Breaking the Barriers to Entry for Collaborative Tools

Cloud Services

Access to business class collaboration tools such as email, contacts and calendars used to cost an arm and a leg. First of all you needed to have a server domain structure in place, generally a couple of servers, then you would have to purchase Exchange Server for your collaboration services. These would all be housed and maintained on site, and if anything went down the whole site was offline.

Now, with cloud services the entry barrier: the cost of purchase, installation and setup of hardware and software is removed! The entry point for full business class collaboration tools is as simple as signing up to cloud services from your preferred provider.

With Google Apps for Business you can sign up as a one man band, or a small business with dozens or hundreds of staff. The setup process is straightforward and your business can be up and running in the time it takes to have your domain integrated with Google’s services.

For the small business this is a big win! We can work alongside corporates with a level playing field for collaboration, and it’s not just the communication staples of email, calendar and contacts, you can share and collaborate on documents too. For smaller businesses the ability to use these tools across multiple devices is an added bonus. Google Apps for Business even allows for device management from the admin panel.

If the perceived cost and complexity of getting business class collaboration is putting you off making the move, take a look at Google Apps for Business – the entry barriers have been broken and the TCO is more than affordable.

Big Business Tools for Small Business

Nexus Devices

Big businesses use big business tools to gain competitive edge. They use technology to enable constant communication and collaboration. In the past this sort of infrastructure was to preserve of the corporate world. The costs associated with setting up a collaboration medium, with purchase and maintenance of servers and devices was prohibitive for all but the deep pockets of large business enterprises.

Now, it is actually easier for the small business to implement collaboration and communication than for larger enterprises. Google Apps for Business costs from £2.75 per user. That’s a remarkably low starting point for a fully collaborative experience! With the advent of low cost devices your business staff need never be out of reach. From phones to tablets to Chromebooks (low cost laptop devices) there is a business tool that will work, particularly for start-ups and small businesses that need to hit the ground running.

For most users email, contacts and calendar are the most important business tools. Google Apps for Business enables access to all of this from multiple devices, seamlessly. Enter an appointment on your phone and have it appear on your computer calendar. Reply to an email from a tablet and see the reply across all your other mail clients. Cloud computing empowers the small business and lifts it to the level of the corporate user.

Document sharing and collaboration is straightforward with Google Apps for Business – from basic file storage and sharing so that your staff have access to that important document on the go to full real time editing of documents by multiple users you have all the tools to hand within an easy to grasp interface. The tools are intuitive and easy to get started with.

With the entry cost of devices being so low there’s never been a better time for small businesses to compete on a level playing field with the corporate collaborators!

Transitioning to Google Apps for Business

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I’ve been doing the initial set up today  for moving a client from POP mail to Google Apps for Business and thought it would be a good time to explain some of the benefits to this move.

For the Small Business

For the small business Google Apps for Business gives you all of the big business enterprise class tools without the big business investment or overheads. Many small businesses are still struggling with email addresses that don’t belong to their domain (businessname@btinternet.com or such like). It becomes a pain to administer even a few of these type of email accounts across a small business. The lack of domain based email also looks very unprofessional. Google Apps for Business provides domain based, enterprise class email, contacts and calendaring for everyone.

For the SME

For the SME looking to provide a rock solid resource for the company the usual route is Microsoft’s Exchange Server or Small Business Server. While these are both excellent products they really require ongoing support and an investment in hardware and software on the company LAN. The cost of managing an Exchange server can outweigh the benefits and with increasingly mobile workforces becomes more difficult to deploy, in particular if you require Outlook Web Access. Google Apps for Business removes the need for local server resource and maintenance. Resilience and availability responsibilities lie with Google – this frees your IT resource to do other things. The collaboration tools built in to Google Apps for Business mean that it is a superb resource for growing and geographically diverse businesses. Google Drive Sync allows you to continue to use Outlook as your email client if you so wish.

Collaboration

The collaboration tools within Google Apps for Business mean that it is simple to share calendars, contacts, documents right across the business no matter where the users are physically located. If you have multiple offices, or a mobile sales force then this is the way to go for sharing documents.

Set Up

If you don’t already have domain based email then it’s extremely easy to set up and get going. If you already have some email accounts, depending on how they are presently configured it’s still a simple process to get you up and running. Users can be added and configured using a simple web based management page.

Contact

If you think Google Apps for Business is a contender for your business then drop me a line and inquire.

Is Responsive Design the only game in town?

responsive design

There’s a growing trend in web design towards responsive design. Responsive design is the deliberate design and build of a web site to respond differently to different viewing devices. In other words, the web site will present itself differently depending on whether it is viewed on a mobile phone, tablet or desktop device. The design is done in such a way that the browser itself does the work. This is a great choice in many ways, particularly for smaller web sites. There is only one set of pages to maintain, which makes life simpler, but the styling behind the site actually addresses multiple view ports (the size of the window through which the site is viewed). As a result the underlying code can get a bit complex, even though it’s only in one set of files.

The alternative to responsive design is to detect the device accessing the site and present an alternative set of pages to smaller devices. This obviously will involve more work and more files as you are designing separately for different view ports. At first this may seem to be counter productive, but it all depends on the site content and original design.

Many sites are now quite old and large, and the work involved in redesigning the entire site to a responsive design could be prohibitive. It may well be that you only wish to present a select subset of pages to the mobile user, or even different pages geared towards mobile phone use (such as linking maps and phone numbers).

Many larger sites are also data driven and have a significant amount of back end code that can be easily leveraged to drive new mobile oriented pages with no more work involved than restyling the main pages.

For larger sites, and especially those that have an old design it would seem more productive to produce a subsetted separate site for mobile devices, always presenting the user with the option to use the ‘full fat’ site if they prefer. Responsive design is an elegant design option, particularly when designing from scratch. But depending on the size of the site and the legacy elements, responsive design is not yet the only game in twon