If you happen to be a pastor or volunteer at a small church which is trying to embrace the flood of technology available in the 21st century then perhaps the title of this article caught your eye. Did you know that if you own a domain name and have the technical expertise to set your own CNAME records (or at least have the patience to follow Google’s detailed online help), Google will give you a free, hosted, productivity suite along with some seriously significant amounts of disk space located in the cloud.
That’s right. The standard version of the GoogleApps in-the-cloud, Web 2.0+, Microsoft-busting, service suite is available for free for personal use. If you have a personal website or blog, I recommend that you try it out right away. I did this a couple years back when this was still bleeding-edge and Google marketing was calling it “Google Apps For Your Domain.” Since that time, Google has not only shortened the name, they have added feature after feature, they have had (almost) flawless uptime, and they have continually increased the disk space allowance to users. If you are a GMail user then you are probably already familiar with many of the apps – mail, calendar, contacts, chat… Adding it to your domain allows you to brand these apps with your organization’s logo and get an amazing combination of great apps, great hosting, and great collaboration tools.
My personal journey with GoogleApps went something like this:
- “Wow, that was easy to set up.”
- “I wonder why I am still using Outlook.”
- “Wow, that’s a great new feature, I can use that!”
- “Wow, I can’t believe its been over a year since I used Outlook. It sure is nice to have all my contacts, calendars, email, important docs, etc. available from any computer/OS/browser that is hooked up to the internet.”
- Sure is nice that all that stuff is backed up to the cloud too.
- “Wow, I am glad they added offline funtionality too. It’s time to uninstall Outlook permanently.”
- It is cool that I can easily add anyone I want as a user on my domains productivity apps from any computer and collaborate, share, chat, etc. etc. etc.
- Anybody want an old Windows Server box to use as a doorstop? I am tired of trying to keep up with patches and admin. Let Google do it for me!
The features keep coming
I recently checked out the Official Google Apps blog and noticed that two of the last big hurdles to using GoogleApps as my main productivity suite have been cleared by the G. Team as we head into 2010. Just recently they (finally) released a stand-alone contacts page that can apparently be shared across everyone in your domain. The other new feature for this month is that now users can upload *any file type* to their domain accounts. This is big because it gives you an immediate “G-Drive” type of backup location. You can upload important stuff as a zip archive or whatever format you prefer and have it in case of a local computer disaster. With GoogleApps folder sharing feature you can even create a dedicated shared folder and share anything you want across your organization just like many of us do on our local area networks. Only this is hosted on the cloud… sweet! At this initial release the limit is 1 gig per user on “unconverted” files (which means files that can’t be converted to online docs, spreadsheets or presentations). Hopefully that number will also go up soon.
Now For An Even Bigger Freebie
In part one of this article I talked about the standard edition. In part two I will tell you how I was able to use my church’s non-profit organization status to get a pro version of GoogleApps (normally $50 per user per year) for free! If you just can’t wait and want to go get this for your own church you can start here:
Do you have experience with GoogleApps? Love it? Hate it? Join the forum via the link below and leave a comment or question.