Most businesses these days rely on technology to get their work done. And anyone who’s responsible for that technology — or even anyone who just follows the news — knows that 2013 was a big year for internet security. Of course, security has been a top priority for Google for over a decade. Millions of businesses trust Google to keep their data safe every day -- a responsibility we take very seriously. We focus on protecting our customers’ data from all unauthorized access, whether from common phishing, sophisticated hacking, or state-sponsored intrusions.

Google employs hundreds of full-time world-class security engineers. We were the first to offer important security tools, like free two-step verification, encrypted connections between your browser and our servers, and a handful of other security innovations. As a company, Google uses the same products and services that we offer to our customers. We run on the same infrastructure, in the same data centers.

Before businesses slow down for the holidays, we wanted to highlight a few of the many investments we’ve made and features we’ve launched in 2013 to help keep our customers — and everyone on the web — safe. Of course, there’ll be much more to come next year.

Offering new security tools for Google Apps administrators:

In addition to protecting our customers, Google also makes it easier for customers to protect themselves. For domain administrators, having visibility into and control over how their users’ accounts are working is a big help.

  • Suspicious login alerts: A new feature in the Google Apps Admin Console allows administrators to receive email alerts when our systems detect suspicious or unusual login activity in their users’ accounts. This helps admins stay informed of what’s happening in their domain — to a degree not possible with most email systems — and, when necessary, take swift corrective action.
  • Android device management: Organizations can manage smartphones and tablets - including Android and iOS - right from the Google Apps Admin console. The Android device management features include the ability to selectively wipe Google Apps account data without wiping a user’s entire device and require the latest version of the Device Policy app to ensure security policies are enforced across all devices.
  • Account recovery: A new account recovery process for super administrators helps keep their accounts more secure by allowing each super admin to specify their own recovery email address and telephone number. And the new mobile Admin app lets administrators quickly accomplish the most critical tasks (like suspending users or resetting passwords) wherever they are, using an Android phone or tablet.

Verifying our practices through third-party certifications and regulatory compliance:

When it comes to security and helping our customers comply with specific industry regulations, you don’t just need to take our word for it. Many of our security practices have been reviewed and verified by third-parties in the form of audits.

  • FISMA: The Federal Information Systems Management Act includes a rigorous evaluation of the security processes and data protections, and is required by U.S. federal government customers. Google Apps was the first cloud productivity suite to receive FISMA back in 2010, and we renewed our certification again this year.
  • ISO 27001: ISO 27001 is one of the most widely recognized, internationally accepted independent security standards. After earning ISO 27001 for Google Apps in 2012, we renewed our certification again this year for Google Apps and received the certification for Google Cloud Platform.
  • SOC2, SSAE 16 & ISAE 3402: Companies use the SOC2, SSAE 16 Type II audit, and its international counterpart ISAE 3402 Type II audit, to document and verify the data protections in place for their services. We’ve successfully completed these audits for Google Apps every year since 2008 (when the audits were known by their previous incarnation, SAS 70) and we did so again this year for Google Apps and Google Cloud Platform.
  • HIPAA: This year, we started offering Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) to help our customers who need to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) while using Google App.

Improving security for everyone on the web:

Our work doesn’t end with providing security for Google products or even Google customers. To keep ahead of the bad guys, we work with researchers and others in the broader security community to make sure the the web is safe for everyone.

  • Updated SSL certificates: To keep users safe, we utilize encryption on almost all connections made to Google, but this encryption needs to be updated at times to make it even stronger. This year, we upgraded all of our SSL certificates to 2048-bit RSA, which will help the industry move away from weaker, 1024-bit keys next year.
  • Vulnerability rewards: Since introducing our vulnerability rewards programs in 2010, we’ve rewarded (and fixed!) more than 2,000 security bug reports, paid out more than $2 million in rewards, and been recognized for setting leading standards for response time. And to convey our commitment to security and thank researchers for their important work, this year we increased the maximum award from $1000 to $5000.
  • Easier recovery for hacked websites: As a site owner, discovering your site is hacked with spam or malware is stressful, and trying to clean it up under a time constraint can be very challenging. We’ve been working to make recovery even easier and streamline the cleaning process — we notify webmasters when the software they’re running on their site is out of date, and we’ve set up a dedicated help portal for hacked sites with detailed articles and videos explaining each step of the process to recovery. This year, we released additional security tools so webmasters can find information about security issues on their site in one place and pinpoint problems faster with detailed code snippets.

Whether it’s creating easy-to-use tools to help organizations manage their information or keeping customer data safe from prying eyes, we’re constantly investing to ensure that Google earns and keeps your trust. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and (most of all) safe 2014.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Holly Drury, Field Sales Manager for Premier Foods, one of the UK’s largest food producers. Premier Foods include iconic brands such as Ambrosia, Batchelors, Mr. Kipling, OXO, Hovis and more. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Premier Elves is our annual holiday season initiative to help maximise retail sales. In partnership with the major retailers across the UK, Premier Foods is sending out hundreds of elves across various functions from Head Office and multiple sites. Their job is to increase awareness and placement of Premier Foods products in retail stores during the busy Christmas period, drive year-end performance during the holiday shopping season, and share feedback and recommendations with internal teams at this key time of year. All in all, the elves will visit more than 1,000 stores nationwide.

This is the third year Premier Foods has run this successful initiative, but like every successful repeat initiative we always look to make improvements. This year we decided to improve the collaboration and efficiency of Premier Elves and reduce costs and complexity by using Google+.

With the help of Claire Hunt from our internal Google team and our Google partner Appsbroker, the Elves are using the dedicated Premier Foods internal and partner Google+ channels to capture photos of in-store promotional displays, share success stories with other Premier Elves, and collaborate on best practices. With Google+ we are increasing the elves’ efficiency, whilst also improving the customer experience and driving increases in sales.

Being able to capture pictures and context right at the point of sale and share insight across the business and is helping make this year’s holiday season the most successful and fun ever. Thank you to Google+ for making it all work so seamlessly and more importantly, thank you to all the Premier Elves for helping make the holiday season such a success for us here in the UK.


Editor's note: Today, we hear from Hiwa Afandi, Head of the Department of Information Technology for the Kurdistan Regional Government, the official ruling body of Iraqi Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Why did the Kurdistan Regional Government decide to move to Google Apps?
We want to improve our operational efficiency and modernize our technology. We also want to help our 300,000 employees across the Kurdistan Regional Government’s ministries and departments to collaborate and communicate more easily. Like many emerging markets in the Middle East, lack of proper infrastructure and Internet service providers in our region make it very difficult to achieve true “interconnectedness.” That’s why we see Google Apps for Business, and cloud computing in general, as the kind of innovative technology that can help us to achieve our objectives.

