For some time now at Exeter we’ve been exploring Google Apps and how it might fit into the Enterprise. Google Apps is like Google Docs, i.e. a way of storing your documents in the Cloud, but is a private area that is tied into your own domain name, in our case “exeter.ac.uk”.
On the Web Innovation Project in particular we’ve been using Google Apps for just about all of our internal work, uploading and collaborating on documents such as reports, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. It’s been an incredibly useful way of sharing in this way, especially as we all have multiple jobs and in some cases multiple offices – cloud based working really comes into its own when you never really know where you will be. But at the same time it’s been frustrating as some of the Google tools we personally enjoy using – such as Google Reader and Google Maps – have been missing from the Google Apps suite. But they’re mising no more.
Google have just announced that they’re expanding the range of their services within Apps from the core suite of only Email, Calendar, Groups, Docs, Sites and Video to include just about everything else they offer – and all for that same exceptional Google price – free. It’s probably best explained exactly how this transforms Google Apps by Google themselves, and they’ve thoughtfully produced this useful video to do just that:
Now if you need a map you could use Google Maps to create it, if you want to share some pictures you could choose Picasa Web Albums to upload them, to read RSS feeds you now have Google Reader, and so on. And all in an integrated, secure, cloud based environment that has many years of proven reliability and performance. Suddenly we have a an entire suite of web 2.0 tools that we could theoretically share with staff & students at the click on a button.
Of course it’s not quite that simple, and even with our existing experience with Google Apps we’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible. We’ve not even touched yet the integration with our existing services, i.e. tying the Google App suite into provision like Microsoft’s Exchange or Active Directory. But even so Google do seem to have stolen a jump on the competition with this move, as no one else can offer such as wide range of tools that are at the same time integrated into a coherent whole.
The Web Innovation Project is due to publish a report in the next few months about our work with Google Apps and other cloud based working, which we thought was already going to make for interesting reading. Now with a veritable avalanche of new Apps to explore and test in the meantime I reckon it’s going to be an absolute best seller …