secure, consistent toolset that is increasing sales productivity while reducing IT complexity.

Over the years, I have had so many agents call me on the verge of tears because their machine had crashed and they lost everything on their hard drive. If Microsoft ® Outlook is your record-keeping mechanism, you’re in trouble unless you back it up – and let’s be realistic – people rarely do that. They also lose their computers and phones. We wanted to move into the cloud so that we no longer had to worry about data loss or data back-ups.

Another motivation for change was the need for better mobile access. We were using POP mail so agents and others could see emails on their mobile phones, but the experience was limited and ultimately frustrating. Because the email wasn’t in the cloud, you couldn’t do much more than view it. In an industry like real estate, it’s essential that our agents can access their information instantly from wherever they are.

We were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to deploy Google Apps. We worked with Google reseller, SADA Systems, to purchase Google Apps, but two office administrators and I completed the implementation on our own. Because Google is so great at making information available, we didn’t even need to hire anyone to migrate our data. We brought 300 email accounts to Google Apps, without needing a partner for the deployment.

The ability to share and collaborate on Google documents and spreadsheets has saved us from having to do a lot of repetitive and manual tasks. For example, we can now share “show sheets” – brochures about a property listing – in Google Docs directly with our clients. We previously created PDFs and emailed them around to agents and then the agents downloaded them and attached them in emails sent to clients.

We’re also using Google Forms for requests for services that we offer to our agents. Instead of receiving countless email requests, we can now just circulate a survey, which populates instantly into a Google spreadsheet. That spreadsheet also lets us track trends and forecast. All of the essential data is there and accessible to the entire team.

With all of the snow we’ve gotten this year, Google Talk has been a lifesaver. People can work from home yet still preserve the connected, social aspect of their work while getting questions answered and discussions taken care of in minutes. These examples may not seem like much, but they add up to big productivity gains and help our employees feel connected and part of a team, even when we’re not physically in the same office.

Our employees are happier, and our IT costs are decreasing. With Apps we are dealing with fewer IT problems and are operating at a much quicker pace. Google Apps quickly begins to pay for itself. Our employees know that we’re investing in them and giving them the tools to do their jobs better and work together. We are providing a more valuable service to our agents and, ultimately, to our clients. We believe moving to Google Apps will be one of our great achievements this year.

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Molly Schroeder, Technology Integration Specialist at Edina Public Schools.

Google Apps has been an invaluable learning tool for students and teachers at Edina Public Schools. As a technology integration specialist for Edina Public Schools, I am Google Certified Teacher and a Google Apps for Education Certified Trainer, Over the past year and a half, my team launched Google Apps at Edina Public Schools. Google Apps has transformed our ability to help students and staff engage in learning.

Staff and students have been using Google Docs, Google Sites, Picasa, Blogger, and Google Maps to work efficiently and collaboratively. Teachers rely on Google Apps for their classroom web presence, staff development and collaborative projects. Students create state research projects, websites and online portfolios of their work. Google Apps enables them to collaborate, submit and publish their work online, allowing them to communicate with an audience broader than their classroom. Even parents benefit from Google Apps -- using Google Docs to sign up for conferences and volunteer opportunities.

At Edina Public Schools, we are excited not only about what our students learn but about how they are learning. Google Apps for Education allows our students to stay current in the evolving world of technology while engaging deeply with their academic pursuits. Students are now learning without boundaries, any time, anywhere.

(Cross-posted from the Gmail blog.)

Don’t forget Bob” and “Got the wrong Bob?” are two Gmail Labs features that help prevent you from making two common mistakes: forgetting to include someone on an email, and sending a message to the wrong person with a similar name to the person you meant to email — like emailing Bob (your boss) instead of Bob (your friend).

We’ve received quite a bit of positive feedback from people who avoided some embarrassing situations thanks to these features. And today, we’re excited to graduate them from Gmail Labs and start turning them on for everyone (they should start working in all Gmail accounts over the next day or so). Once that happens, as you type in your recipients, Gmail will automatically make suggestions based on the groups of people you email most often. When you see a suggestion to add a person you’ve forgotten, all you have to do is click on their name to add them.

Similarly, if you click on a suggestion to replace a mistakenly added recipient, the proverbial “wrong Bob” will be replaced by the right one.