What factors did you consider before making the move to Google?
Pricing was definitely a consideration. We are working on several large IT projects that are resource-intensive, including a state-of-the-art data center and government cloud. We like that Google is very price-competitive. But many other benefits – such as ease of use and management, speed, and reliability – were important factors in our decision, as well. We also have full trust in Google’s data security and privacy safeguards.

How many people in the Kurdistan Regional Government are using Google Apps?
About 3,000 employees are currently using Google Apps, including my IT team of 180. Several of the early adopters will be taking the lead in a “train the trainee” program in 2014. One person in each ministry or department will become the Google administrator for that unit and will train other users on how to use Google Apps.

Is there a Google partner assisting with your move to Google Apps?
Our Google partner is BRAMS, based in Dubai. They are helping us to transition both quickly and smoothly to Google Apps from our legacy systems, such as Microsoft Exchange.

How do you see employees using Google Apps after the rollout?
Steve Jobs once said that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. In a developing country like ours, people sometimes need time to accept and adjust to innovation. I think that once our employees see how easily they can communicate and collaborate with each other – and all from a single platform – they will want to use Google Apps more and more. They will be able to work more efficiently.

What about your IT team? Will the move to Google Apps help make them more productive?
The move to Google Apps has already made our team more productive. I introduced Google Apps to my team as soon as I joined the IT department. It didn’t take long for them to embrace tools like Google Calendar, Google Chat and Google Docs for everyday work. On a broader scale, by moving the entire Kurdistan Regional Government to Google Apps for Business, my IT team doesn’t have to worry about the technicalities of hosting and configuring a complex data center for email and collaboration solutions. That prevents a huge headache. I only have about five people devoted to Google tasks for the entire government. The rest of my team is free to focus on other responsibilities.

I want to emphasize how important that is, especially as the Kurdistan Regional Government pursues a number of other important IT initiatives. In the Middle East, skilled IT resources are difficult to find and retain, and are often expensive to hire. So, we must use our IT resources wisely. Again, that’s why Google Apps and other cloud solutions are so beneficial to us. We don’t have to worry about heavy data storage or processing infrastructure. There is no need to install hardware, implement software or perform complex integrations. We can just focus on our business and on innovation. That is a huge enabling factor for our government.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Elliot Sanchez, founder and chief executive officer of mSchool, a benefit corporation (B Corp.) that helps community centers and schools in the United States open “microschools” to connect children with structured online learning opportunities. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

At mSchool, we want to see every student receive an incredible, personalized education and make it easy for schools to provide that type of learning experience. We also believe in the thoughtful integration of technology into education.

There are many powerful, fantastic tools available today to help students learn, but using them in the right way to get the right results can be a complicated, and often costly, process. We work directly with local community centers and schools to open – in two weeks’ time and for about $5,000 – accredited one-classroom “microschools” staffed with academic coaches from the local area. Through our adaptive learning program, mSchool gathers over 250,000 data points on student learning in each classroom. That data allows us to individualize our curricula to a student's needs and adjust based on each student's performance.

We offer a technology-rich education option for students, grades 3 through 12, to deepen their math understanding and prepare for Algebra I. This includes multimedia content, interactive animations, tools for creating digital graphs and charts, and formative assessments. Chromebooks are now a big part of that experience. In our pilot classrooms, students used a range of devices – mostly donated equipment – including laptops, PCs, Macs, and tablet computers. But when we were ready to expand our program this year from 30 students to more than 200, we needed to find technology that could grow with us. We considered several different options, but Chromebooks really stood out.
First, we liked the web-based management console for managing Chromebooks and user access. We needed the ability to manage the student experience in a quickly growing number of classrooms across the country-- from around the corner in New Orleans to rural South Dakota. We can remotely control which sites students can access which allows us to help them stay on track with their learning. With Chromebooks, students are spending more “time on task.”

Cost was another primary factor in our decision to use Chromebooks throughout our classrooms. We were able to put a Chromebook into the hands of every student we’re working with this year. The low cost of replacement of the Chromebooks also means we can leave them with the community centers at the end of the academic year.

We never want technology to be a barrier to learning. And with Chromebooks, it isn’t. Students are able to access our cloud based adaptive curriculum and work at their own pace. Chromebooks are allowing our students to engage in ways they weren’t able to with pen and paper and static content like printed books. They also help us to instruct students in a personalized way. And they enable collaboration: students can work through problems independently, but when they get stuck, remote teachers can see exactly what they’re working on and help to guide them.

In 2014, mSchool will expand into five states using grant funding we received this year as part of the Teach for America Social Innovation award. And it’s the reliable rollout and scalability of Chromebooks that will help to ensure we can open all the classrooms that we’ve planned.


Google Groups makes communicating with a group of people easy through online and email-based communities. Some groups are in high demand and have many active members or receive a lot of messages from external senders. Google Apps customers have told us that it’s time-consuming for group leaders to respond to every message individually. So based on your feedback, we’re launching a new auto-reply feature for Google Groups for Business to help streamline communications.

If you’re the creator or administrator of a Google Group, the auto-reply feature allows you to create up to four different, customized responses for different recipients:
  1. Group members from inside your company
  2. Non-members from inside your company
  3. Group members from outside your company
  4. Non-members from outside your company
Imagine your company has a Google Group set up for customer support, and the address is published on your website. If the office will be closed during the holidays, setting up automatic replies could be helpful. For company employees who email the group, you can provide the CEO’s cell phone number in case of emergencies. For non-members, you can add a note instructing them to join the group for updates. And for external customers, your automatic reply can say the company is closed for the holidays but will respond to inquiries after January 2.
To get started using auto replies in Google Groups for Business, go to Email Options under your group Settings.


(Cross-posted on the Gmail Blog.)

Have you ever wondered why Gmail asks you before showing images in emails? We did this to protect you from unknown senders who might try to use images to compromise the security of your computer or mobile device.

But thanks to new improvements in how Gmail handles images, you’ll soon see all images displayed in your messages automatically across desktop, iOS and Android. Instead of serving images directly from their original external host servers, Gmail will now serve all images through Google’s own secure proxy servers.

