Google Apps for Work

Business Class Email whatever the size of your business

Whatever the size of your business, you can have business class email and collaboration. However you work you can edit documents from wherever you are with whatever device you choose. For most business users the choices have not been made clear. Google Apps offers a business class solution for email, calendaring, collaboration with docs and sheets, and much more…

If you’d like to chat through what the alternatives are for your business, with an independent adviser who understands all the options, then please do get in touch.

What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is a cloud-based productivity suite that helps teams communicate, collaborate and get things done from anywhere and on any device. It’s simple to set up, use and manage, so your business can focus on what really matters.

Millions of organizations around the world count on Google Apps for professional email, file storage, video meetings, online calendars, document editing and more.

Watch a video or find out more here.

Here are some highlights:

Business email for your domain

Looking professional matters, and that means communicating as you@yourcompany.com. Gmail’s simple, powerful features help you build your brand while getting more done.

Access from any location or device

Check email, share files, edit documents, hold video meetings and more whether you’re at work, at home or in transit. You can pick up where you left off from a computer, tablet or phone.

Enterprise-level management tools

Robust admin settings give you total command over users, devices, security and more. Your data always belongs to you, and it goes with you if you switch solutions.

Start free trial

Do you really want a server?

SERVER

The received wisdom for years, for the small business was: if you want to be a proper business, buy a server. Does that advice still hold true? The question really isn’t so much, about buying a server as about the services on offer. After all, a server is only there to serve up services that you, as a business need.

Way back, when, what you needed of a server was local file storage for all those Word documents, email, accounts and some line of business application that had to be installed on a ‘proper’ server. The wisdom of buying a server was that this was the only way to access the tools that you needed as a business.

The question today is, has that wisdom changed? The answer lies in the dramatic change in the business IT landscape. The internet has radically changed how business services can be offered. Today you can buy a server, install an email server, such as Exchange Server and run your business email from your own premises, or you can purchase the exact same software as a service through Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Both do the same job, but with different pros and cons.

If you run your own server you are responsible for the hardware purchase, the licensing, the maintenance of both hardware and software, backup of everything that resides on the server. You probably aren’t an expert in any of this. If you license Office 365 or Google for Work or some other cloud hosted email service you pay monthly and don’t have the upfront hardware costs. You don’t have to think about backup or disaster recovery, you don’t have to maintain hardware or upgrade software – all this is done by the providers with more resources and expertise than you ever will have locally.

The million dollar question then is: can all my services be offered through the cloud? Think through the various services that are done locally:

  • Word processing
  • Accounts
  • Email
  • Line of business application

Can all of these be handled well outside of your office? Is your connectivity up to the job?

We are still in a period of rapid change and of transition. More business people are running at least part of that business through their smart phone or a tablet, on the move, at home, in the office. As the services become more and more sophisticated and delivered more and more efficiently through the cloud the need for a real, physical server in your own office will decrease.

If you are a start up, or don’t yet have a server, my advice is: aim for the cloud, even if you have to make some adjustments to how you do business. The days of the monolithic server solution are numbered. Be at the leading edge and leverage cloud based services. They allow you, your business and your workers to be more agile and more secure.

If you already have invested in a local server solution. Don’t throw it away, but use the time until your next server refresh to investigate each service that you consume and see if there’s a cloud based alternative. Your line of business application is likely to be the most difficult to transition, but most providers are now offering cloud hosted alternatives, and will usually facilitate the move of your data to the new offering.

Remember, at the end of the day, it’s the services that matter, not the server.

When all you have is a hammer

hammer

The old adage is that when the only tool you have is a hammer, you see everything as a nail! The idea is that you tend to use the tools you have and tend to see everything you do in terms of the tool(s) you have available. Bring that principle into the 21st century and web design.