We hope these suggestions help you avoid some sticky situations — before you hit send. As you compose messages and see these features in actions, let us know what you think by tweeting @gmail with your ideas and impressions or leaving a message in the Gmail Help forum.

In a breathless blog post, Microsoft recently suggested we intentionally misled the U.S. government over our compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA). Microsoft claims we filed a separate FISMA application for Google Apps for Government, then leaps to the conclusion that Google Apps for Government is not FISMA certified. These allegations are false.

We take the federal government’s security requirements seriously and have delivered on our promise to meet them. What’s more, we’ve been open and transparent with the government, and it’s irresponsible for Microsoft to suggest otherwise.

Let’s look at the facts. We received FISMA authorization for Google Apps from the General Services Administration (GSA) in July 2010. Google Apps for Government is the same technology platform as Google Apps Premier Edition, not a separate system. It includes two added security enhancements exclusively for government customers: data location and segregation of government data. In consulting with GSA last year, it was determined that the name change and enhancements could be incorporated into our existing FISMA certification. In other words, Google Apps for Government would not require a separate application.

This was reflected in yesterday’s Congressional testimony from the GSA: “...we're actually going through a re-certification based on those changes that Google has announced with the ‘Apps for Government’ product offering.”

FISMA anticipates that systems will change over time and provides for regular reauthorization—or re-certification—of systems. We regularly inform GSA of changes to our system and update our security documentation accordingly. The system remains authorized while the changes are evaluated by the GSA. We submitted updates earlier this year that included, among other changes, a description of the Google Apps for Government enhancements.

We’ve been very transparent about our FISMA authorization. Our documentation has always been readily available for any government agency to review, and dozens of officials from a range of departments and agencies have availed themselves of the opportunity to learn more about how we keep our customers’ data secure.

We’ll continue to update our documentation to reflect new capabilities in Google Apps. This continuous innovation is an important reason government customers select our service. We’re confident that Microsoft will also re-authorize their applications on a regular basis, once they receive FISMA authorization. We look forward to continuing to work with governments around the world to bring them the many benefits of cloud computing.

Moving to the cloud often means bringing over a great deal of data from various legacy systems. At Google, we try to make this process as easy and seamless as possible for our users with tools such as Google Apps migration for Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes. These tools allow you to move old emails, calendar and contact data into Google Apps.

Directory information is another important asset to consider. About two years ago, we launched the Google Apps Directory Sync tool, which allows customers to sync their Active Directory or other LDAP servers with Google Apps to those existing repositories of user account information. Rather than manually re-creating and maintaining this info in Google Apps, you can set up Google Apps Directory Sync to continuously sync your users, user profiles, shared contacts, mailing lists, LDAP groups and more to Google Apps.

Last week we started rolling out Google Apps Directory Sync 2.0, an update that features new enhancements including:
  • Aggressive multi-threading to dramatically improve the speed of synchronizing users
  • Support for OAuth, which eliminates the need to input and remember admin passwords
  • Support for synchronizing conference rooms and other room resources
For more information about these features, please review the updated administrator's guide. Existing Google Apps Directory Sync users should see these changes today, and new customers can download the tool on our help center. As always, we appreciate your feedback, so please leave us a comment below to let us know your thoughts.

Across the country, governments of all sizes are turning to Google Apps for Government. Like any other organization, governments need their employees to communicate and collaborate effectively and efficiently -- especially when employees are working from home or from remote locations.

American City and County Association has joined Google to present a live webinar “How Local Governments Use Google Apps to Improve Productivity and Reduce Cost.” The webinar will feature special guests from two local governments that recently switched to Google Apps for Government: Pierce County, Wisconsin and the City of Mesquite, Nevada.

Join us to learn:
  • The reasons these local governments switched to Google Apps -- and the benefits they’ve realized since.
  • How Google Apps has improved collaboration and productivity while meeting government requirements for security and document retention.
  • Best practices for adopting and deploying Google Apps in your government.

Register now to attend the live webinar on 4/14 @ 11:00 am PST.

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog and Google Docs Blog)

Exactly one year ago, we launched a new version of the Google document editor, created from the ground up to take advantage of the latest capabilities in modern web browsers like Chrome. In particular, we baked in a way of supporting text features that aren’t natively included with browsers—for example, we added a ruler for controlling the margins, text that wraps around images to create eye-catching docs and discussions for a more collaborative editing experience.