So what does this mean for you? Simple: your messages are more safe and secure, your images are checked for known viruses or malware, and you’ll never have to press that pesky “display images below” link again. With this new change, your email will now be safer, faster and more beautiful than ever.
Of course, those who prefer to authorize image display on a per message basis can choose the option “Ask before displaying external images” under the General tab in Settings. That option will also be the default for users who previously selected “Ask before displaying external content”.

Similar to existing features like default https access, suspicious activity detection, and free two-step verification, image proxying is another way your email is protected. This new improvement will be rolling out on desktop starting today and to your Gmail mobile apps in early 2014.


(Cross-posted on the Original Google Blog and the Google Drive Blog.)

Whether you’re crunching big data or tracking your team's budget, you don’t want to waste time waiting for files to load or re-doing edits that were lost because your Internet connection dropped. You can now get more done by switching to the new version of Google Sheets. It’s faster, supports larger spreadsheets, has a number of new features, and works offline.
Bigger, faster spreadsheets

The new Sheets supports millions of cells and kicks many of the old size and complexity limits to the curb. Scrolling, loading and calculation are all snappier, even in more complex spreadsheets.

New features based on your feedback and requests 

Filter views is a new feature unique to Google Sheets that lets you quickly name, save and share different views of your data. This comes in handy when you’re collaborating so you can sort a spreadsheet without affecting how others see it.
Whether you’re new to formulas or a whiz at running complex functions, it’s now easier to set up and perform calculations. New function help and examples guide you as you type, and error highlighting and coloring make it easy to spot and fix mistakes.
As another time-saving improvement, text now automatically flows into empty adjacent cells—no manual merge needed.
With the improved conditional formatting, you can add rules to change the colors and styles of cells in your spreadsheet based on custom formulas.

No internet connection? Work offline with Chrome 

You shouldn’t have to think about whether you have a WiFi connection when you want to work. So just like Google Docs and Slides, you can now make edits to Sheets offline. When you reconnect to the Internet, your edits will automatically sync. If you've edited Docs or Slides offline in the past, then you’re already set up to edit Sheets offline. If not, follow these one-time instructions for setting up offline in Chrome.

Ready to try it out? 

Turn on the new Sheets by checking the “Try the new Google Sheets” box in Google Drive settings. From then on, all new spreadsheets you create will work offline and include these new features. We’ll be adding a small list of missing features in the coming months, so if you rely on any of them, you may want to wait a little longer before opting in.

We hope you enjoy these and the many other updates that come along with the new Google Sheets, including colored sheet tabs, custom number formatting, paste transpose and more. 


Dell has a long history of serving schools’ education technology needs. Today, they join the Google for Education family, announcing the new Dell Chromebook 11.

The new Dell Chromebook 11

The Dell Chromebook 11 was designed with schools in mind. The battery lasts up to 10 hours -- enough for a full school day plus homework -- and boots up in 8.4 seconds. It is light and highly portable, making it ideal for student use at home or on the go. And like all Chromebooks, it includes the cutting edge in security features, keeping schools protected from online threats. The device will be available in two versions - 4GB in January 2014 and 2GB in Q1 2014 - both for under $300.

“Dell asked for and listened to feedback about what our district needs in a laptop so we can ensure the best teaching and learning experiences across our schools. Simplicity in rolling out and managing the Chromebooks was really important to us because we only have a crew of six IT team members to manage 13,000 students. We also know that students can be tough on the technology, so we really appreciate the durable screen and robust power supply the Dell Chromebook 11 offers.”

--Bryan Phillips, Chief Technology Officer, Hoover City School District, Alabama

Verified for 2014 Assessments
The new Dell Chromebook 11 joins a family of 5 other Chromebooks that are verified for the latest education assessments. Both Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) verified that all Chromebooks meet their requirements for standardized assessments in the 2014-2015 school year. With the shift toward online assessments and the Common Core State Standards, Chromebooks are helping schools achieve their goals.

To learn more about Chromebooks for Education, please visit our website and fill out our contact form to speak with a member of our team.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Gregg Rosann, President, Co-Founder, and Chief Technology Officer of Graduation Alliance, based in Salt Lake City. Graduation Alliance works with school districts around the country to help students facing challenging life circumstances to graduate. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

High school can be a tough time for any student. But the students we work with face challenges that many of their peers couldn’t even imagine. They may work to support family members who are ill or unemployed, be homeless or have been bullied in school. Or they may have young children. Many of our students haven’t been in a classroom in years.

Since 2007, we’ve been giving students like this the flexibility, academic interventions and social support they need to get back on track and moving forward toward graduation. Working in partnership with local public school districts, we provide a complete suite of online learning courses that are free to students and allow them to earn credits toward graduation at their own pace. We also offer several layers of human support, which is essential to helping students make education a priority.

Because few of these students are in a position to attend a brick-and-mortar school, we provide laptops and internet access to our students as part of the program. We deployed Chromebooks to about 600 students this school year. We determined that moving to Chromebooks from the PCs and tablets we were providing could help us reduce our cost of ownership by significantly reducing the need for technical support. We also like that Chromebooks are essentially “log on and go.” Students don’t have to worry about a multistep process just to get on the web. Also, the speed and simplicity of the Chrome browser helps our students access our online learning program and get to work faster, so they can be more productive.
We manage students’ Internet access through a proxy server that we control though the Chromebook management console. The ability to limit Internet access (which we do when students fall behind in their coursework), turn off machines, and control policies from a central console is very helpful. It allows us to make sure students are taking full advantage of the program. Also, there’s no need to send a Chromebook back to the home office to be reset before it’s issued to another student, as user information is siloed, encrypted and easily wiped remotely. That’s a huge plus for an organization like ours with a nationally distributed student base.

The most important thing about Chromebooks is that they just make sense for our students, because they’ve grown up with the web. Asking them to use a desktop app to access their coursework is a foreign concept. But, if you give them instructions to go straight to a website, they understand. That’s their mindset.

Chromebooks help us focus on our students, and allow our students to focus on moving forward toward graduation. And when a student who once saw nothing but obstacles instead sees their name on a diploma, it’s an amazing thing.


Editor's note: Our guest blogger is James Griffiths, General Manager of WaterTrax, a Vancouver-based software provider that helps agencies and utilities companies manage operational data for their water and wastewater systems. View our webinar series to learn more about Google solutions for the utilities industry.