Graphic designers see everything as a design issue; coders break out their editor of choice to fix any problem; those using WordPress see plugins as the panacea to every problem. The reality is that web design is both complex and multi-faceted. It requires graphic design, coding and third party help to make a killer web site. The problems come when you only have a subset of the skills/tools required – then the natural inclination is to use what you have to fix what you need. But hammers tend to mangle screws and the wrong tool can at the least make your web site more cumbersome than it should, at worst it can make an unholy mess of what should be a sleek and elegant design both on the surface and under the hood.

What do we need?

The greatest requirement with web design is to have someone who understands all the methodologies required and can objectively decide what is the best tool for each part of the job. As with IT in general, web design is fragmenting into ever more niche disciplines – and experts in those disciplines can struggle to see the bigger picture.

Talking to a young graphic designer recently his inclination was to find a graphical tool within WordPress to do the bits he couldn’t. He was looking for an ecosystem within an ecosystem. The fact that these exist in abundance proves the point. The problem is that the all encompassing theme or plugin becomes the cuckoo in the nest that overtakes the WordPress framework. The downside is that there is still a huge amount of work involved in learning the ecosystem, with much less benefit in that investment.

My advice? Start by understanding HTML, CSS, server side coding and databases. Then a grasp of graphic design principles and the use of CMS ecosystems such as WordPress can be employed to build an effective web site. Understand the principles before choosing your tools.

Remember that clean code behind the scenes is as important as that slick interface that everyone can see.

So, keep that hammer to hand, but you might also like to consider acquiring some screwdrivers, spanners, torque wrenches etc., or at least be aware of what they are and what they can do for you…

Web Design – How long is a piece of string?

Web Design

“I want a web site.” There’s never been so much, or so little encapsulated in such an innocent phrase. When used without any further qualification it has web designers and IT consultants in despair! Why? Let me elaborate….

A web site can contain a single page or several thousand pages. A web site can do nothing apart from show you images and words or it can be a fully fledged application with interactivity and many, many man hours of coding of the bits you see and the bits that you don’t see. In fact to ask for a piece of string without specifying its length seems positively simple in comparison.

So, how does an IT expert respond so such a nebulous 5 words? My response is to ask: “What do you want the web site to do?” Usually this is followed by a long moment of stunned silence as the business owner is faced for the first time with the concept of purpose. The bottom line is, if you don’t know what you want your web site to do for you, then why spend a significant amount of money on one. And how are you going to be satisfied that the web designer has done what you ask if you don’t know yourself?

So, if you’re considering investing in your first web site, or considering changing what you already have the first question to ask yourself is this: what do I want my web site to achieve?

Which direction to take?

WHICH DIRECTION

There’s never been more choice in how we do business, and there have never been more directions to take in order to make business IT work for you. So, how do you make those important decisions? For the startup it’s perhaps simpler, but for established businesses there come crunch points where an investment is needed or a step up is required to take the business to the next level. At these points it’s wise to re-evaluate all your options.

At it’s most basic the choice is between IT ecosystems. For decades the choice was no choice, and therefore simple. Every business user had a PC with MS Windows and Office – it was essential. Today even the decision to have an office and a desk is up for grabs.

So, how do you make the decision on which ecosystem to choose. Today it’s not just about the choice of line of business software that you need to run. Often it’s about how portable the ecosystem is, how accessible it is out of the office, how easy it is to respond from a phone or a tablet or a web page. For many the choice will end up involving a mixture of both old style tech and new. But this will increasingly disappear as more and more line of business applications go online.

You can do most things online now, from email to invoicing. For the small business this puts the risk in terms of data security with an organisation that can do it properly, for the large business the economies of scale work in your favour, along with the ability to scale up or down quickly.

Whatever the size of your business – it’s worth asking the question: Which direction do you take?

For my business I took the decision several years ago to move away from the Microsoft platform to Google for Work. Initially I still used Outlook along with Google’s excellent sync tool, but within a very short space of time I found that Google’s interface offered more. I’ve never looked back. I confess that the link with Android was part of the charm. More business is done over a variety of devices these days. I use a Windows PC or a Chromebook or an Android device – and all of them have all my main business tools available.

I do have a preference, but both Google’s and Microsoft’s online products are now mature, stable and usable – which one will you use?