Today, we’re doing another first for web browsers by adding a classic word processing feature—pagination, the ability to see visual pages on your screen. We’re also using pagination and some of Chrome’s capabilities to improve how printing works in Google Docs. Pagination is rolling out now and should be available to everyone by the end of the day.

Pagination adds visual page breaks while you’re editing your documents, so now you can see how many pages of that report you’ve actually finished. Because we’re able to show you individual pages, we can improve the way other features work too: headers now show up at the top of each page instead of just at the top of your doc, manual page breaks actually move text onto a new page and footnotes appear at the bottom of the pages themselves.

If you prefer editing documents with a continuous layout, you can hide page breaks by selecting the “Compact” document view from the “View” menu.

Pagination also changes what’s possible with printing in modern browsers. We’ve worked closely with the Chrome team to implement a recent web standard so we can support a feature called native printing. Before, if you wanted to print your document we’d need to first convert it into a PDF, which you would then need to open and print yourself. With native printing, you can print directly from your browser and the printed document will always exactly match what you see on your screen.

For now, native printing is only available in Google Chrome, but we’re hoping other browsers will implement the same web standard so everyone can have the best possible printing experience with Docs.

Pagination and native printing are great examples of how modern browsers are making it possible to take the best parts of the desktop experience and bring them online. Please share your feedback on the Google Docs forum.

Last month, the Google Apps Marketplace turned 1 and we looked back on our first year providing integrated web applications for Google Apps users. To kick off our second year, we welcome you to this month’s App Tuesday to explore the many new apps we have we have to offer.

To help make application discovery easier, last week, we also introduced a Marketplace feature that allows any Google Apps user to request that their administrator install an application for their organization. This new feature means that every Google Apps user can now help their organization discover and deploy the right web apps.

As always, all Marketplace apps offer single sign-on convenience and hassle-free access through the universal navigation bar. Many go even further by integrating with your Google Docs, Google Contacts, Google Calendars and more to improve your productivity.

This month we welcome more apps from long-time vendors, Zoho and SADA, as well as fresh apps from many new ones:
  • Assistly is a helpdesk tool that allows teams and entire companies to support customers via email, phone, chat, web, Facebook and Twitter.
  • WorkETC combines CRM, project management, billing, sales and more with a powerful automation engine to help small businesses.
  • Orangescape is a visual development platform for building and deploying business applications on Google App Engine.
  • SADA Audit Tool is a centralized admin tool that gives you an overview of how resources (Docs, Sites, etc.) have been shared externally.
You can browse all of our newest apps in the Google Apps Marketplace. Now everyone can use the Marketplace to discover new apps — and directly install an app if you’re the domain admin or send a request if you’re not.

Posted by Harrison Shih, Google Apps Marketplace Team

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Kristof Boden, ICT Manager at Boxx Group in Antwerp, Belgium.

Boxx Group is a young, dynamic company with great ambition. Boxx started in 2001 as a small residential construction company, now-10 years later-the activities have expanded to residential as well as utility construction, renovation and civil contracting. In 2009, Boxx Group started investing in construction grounds and the development of housing projects. Since March 2011 Boxx Real Estate has served as a reliable and professional partner in real estate conciliation for individuals and companies.

Due to a company acquisition in 2009, we decided to try and find a way to provide full collaboration capabilities to employees in all locations, in the most cost-efficient and scalable way. Both companies had been working on local Microsoft® Exchange 2003 servers up until then and were in need of an upgrade of their communication platform anyway. We briefly considered the idea of joining Windows domains across a site-to-site VPN tunnel but we quickly gave up on the idea.

We switched our full staff of 25 employees to Google Apps for Business in May 2010. Our first roll-out to 10 users was successful so we were able to decommission one of our Exchange servers. A few weeks later we migrated 13 more employees in less than 3 days and the remaining Exchange server was decommissioned.

Employees are now able to access their emails and calendars from anywhere: on their PC's at home or on their Android phones. They enjoy the flexibility of having access to data on-the-go and the ability to communicate with colleagues and customers anytime, anywhere (and at a reasonable cost!)