To provide clean water to millions of people every day, utilities must analyze petabytes of data to spot and correct potentially dangerous incidents in water treatment and distribution networks. As a provider of operations management software, WaterTrax is always looking for ways to make data monitoring and management easier and more effective for our utility customers.
Mapping of Sampling Points
We integrated Google Maps into our platform to allow WaterTrax users to quickly visualize system data on a map. We created a Google Maps-based tool that provides a spatial display of water system structures combined with real-time water quality data. Quite literally, our product allows utility managers to see how water quality is being affected as water flows throughout the entire system.

By displaying complex data in a visually appealing way, Google Maps helps our customers spot issues and identify trends instantaneously. Utility managers get a visual view of recent test results, compliance history, alerts, complaints and sampling schedules — all mapped to specific locations. Instead of poring over spreadsheets and structured tables to spot trends in sampling data, now they see this data right on a map. We’ve observed that customers like plotting sampling locations on maps using street view, satellite view and terrain view. They also appreciate being able to quickly export map data into their Geographic Information System (GIS) databases.
Mapping of most recent free chlorine results in the distribution system
Going forward, we’ll continue to add enhancements to our Google Maps offering. Already, we’ve added features based on customer feedback. California-based Golden State Water Company wanted to see a glimpse of their chlorine results to know if sampling was up to date and contaminant levels were within acceptable ranges. So we created a search feature in Google Maps to display only the most recent test results. This feature would be most beneficial during an emergency situation such as a high chlorate incident, where Golden State Water would use the WaterTrax mapping interface to track real-time data across their system. The searchable map shows the most recent lab results, so the team can visualize in real-time where chlorate levels increase or decrease to take immediate action.

At WaterTrax, our goal is to make real-time data monitoring easier for utilities. Google Maps allow our customers to spot potential problems quickly, so they can ensure public water safety and quality for millions of consumers every day.
Mapping of most recent free chlorine results in the distribution system


Editor's note: Today we hear from Cee Chan, IT Manager at the environmentally conscious handmade cosmetics company LUSH. Headquartered in England, LUSH has multiple manufacturing sites and several head office locations in Poole and London. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

At LUSH, we believe in making products that are quality from start to finish and take care to only buy ingredients that have a positive impact on the community from which they are sourced. We send our Ethical Buying Team to visit suppliers, trace the ingredients and meet the growers to ensure care for the environment and fair worker conditions. We take pride in what we do and make an effort to provide our team with the tools they need to create the best products and deliver exceptional service. Yet, as we started to grow, our Scalix email system began crashing regularly, causing our productivity to plummet.
We started looking for a new email solution with three key things in mind. First, we wanted a cloud-based solution that could scale as we grew without causing any service outages. Second, we wanted a solution that would enable seamless, real-time collaboration. We’re a team-oriented company and wanted to employ tools like Google Docs and Hangouts that made collaboration simple, whether it was between two employees in our Poole office or five teams spread across the globe. Third, we wanted a flexible solution that would support our BYOD policy and allow employees to work on any device, from anywhere, at any time. We considered a few different options, but when Ancoris introduced us to Google Apps we found that it was the only solution that fulfilled all of our needs.

Google’s cloud-based solution helps us scale seamlessly without any interruptions to our coverage. Before moving onto Google Apps, we spent at least eight hours a week dealing with IT issues. Now, we can lean on Google to deal with the technology side of our business and we no longer have to worry about things like disk space or email outages—everything just works. The switch to Google Apps is a huge boost to productivity and time savings, which in turn saves us a lot of money. As an environmentally conscious company, it also feels good knowing we are decreasing our footprint by getting rid of our on-site infrastructure and becoming more energy efficient.

Through tools like Docs and Hangouts, Google Apps enables a collaborative and flexible work environment that keeps us all on the same page, no matter where we are located. For example, we use Docs across the company to manage employee schedules and timesheets so that everyone can be on the same page. The fact that any employee can open the shared document and know they’re viewing the most up-to-date version, instead of having to sift through old email attachments, has vastly improved efficiency. The best part is that we can access our documents from anywhere and on any device, helping us maintain a flexible work environment. Tools like Hangouts have also improved collaboration at LUSH, because connecting with colleagues is now so simple and seamless.

Moving to Google Apps was critical to help our business scale, innovate and keep our commitment to producing ethically-sourced products that are good for our customers and good for our suppliers. With Google taking care of the technology side of our business, we can now focus on the things that matter most--making products that are quality from start to finish.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Nigel Bailey, General Manager - Fairfax Production Services for Fairfax Media New Zealand. The company is headquartered in Auckland, New Zealand, and has two national, nine daily and more than 60 community newspapers in addition to more than 25 magazines and websites. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Fairfax Media NZ was established in 2003 and currently employs approximately 1,800 people. Since its founding, the company has grown its reach to nearly three million New Zealanders across its 90+ publications. We are headquartered in Auckland with additional teams in Wellington and Christchurch. When I joined eight years ago, our IT environment was incredibly fragmented. Every newspaper had its own IT department, systems and ways of doing things.

As the company grew, we began to view our business differently and started looking into how we could restructure the organization. We wanted to consolidate and standardize the different systems we used so we embarked on a systems centralization program.

Four years ago, one of our major challenges was email. Employees in different cities used different email systems—primarily Microsoft Exchange—but we wanted everyone on one central system. We needed a system that would allow teams to work and collaborate virtually. At that time, there wasn’t a comparable solution on the market. Since then, however, Google has made immense progress. In 2012, we began our migration onto Google Apps and by November, the entire company had made the move. Now, for the first time in the company’s history, we have a single view of IT across the organization.

We saw three immediate benefits after moving to Google Apps: real-time collaboration, increased productivity and the ability to work anytime, anywhere. For us, being able to collaborate in real-time is crucial. Google’s cloud-based solution means that we can do anything from anywhere. For a media organisation, this is absolute gold. Having news teams and sales teams be able to collaborate and share information wherever they are is a completely new way of thinking and it has spread to other parts of our business.

At a recent internal event, I was impressed by how efficiently everything ran. Before Google Apps, we shared agendas via email and everyone added their comments in separate documents and one person would cobble all the revisions together. This involved countless back-and-forth emails and a hope that by the end, everyone’s comments were properly captured. The agenda would have to be finalised well before the event because making any updates involved the same cumbersome process. Various versions of notes recapping the event would also be assembled from several different documents.

Now that we’re on Google Apps, we’re all on the same page—literally! Being able to share one document, where everyone can collaborate at the same time, has been a huge time saver and a boost to efficiency. The speed at which we can now turn things around is profoundly faster.The switch to Google Apps increased our productivity by allowing us to work anytime, anywhere.

