Google Apps Means Freedom For Micro Businesses

Old 5 Comments on Google Apps Means Freedom For Micro Businesses 16

When you’re the geek, setting up a brand new small office for some amazing new start up client is probably the closest thing to fun you could have while still billing for it. 

The business calls for:

  • Centralized authentication.
  • Business class email, with contacts and calendar.
  • Remote Access to all network resources
  • A standard backup solution.

You run cable, deploy that shiny new Server 2012R2 box you just purchased for an absolute STEAL at $6000.00, throw down a nice all in one computer for the receptionist, laptops for the owners, switches, routers, vpns, set up exchange, the whole lot, and man this client will be SO HAPPY you spent all of this money wisely and they will be up and running in just a few days. Great! Right? The answer is maybe. This post will touch on some of the “art” of IT that I’ve learned with my experience in my area, your results may vary. 

What if I told you that you may have actually damaged that company? For most micro-businesses(10 employees or less) the days of needing active directory are gone. Let’s look at what active directory is generally used for at this scale. Centralized authentication for their computers, and access to network resources. Now ask yourself, should it really cost $6000 or more so that the accountants can log in, and open a protected spreadsheet? 

What I like to offer in cases like these is Google Apps for Business. Instead of authenticating against your OS (Windows, Mac, Linux, whatever) you just authenticate against your web browser using a chrome profile. You can leave the office computers with a defaulted, non administrator account logged in automatically on boot. That should set off some alarms in your head, good, now stay with me. We’re also going to de-centralize the file server too, you’re not going to have any LAN storage in the building, they likely do not need it! Instead we’re going to use Google drive, assuming the company has access to a modern internet connection (5Mbs or better) you can have them use Google drive for all of their document creation and storage, the Google docs formats can be attached as Microsoft office documents or PDFs for out of office communication and will generally be able to switch back and forth cleanly. Because of this, access to the local computers is a very small risk, you can’t steal what’s not there.

So we’ve addressed what most businesses use from active directory, but what about Exchange? You NEED exchange to do business right? Well, no, no you do not. My company has never used exchange and we likely never will. It’s not that exchange is bad product, it’s just not designed with small/micro businesses in mind. When people say they need exchange, they generally mean they need reliable, fast email, with connected contacts and calendars. If we’ve already eliminated AD, then we lose a lot of the interesting features exchange offers with single sign on and contact groups, so we look to Gmail. Gmail is an email system that supports fast searches, robust contact management, tasks management and integrates seamlessly with Google calendar.  It’ supported on whatever mobile platform your users do work on and readily available wherever there is an internet connection. 

So if we go back to the example office deployment above, it’s a solid build out, it meets all of the needs for most businesses, but it’s local to the company which exposes the company to downtime risks due to weather, accidents, theft or even Comcast (Read: “Their local ISP”). If you look at the Google Apps solution, we still meet the needs but offer a  better price point ($5 per user per month) and a much lower hardware requirement. The company has highly available access to the stuff they need to do work from anywhere with an internet connection on any device. The content is protected through shares and access rights handled in the Google apps dashboard, and can be archived for a small additional cost forever. All of this done in Google’s cloud. This is a deployment I’ve done before, use myself, and when you include other Apps from the Google marketplace you can tweak/polish it to meet the needs of most micro businesses.

Author

Jimmy Simpson III

I work small and micro businesses (between 1 and 75 users). I offer WordPress Development, Virtual IT Director Services, System Administration and Web Hosting.

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5 Comments

  1. Derrick February 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Jimmy,
    You are so very correct on the GAPPS approach. We use it here as well, but there are a few snags with it that become a pretty big deal after being used for a while. A large one is the inability to maintain shared contacts, it seems so simple, but requires the use of clunky third-party apps and only half-works.
    The other things you start noticing are issues such as the inability to have centralized scripts (this can be done with a library, but it’s still very messy.), down to the small things such as having to include “mailto:” in a cell if you want to store clickable email addresses in it (and, again, more scripts/functions if you want to clean that “mailto:” up).

    All-in-all tho, good post.

  2. Daniel February 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    I concur with the previous comment regarding shared contacts, it’s a hassle and potential show stopper for those less technically inclined…which is really the target of using a solution like this. I use google apps and have deployed it with several clients. For the most part they’re happy and it’s been a good experience, but shared contacts has been a thorn in the sides of many.

  3. Paul Cowlishaw February 15, 2014 at 6:34 am

    Yeah totally agree with the shared contacts problem. Its so complicated for something that should be so easy. Have put quite a few clients now onto Google Apps but am now trying Office 365 for hosted Exchange. Its cheaper if you just want email and shared calendars and contacts and totally integrates with Outlook.

  4. Google Apps for Business February 22, 2014 at 1:03 am

    Jimmy,
    Great post!… After working with Google Apps for the past few years I have grown to believe that the power lies in it’s simplicity, scalability and open nature. Simple because it does the basics, 90% of what you need, very well. Scalable because if a small business suddenly decided to take on 500 extra staff located in 30 different offices, starting tomorrow, Google Apps can handle it without breaking a sweat. Finally open because savvy managers can use the API’s to fully automate their business processes, significantly reduce administrative overhead for the cost of a pint of beer.

  5. Aaron Babitzke March 29, 2014 at 12:26 am

    I rolled out Google Apps for a charter school 7 years ago now. There old mail server was dieing, and they could not afford a new server to run exchange for 100+ users. They now have almost 200+ users, and have had no problems scaling it. It does need a shared contacts sections, it is annoying that they haven’t set this up yet. Another nice perk on the education side you get access to almost everything in Google apps. It would be nice if it had easier AD integration… Never did have the patience for it.

    Really though I would not be using Google docs for an office. There are times when having a native app for business is a better option, libreoffice or openoffice would be OK if you are looking to keep price down.

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