Posted by Kristof Boden, ICT Manager, Boxx Group

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Sharon Delia, Communications Director, South Carolina REALTORS®

South Carolina REALTORS® (SCR) is the largest non-profit trade association in the state of South Carolina. With 14,000 professional REALTOR® members, and a staff of only eleven employees, our association depends on fast, efficient and reliable means of communication. We needed a way to simplify our IT management while maintaining communication between our small staff on-the-go. And, considering the recovering real estate market, we wanted a streamlined way of doing business that our members could also use.

Switching to Google Apps has enabled us to do just that. With Google we streamline tasks, become more efficient and enhance productivity and organization. The benefits have been so great, we encourage our REALTOR® members to use it as well ... and they are!

When we sent an email to our members telling them about all the benefits of Google Apps - access from anywhere, great collaboration tools, and 25 GBs of email storage, just to name a few - we received multiple responses from excited new Google Apps users.

Kristin Walker, a REALTOR® at Dunes Properties in Charleston, SC was happy to find out SCR has gone Google and wrote to tell us about it. “It's great to hear SCR has gone Google!! My company completed our transition to Google Apps about a month ago. Many of our agents were already familiar with the Google platform and we have been training the others on the tools. We've got shared online calendars now and are using Google Docs for company-wide documents. It is definitely enhancing productivity!”

At SCR, our Google REALTOR® Education Calendar adorns the homepage. We are able to collaborate on projects through Google Docs, check email through Google Apps on our company cell phones and teach our members how to video chat with their clients. We’re even using the user-friendly Google Sites to create an online presence for our 2011 annual conference, The Unconference. But the best part is the $50,000 a year in savings for our members.

And of course, it’s comforting to know our email is reliable. So, while we watch the real estate industry bounce back, we are confident our emails will not. Thank you, Google!

Today, Google announced Google Exacycle for Visiting Faculty, a new academic grant program that will provide 1 billion hours of computational core capacity to a small group of qualified researchers. These researchers are tackling a variety of problems that require massive amounts of computational power to advance their disciplines.

In the future, we think that Google Exacycle could also help companies create new business opportunities in a variety of industries, including human genome sequencing in biotech, Monte Carlo simulations in financial services, and complex rendering and CGI in entertainment, as well as address other challenging issues in energy, agriculture, and manufacturing.

If your business can benefit from access to large amounts of computing power (hundreds of millions of autonomous core-hours) to solve complex technical challenges, and you want to discuss potential applications, you can reach us here.

Posted by Jordan Breckenridge, Google Exacycle Team

With more than 300,000 devices activated per day globally, Android is seeing rapid adoption in the post-PC era. Android works quite well with Google Apps, but we’re working to make it an excellent choice for both end-users and IT at businesses and schools. Over the last year for instance, we helped IT administrators manage Android straight from the browser, and we introduced features such as Priority Inbox view in Gmail for Android and the ability to edit Google Docs on the go.

Today we are announcing three more updates to our Android for business portfolio around security and connecting with colleagues. These products will be available to all Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Education customers:
  1. With the new version of the Google Apps Device Policy app, employees can quickly secure a lost or stolen Android 2.2+ device by locating it on a map, ringing the device, and resetting the device PIN or password remotely via the new My Devices website.

  2. Google Apps administrators have an option in the control panel to “Encrypt Data on Device”, which will now include requiring encrypted storage on Android 3.0 tablets. Devices will need version 2.0 of the Google Apps Device Policy app.
  3. A new corporate contacts app, Google Apps Lookup, makes it easier to find and contact people in your organization. Type (or speak) the name or email address of a coworker, and then tap to call, email, IM or send a text message. Lookup pulls information from the Google Apps directory, so admins need to enable “Shared Contacts” in the control panel before employees can use Lookup on their Android 2.1+ devices.

Learn more about how to set up Google Apps Device Policy and Google Apps Lookup. Mobile devices harness the power, speed and scale of the web to help people stay productive on the go. And these improvements should help make Android users even more productive while keeping their information secure. Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Martine Bronner, Head of Marketing at ESSEC Business School in Cergy-Pontoise, France.

ESSEC Business School was founded in 1907 and is one of Europe’s top management schools with 4,300 students, 138 academic staff and 37,000 alumni. The school, known for its international orientation, also has a campus in Singapore and partnerships with some of the best universities all over the world, including the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, IIM Ahmedabad India, SDA Bocconi Milan and Peking University.