One of the best parts of the migration was the team excitement about the move to Google Apps. When we announced we were rolling out Google Apps, some staff came up to us and said, “We’ve actually been using Google Apps on the side but hadn’t told the IT department because we didn’t want to get into trouble. Can we now move what we’ve already set up into the Fairfax Media Google environment?” People are using this sort of technology at home already. By moving to Google Apps we’re actually catching up to our employees.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blog is about the newly launched Google Maps Engine public data program, which lets organizations distribute their map content to consumers using Google’s cloud infrastructure. Frank Biasi, Director of Digital Development at National Geographic Maps, tells us how his organization is participating in the public data program and sharing over 500 maps to the world.

Why are maps important for National Geographic?
Founded in 1888, National Geographic Society aims to inspire people to care about the planet. As one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, we’ve funded more than 10,000 research, conservation and exploration projects. Maps and geography are integral to everything we do; it’s even part of our name. Over our long history, we’ve created and published more than 800 reference, historic and travel maps.

Medieval England (1979)

Dominican Republic: Adventure Map

Why did you want to take part in the Google Enterprise Maps public data program?
People have collected our magazine fold-out maps for over a hundred years, and many of those maps are sequestered away in attics and garages. The public data program gives us the opportunity to release our amazing map collection to the wider world.

We will also use Maps Engine to overlay our maps with interactive editorial content, so the maps can “tell stories” and raise awareness about environmental issues and historic events. Anyone will be able to access our free public maps, but we also plan to sell or license high-resolution and print versions to raise funds for our nonprofit mission.

Why did you choose to work with Google and not another maps technology partner?
We needed a high-performance mapping platform to produce and publish hundreds of interactive maps. We also wanted a relatively simple web-based workflow that could be used by non-technical employees and wouldn’t require any programming or desktop software. Google Maps Engine offers a good blend of robust technology and simple usability. Of course, Google will also help our maps get discovered by more people, including National Geographic fans, students and educators and travelers. We expect travel and home decor businesses, publishers and brand marketers will also want to buy or license them.

Which Google Maps Engine advanced tools do you use the most?
We use all the features. We load data, create layers, combine layers into maps, publish individual layers as maps and integrate multiple maps. We use both the raster and vector capabilities to put descriptors, links, pop-ups and thumbnails on top of maps. For example, we could use Maps Engine to add articles, photography and information from National Geographic expeditions to our ocean maps. These interactive maps, which we can display in 2D or 3D using Maps Engine, will allow people to follow along with expeditions as they unfold or retrace past expeditions.

What’s the most exciting thing about participating in the Google Maps Engine public data program?
Google Maps Engine lets us turn our maps into interactive full-screen images that can be panned and zoomed and overlaid with tons of great data. We are proud of our century-long cartographic tradition. The Maps Engine public data program will help get our maps out into the world where more people can enjoy and learn from them.


(Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Platform Blog)

Editor's note: Today’s guest blog comes from Dan Mesh, Vice President of Technology at Evite, the pioneer in online invitations and social planning. Evite has over 30 million registered users and sends more than 250 million party invitations annually.

In the past year, we’ve introduced a couple of exciting new products at Evite: our Postmark service offers premium online invitations and announcements for milestone events like weddings and births, and Evite Ink lets our users design custom paper invitations that we print and mail for a small fee. We couldn’t have launched these products without Google Compute Engine and Google App Engine, which gave us the infrastructure needed to scale our services to high demands and analyze large volumes of data they generate.

Evite has been around since 1998, but behind this well-known online brand is a small and lean team. Migrating to the cloud has allowed us to focus our time, energy and financial resources on development of new products and services, free from worries of server management, capacity planning and hardware costs.
We chose Google Cloud Platform because the combination of App Engine and Compute Engine truly delivers on the cloud’s promise of scalable and elastic computing. App Engine’s autoscaling means that as long as our applications are developed in line with the platform API’s and architecture guidelines, scalability comes for free. This is a huge benefit since we no longer worry about scaling our services to meet heavy demands and are also free from the difficulties and risks inherent in capacity planning.

Most online businesses have very consistent daily, weekly and seasonal traffic patterns, and in Evite’s case, these patterns are even more pronounced. In the past, we used to provision resources to meet peak demand allowing for a healthy margin of error and future growth. Naturally, this resulted in a lot of wasted capital and engineering resources. Now that most of our systems are running on Google Cloud Platform, we see significant savings as application servers expand and shrink elastically in accordance with our web traffic.

For example, in the past Evite was hesitant to roll out major application releases in Q4, typically the busiest time of the year for us. During this time, we reach our peak traffic, and operational focus was on making sure nothing went wrong. Any significant releases represented unwanted risk. Cloud Platform greatly simplifies the release process and provides built-in traffic splitting. This has made it possible for Evite product teams to test new features and release products more frequently and with reduced risks, even during the busiest times of year.

As we add new products and services, Compute Engine plays a key role in our application infrastructure. We use it to closely monitor and analyze the performance of our products and services. All application data and log files generated by applications running on App Engine flow through a cluster of Compute Engine instances running extract, transform, load (ETL) processes, which feed this data into the data warehouse. There we analyze the collected data to detect errors and usage patterns helping us improve the design of our products and maintain performance levels.

Compute Engine gets high marks for interoperability with App Engine and other cloud vendors. We use AWS Redshift as our data warehouse so interoperability is very important. Equally impressive are predictable, high I/O performance and fast instance startup times. For our data processing workloads these two metrics are critical to success.

With App Engine powering all of our customer-facing services and Compute Engine helping us monitor and understand application performance, Evite is in great shape to create and release new products. We look forward to many new releases in 2014 knowing we can count on Cloud Platform to make these launches trouble-free.

Editor's note: Today's guest blogger is Eric Hollenbeck, Sr. Manager of IT & Business Services at Redfin, a technology-powered real estate company headquartered in Seattle, WA that serves 22 markets across the U.S. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Why did you choose Google Apps?
We moved our entire company onto Google Apps five years ago to cut costs and align closely with the tools our customers and employees wanted to use. The benefits we’re experiencing, however, go beyond that and have led to improved efficiency, increased mobility, and better collaboration across our company. We also knew that using Google Apps and other technologies would help us innovate and differentiate ourselves from other real estate companies.

