Google Apps

Google Apps are available for any user that has a GMail account, but interestingly can be linked to an organisation’s domain where an administrator can create accounts to provide access to users within the organisation under the identity of their domain. What this means is that rights for collaboration on documents can be controlled through a domain administrative control panel, where user accounts can be added and removed. Up to 100 accounts can be utilised free of cost. This also means that an administrator sets everything up for the domain users in one location, rather than, in practical terms, each user creating their own ThinkFree account, with no logical connection between users.

Administrators who have access to their DNS records can add sub-domains directing users intuitively to collaborative areas, i.e. Additionally, administrators can configure their DNS MX records, domain level records used for managing delivery of eMail, so that Google manages delivery of eMail for their domain, using the same accounts configured for document collaboration. Domain users can then use the GMail interface for managing webmail. Other DNS records can be configured for additional Google services. If this environment is established email, collaboration and instant messaging, among other services would be referenced within an organisation between users using a single domain identity for each user. i.e.

Google Apps does not have the same compatibility with MS Office as ThinkFree, but does maintain good records of revision history. It also provides sharing via publishing to blogs and can provide full documents and revision history through RSS feeds. Documents can also be converted to PDF and PDFs which can be read as HTML online through Google if a PDF reader is not available, for example in an uncontrollable environment such as an internet café.

Google Apps can also be used offline on your desktop and a variety of Google products are available for a wide range of mobile devices, including Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry and many S60 compatible phones. Consideration for these devices by established providers highlights the growing use of these platforms for collaboration.

Once an organisation’s domain is linked with Google, other services can be activated. At this stage I will only mention Google Talk, Google’s instant messaging service. Again collaborator’s identities can be mapped to instant messaging contacts in Google Talk automatically through the domain, providing a simple easy to reference tool for facilitating the process of real time online document collaboration.