In August 2009, we deployed Google Apps for Education to our students, alumni, faculty and administrative staff – 65,000 users in total. Google Apps has significantly increased the creation and sharing of content between all our users, with about 2,000 collaborative sites created every year on the platform.

Google Apps has provided us with a great way to lower IT costs while launching new projects that would have otherwise needed huge investment. For example, by moving to Google Apps instead of upgrading our internal messaging system we saved more than €100,000 in migration costs and €20,000 per year on email licencing. We also moved all of our teaching collaboration tools from custom internal websites to Google Sites and Google Docs. This switch has allowed us to offer long-term access to course materials for all our students.

Communicating in the cloud has also allowed us to improve collaboration between our campuses in France and Singapore. For example, the text, voice and video chat integrated in Gmail has replaced expensive video conferencing solutions for our executive board and has enabled students to easily communicate with their peers across the globe.

We benefit from Google’s focus on innovation - new features are released regularly which help us to improve the user experience. We will continue to utilise and promote these features to students and staff as they enable us to focus on our real added-value: innovation in education.

Posted by Martine Bronner, Head of Marketing, ESSEC Business School

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Jon West, Co-founder of 3Tailer, from Charlotte, North Carolina

My friend, Chad Ledford, and I started 3Tailer at Appalachian State University in 2005. 3Tailer, a niche online marketplace, has been focused on growing its business and we were recently selected by the Charlotte Business Journal as the 2nd fastest growing company in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Simply put, Google Apps runs our business. Google Apps has enabled our small company to minimize IT costs while maximizing our infrastructure capabilities. It’s incredibly easy to add new employees, define group mailing lists, and share documents. When building a company you have to maximize every minute of your time and every dollar you spend. Google Docs has to be the simplest way for organizations to setup email and start collaborating. Plus, I feel better knowing that our sensitive information is stored in the cloud and not on a random hard drive in our office.

In addition to the core products that come with Google Apps, we’ve also begun using the Google Apps Marketplace, relying on apps like Socialwok and ManyMoon. The Google Apps Marketplace has slowly started to open up a whole new level of productivity for our company. An added bonus for us is that everything integrates beautifully with our Android phones. There's no doubt in my mind that Google Apps has been essential in us being able to bootstrap our company from a $1,000 initial investment to millions in revenue today.

Editor’s Note: Recently we announced the winners of our global Gone Google ad contest. Today’s featured winner is Susan Zolezzi, Manager, Communications & Change at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

Monash University is Australia’s largest university, with 60,000 current students across nine campuses and centres in Australia, Malaysia, South Africa and Italy, and over 250,000 alumni around the world.

Our switch to Google Apps for Education began with students in November 2009, and despite being an opt-in offer over summer break and the Christmas holiday, 40,000 students had migrated before their return for semester one! By July 2010 all students were on Google Apps and the old student mail service was retired. Between June 2010 and December 2010 we migrated over 20,000 staff from 3 systems, and to date we have seen excellent uptake and use of the new applications in addition to email. In comparison, our previous Monash email and calendar projects took years of project resources and budget and saw poor adoption.

We believe accessible and easy collaboration means better ideas. Better ideas shared by more people have the potential to be even more powerful. Going Google has provided the Monash community the ability to leverage technology for collaboration in new ways and to a much greater degree than ever before. We are seeing teacher-teacher, teacher-student and student-student collaboration in every area of the university, including in the classroom, research, study and administration.

We have professional staff developing Google Sites to attract and onboard new students; teachers using Google Spreadsheets to facilitate lab assignments; administration using Google forms to collect important evaluative feedback from staff; and students using Google Docs for shared note taking. Teachers are also using Google Docs and Sites to garner valuable insight into students’ learning experiences and outcomes by observing students working real time and providing feedback as well as using revision history to observe contributions to group assignments and thought processes.

Going Google has helped us turn nine campuses across four countries into one University by providing a platform of greater opportunities for active engagement between students, staff and researchers, producing ‘world and work ready’ graduates. Apart from the collaboration and educational benefits to the Monash community, Google Apps has been better, faster and cheaper than we could have hoped for, delivering cost and time efficiencies across the university.

Posted by Susan Zolezzi, Manager, Communications & Change, Monash University