How is Google Apps increasing collaboration across Redfin?
We have offices across the U.S., which could pose obstacles for a team-oriented work environment, but tools like Docs and Spreadsheets help keep our team collaborative. We use Docs to share any work that needs to be viewed or edited by multiple people or parties, like marketing lists or specs for new features. Our staff uses Docs to create and share planning documents and task checklists with 20 or more team members across multiple offices and time zones. The fact that we can all review and comment simultaneously has improved collaboration company-wide.
As a real estate business, your team is often on location. What tools help employees remain efficient while working remotely?
Our real estate agents are frequently out of the office helping clients buy or sell homes, so we really benefit from having remote access to all of our files through Google Drive. Our real estate agents work in teams, with a coordinator helping them throughout the escrow process. By using Google Drive, both team members can access and update the most current version of a contract, ensuring timely and accurate access to critical details about each real estate transaction. It’s also a huge boost to efficiency knowing that anytime we open a document in Drive, it’s the correct version and changes are saved automatically. This eliminates the need to sift through emails on our mobile device to try to find the most recent copy.

Is there a particular tool that helps keep the team organized?
Our intranet is powered by Google Sites. We store and share everything from company announcements and events to many internal resources like HR documents. The entire team knows that there’s a single, centralized place to find all of the basic information they need.

How is Google Apps helping Redfin achieve its goals?
Our primary goal is to use technology to transform the way people buy and sell homes--making it easier and more enjoyable for our clients. Any tools that can help our teams collaborate more efficiently, thus serving our clients more effectively, is a win for Redfin and our customer. Google Apps is helping us deliver that result.


Editor's note: Our guest blogger is Rick Mueller, IT Manager for Pediatric Home Service, a provider of in-home nursing and medical care for medically-complex children based in Roseville, Minnesota. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Pediatric Home Service started offering in-home respiratory care for medically-complex children 23 years ago. Our founder, Susan Wingert, understood that kids thrive at home, not in the hospital, so we brought the medical care to them. Since then, we’ve expanded our services to include infusion therapy, pharmacy, nutrition, education, social work, and most recently private duty nursing. We help care for more than 3,400 children in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Over half of the 330 people on staff are skilled clinicians and nurses who spend their days in patient homes. Our clinicians do 99% of their charting and reporting electronically, so they need to securely access records right from the patient’s home in real-time. We used to install Windows laptops in some private duty nursing patient homes so nurses could log onto our records system, but that was costly and cumbersome.

When it was time to upgrade our old Microsoft Exchange Server two years ago, we looked at several options, and quickly realized moving to Google Apps would be the most secure, scalable and cost effective solution for our growing organization. We launched Apps in September 2011, starting with Gmail, Chat, Contacts and Calendar. During the rollout, we used the Google Guides program, where we trained a few power users who in turn helped their colleagues learn the ropes of Google Apps.

All of our employees loved Google Apps, so when it came time to upgrade the Windows laptops in the field, we replaced them with Chromebooks, including models from Acer and Samsung. The Chromebooks put critical information, including charts, medication lists and treatments, at the nurses’ fingertips. Many of them are installed in patient homes, enabling our private duty nurses to check Gmail as well as update charts in our Windows-based patient records system via Citrix.

From a cost perspective, we’ve saved over $17,000 buying the Chromebooks versus Windows laptops, but the real savings is ongoing. So far, we have saved at least $50,000 in soft costs due to decreased management and upkeep, and expect those savings to continue.

We plan to buy more Chromebooks and deploy them in our headquarters, our warehouse and among the facility staff. The IT team are all converts because Chromebooks require almost zero maintenance. We use the Management Console to remotely lock machines, get full visibility into usage and configure on-site wireless access. Chromebooks take 10 minutes to set up, and we spend 1/10th as much time maintaining Chromebooks as we do our Windows laptops.

Our nurses and clinicians have one top priority: taking care of the child. They don’t want to fiddle around with technology; they want technology that just works, and with Chromebooks, they’re empowered to better help kids and families thrive at home.


(Cross-posted on the Google Cloud Platform Blog and Google Developers Blog)

Google Cloud Platform gives developers the flexibility to architect applications with both managed and unmanaged services that run on Google’s infrastructure. We’ve been working to improve the developer experience across our services to meet the standards our own engineers would expect here at Google.

Today, Google Compute Engine is Generally Available (GA), offering virtual machines that are performant, scalable, reliable, and offer industry-leading security features like encryption of data at rest. Compute Engine is available with 24/7 support and a 99.95% monthly SLA for your mission-critical workloads. We are also introducing several new features and lower prices for persistent disks and popular compute instances.

Expanded operating system support
During Preview, Compute Engine supported two of the most popular Linux distributions, Debian and Centos, customized with a Google-built kernel. This gave developers a familiar environment to build on, but some software that required specific kernels or loadable modules (e.g. some file systems) were not supported. Now you can run any out-of-the-box Linux distribution (including SELinux and CoreOS) as well as any kernel or software you like, including Docker, FOG, xfs and aufs. We’re also announcing support for SUSE and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (in Limited Preview) and FreeBSD.

Transparent maintenance with live migration and automatic restart
At Google, we have found that regular maintenance of hardware and software infrastructure is critical to operating with a high level of reliability, security and performance. We’re introducing transparent maintenance that combines software and data center innovations with live migration technology to perform proactive maintenance while your virtual machines keep running. You now get all the benefits of regular updates and proactive maintenance without the downtime and reboots typically required. Furthermore, in the event of a failure, we automatically restart your VMs and get them back online in minutes. We’ve already rolled out this feature to our US zones, with others to follow in the coming months.

New 16-core instances
Developers have asked for instances with even greater computational power and memory for applications that range from silicon simulation to running high-scale NoSQL databases. To serve their needs, we’re launching three new instance types in Limited Preview with up to 16 cores and 104 gigabytes of RAM. They are available in the familiar standard, high-memory and high-CPU shapes.

Faster, cheaper Persistent Disks
Building highly scalable and reliable applications starts with using the right storage. Our Persistent Disk service offers you strong, consistent performance along with much higher durability than local disks. Today we’re lowering the price of Persistent Disk by 60% per Gigabyte and dropping I/O charges so that you get a predictable, low price for your block storage device. I/O available to a volume scales linearly with size, and the largest Persistent Disk volumes have up to 700% higher peak I/O capability. You can read more about the improvements to Persistent Disk in our previous blog post.

10% Lower Prices for Standard Instances
We’re also lowering prices on our most popular standard Compute Engine instances by 10% in all regions.

Customers and partners using Compute Engine
In the past few months, customers like Snapchat, Cooladata, Mendelics, Evite and Wix have built complex systems on Compute Engine and partners like SaltStack, Wowza, Rightscale, Qubole, Red Hat, SUSE, and Scalr have joined our Cloud Platform Partner Program, with new integrations with Compute Engine.
“We find that Compute Engine scales quickly, allowing us to easily meet the flow of new sequencing requests… Compute Engine has helped us scale with our demands and has been a key component to helping our physicians diagnose and cure genetic diseases in Brazil and around the world.”
- David Schlesinger, CEO of Mendelics
"Google Cloud Platform provides the most consistent performance we’ve ever seen. Every VM, every disk, performs exactly as we expect it to and gave us the ability to build fast, low-latency applications."
- Sebastian Stadil, CEO of Scalr
We’re looking forward to this next step for Google Cloud Platform as we continue to help developers and businesses everywhere benefit from Google’s technical and operational expertise. Below is a short video that explains today’s launch in more detail.


Editor's note: Colorado has enticed all sorts of pioneers since its Wild West beginnings. We’re excited to highlight a handful of these trailblazers - the intrepid entrepreneurs, aspiring micro-brewers and ambitious thought leaders - who have helped create the adventurous and innovative culture the Centennial State is known for. Today, we hear from Kristin D. Russell, Secretary of Technology and State Chief Information Officer for the State of Colorado’s Office of Information Technology.

The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) is leading an effort to transform government through the use of shared information technology services. As we shift from “business as usual” processes and tools towards innovative solutions that enable the efficient, effective, and elegant delivery of services, we look more and more to cloud-based services and solutions. In fact, we have published a “Cloud First” strategy for Colorado.

The move to Google Apps for Government in Colorado allowed us to replace our 15 siloed and disparate email systems, and the 50 servers supporting them, into a single, cloud-based solution. Now, not only do our more than 26,000 employees have a common email, calendar and collaboration system, they have the ability to work together on Google Docs, allowing teams to work together and share information across departments. This accessibility has also helped to enable a BYOD (bring your own device) program that lets employees work the way they want to work – even when they’re not sitting at their desks.

We are also taking advantage of Google Sites. Since Google Sites doesn’t require extensive web development skills, state agencies are now empowered to create helpful resources, both internally and externally, for a number of programs., for example, was built on Google Sites and provides information on the effects of second-hand smoke and resources on quitting smoking. When unprecedented flooding devasted many areas of Colorado in recent months, we built a Google Map to help organize recovery efforts and then set up the website to provide the latest updates and provide an interactive way to assist flood victims as they rebuild.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper often talks about the “three E’s” – making government more efficient, effective, and elegant. In Colorado we in the Governor’s Office of Information Technology are in the business of using innovative technology to accomplish just that.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Simon Turner, group IT director at Haymarket Media Group, a London-based publishing and events company with 60 print and online brands around the world. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

London-based Haymarket Media Group is the largest privately owned media business in the United Kingdom with more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Our 60 consumer and business titles range from marketing, medical and financial to sports and automotive. After more than half a century in publishing, Haymarket Media is transforming itself into a “Digital First” company that focuses on specialist markets via channels which include web, mobile, face to face events and print. This requires a more centralised way of thinking and a sea change in the way we collaborate -- which we get now with Google Apps.

Google caught my eye when a few early adopters in the company from Stuff began using Gmail a few years ago. We were using an aging Microsoft Exchange 2003 for email and needed a technology refresh. I launched a proof of concept last year with 50 staffers. After hearing presentations from Google Apps and Microsoft 365 sales teams, we made the decision to go with Google.

Implementing Google has been smooth. It took just six weeks to move 800 mailboxes earlier this year, with the help of Grove Group, a Google Enterprise partner. Google Apps integrates with other systems we use, like and Active Directory. It also saves us money -- we have Google Apps for about the same price that an email upgrade would cost.

But it’s the collaboration, flexibility and time savings that our employees love most. The 25 gigabyte mailbox in Gmail means people don’t waste time deleting emails; every single employee has an extra half hour in their week that was previously spent clearing out the inbox. During a recent office relocation employees were able to do their work from anywhere using Google Apps on their laptops and mobile devices.

Hundreds of reporters at Haymarket publications are writing and posting stories faster than ever because of the real-time collaboration capabilities with Google Apps. Several writers and editors in different locations can work on the same document simultaneously. They are sharing calendars too, so editors at PistonHeads know which reporter is covering which event at an automobile trade show in Detroit, for example. They are using Google+ to distribute articles to additional readers, as well as to share live events. In a recent Google+ broadcast, 150 people were talking about technology and media in our studio as part of a WebFest event.

We’re not stopping there, either. Later this year, we plan to adopt Google Sites and Google Drive as tools to support strategic development for the business going forward. Google is proving to be a key part of our Digital First campaign to meet -- and even exceed -- the pace of change in our industry.

Posted by: Ronald Ho, Product Manager, Google Apps for Business

Whether your organization has two people or 200,000, it should be easy to communicate and get stuff done together. In May, Hangouts launched as a unified way for people to communicate by voice, video or text across devices. Following the introduction of the new look full-screen video chat last month, today we're rolling out some new Hangouts features specifically for Google Apps customers.
With the addition of support for the Global Address List, it'll now be easier to quickly find and chat with your colleagues. The conversations you've recently had will still sit at the top of your Hangouts list, but start typing the name of anybody in your organization and auto-complete will help you find who you’re looking for.

New settings also give admins the ability to customize which Hangouts features are available to which employees. Admins can now choose to limit Hangout chat messages to being internal-only, set chat history to off by default and decide whether users within the domain can contact each other without sending or accepting formal invitations first. Video and audio chat can also be turned off across the organization.

Finally, the Google Apps support team will now provide the same level of help for Hangouts as they do for Google Talk, including 24/7 phone support.

Learn how to enable the new Hangouts experience.


Editor's note: Today we hear from guest blogger Paresh Nagda to find out how Navman Wireless, a global leader in GPS-based fleet optimization, uses Google Maps to monitor more than 190,000 vehicles for over 16,000 customers across five continents. This post is part of our series on the Transport and Logistics Industry and the ways they’re relying on Google Maps for Business to get people, products and assets to their destinations faster.
Fleet tracking & Google Maps--available wherever business demands
Every day, all over the world, millions of drivers hit the road to deliver goods and services. For our 16,000 customers – in dozens of sectors as diverse as mining, construction, transport, street cleaning and more – fleet monitoring is critical to their business success. Owning, operating and maintaining a vehicle fleet is a big expense, so more organizations are turning to advanced tools to maximize those assets. At Navman Wireless, our fleet optimization platform allows companies like Rio Tinto Group, Lloyds Pharmacy, JC Restoration, and Riviera Utilities to manage workers and keep track of important assets.

Before Google Maps, we had a hybrid solution – Microsoft Bing Maps combined with an in-house map engine. It was a drain on cost and engineering resources, and we struggled to keep data current. For example, map data updates required hours of our engineering team’s time; now with Google Maps, all updates are made automatically.

Google Maps was an obvious choice for us because it’s a cost-effective, reliable solution that works across geographies. We have customers in 14 countries who rely on us 100% to manage huge multimillion-dollar fleets, projects and logistics systems. With Google Maps, our customers see a visual display of their fleets constantly updated in real-time. One cool thing our customers love about Google Maps is the ability to use reverse geocoding to translate GPS data points into human readable addresses, so they can see where drivers are at all times.We can also draw polygons on maps to highlight customer sites, so they can see which trucks are coming and going.

Our customers can’t stop raving about Google Street View and traffic information. Dispatchers use Google Maps to get real-time traffic information and preview streets to help their drivers be more efficient. For example, a dispatcher could tell a driver to take a different route to avoid traffic, or to take a side road to deliver a package, since Street View shows the freight door is located on a back alley.

Using Google Maps has lots of benefits, but perhaps the best one is it just works — and that means we can focus on our work. Previously, 12-15% of our customer service calls were related to problems with our maps. Once we switched to Google Maps these calls went to almost zero. Our customers love how easy Google Maps are to use, and so does my engineering team. Quite simply, Google Maps helps make the Navman platform more effective, interactive and engaging for our customers.


Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Athena Hutchins, executive director of the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC), a group of agencies improving traffic mobility and safety in Western New York and Southern Ontario. Join Athena on a webinar to hear the NITTEC story from her directly on December, 12 at 11-12 PST. Register here.

There’s a lot of traffic activity at the border of Western New York State and Southern Ontario: every month, an average of one million vehicles cross the three bridges with border checkpoints between the U.S. and Canada. Our job at Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC) is to help vacationers and commuters in the Niagara Falls area see any traffic and road issues that might stand in their way. That’s why we created our new map — built with Google Maps — which takes a complex mix of data from local, state and federal agencies and gives drivers a single view of their trip.

We’ve used Google Maps on the NITTEC website since 2007. This year we developed a multilayered map as part of our efforts to improve traffic movement in the cross-border region. The new map uses the Google Maps API to help us pull together a wealth of useful data, including construction projects, delays and border crossing times. This information is available piecemeal from other agencies, but a traveler would have a hard time patching together a true picture of traffic conditions at the border, especially since we’re dealing with data from two countries.

The map is on the homepage of our new NITTEC website, so visitors can quickly find out how long it will take to get to the border, how much time they’ll have to wait at checkpoints and which alternate routes might be less congested. For instance, when the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge has long wait times, a quick glance at the map can tell drivers if they’re better off heading for the Peace Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge. Travelers can use the map’s control panel to choose which overlays they see, such as satellite views, highways, and live camera images.

To develop the new map, we incorporated 10 data feeds from across our 30 coalition agencies. The map refreshes every 20 seconds, using this constantly updated information. A mobile version of the map allows drivers approaching the border to get up-to-date info while they’re en route.

People are already familiar with Google Maps, so seeing our map provides clear, customizable and up-to-date traffic information that can be viewed at a glance and that’s easy to digest. It also helps us send a message about the NITTEC brand – that we’re on a mission to help people in the area get where they’re going safely and more efficiently.


Editor's note: Today, we hear from Joseph Kopser, Army Veteran, Bronze Star recipient as well as Co-Founder and CEO at RideScout, a mobile app that aims to streamline transportation by showing real-time information on public, private and social options in one single view. See what other companies that have gone Google have to say.

Several years ago, I was on active duty in the Army, serving as Special Assistant to Army 4-Star Chief of Staff General George W. Casey, Jr. at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. I lived less than 10 miles from my office and everyday I faced the question, “what’s the best way to get there?” I could take the bus, I could carpool, I could walk, and I could even take a taxi, but there wasn’t one service that helped me pick my best option for that particular day. Furthermore, I saw so many people, likely going to the same place as me, with four empty seats in their vehicles.

My frustrations spurred a discussion with a few Army buddies of mine, and in 2011, Craig Cummings and I decided to do something about it. Together we launched RideScout, a mobile app that helps people figure out the fastest and most cost-efficient way to get from one place to another. It takes real-time information and schedules on cabs, buses, trains, ride shares, and emerging services like car2go and Sidecar and pulls it into Google Maps so people can easily compare the options. Not only does RideScout help people get where they need to be faster, but it also reduces the number of cars on the road, increasing transportation efficiency and reducing harm to our planet.

Soon after RideScout got off the ground, I moved to Austin to teach leadership and military strategy at the University of Texas. Craig and I realized we needed a platform to help us collaborate and build the company collectively, despite the physical distance between us. We chose Google Apps from the get-go because its cloud-based platform allowed us to do exactly that. Now, RideScout has employees in Austin, D.C., and contractors in other cities working all hours spread across different time zones. We also use a lot of tablets and portable laptops, so storing everything in the cloud and being able to access it — regardless of our device — is essential.

Google Docs has been a crucial tool for the team, especially the product developers as we’ve gone through our app development iterations. We hold dozens of quick brainstorm sessions every week to go over product requirements and designs, and with Docs we can stay in sync throughout the process because we’re all looking at the same information at the same time. As we matured, we started seeing the same kind of collaboration happen in Presentations, and even with Drawings — they all became living documents with people commenting and editing simultaneously. I think of Docs and Spreadsheets as whiteboards, where RideScout employees can throw out ideas and iterate on them as a team in real time.

Security also was an important consideration for us. We knew we wanted a cloud solution from the beginning, and Google Apps is a platform we could trust to keep our information safe. Because we don’t have to maintain our own servers, it’s just one less thing we have to worry about. And as a startup, taking something off your list of things to worry about is fantastic.

RideScout is scaling quickly. In July we had seven employees and we’ve more than doubled since then. The ability to add a new employee to the system in five minutes or less is extremely important when we’re working on limited resources and stretched to the max to get the product to market. With Apps we’ve got a platform that scales with us, so as we grow and expand to new markets, our employees can worry less about the process of sharing work and focus more on building a great product.