Google Apps Deluge: Google Pours Consumer Apps Into Business Cloud Play

Google on Thursday multiplied the number of cloud computing applications available under the Google Apps umbrella by 10, opening the cloud floodgates for Google Apps business customers and its 2,000-plus Apps resellers.

According to Google, the deluge of new applications and capabilities swells Google Apps to more than 60 applications that can be leveraged by businesses. Google Apps is Google's cloud-based communications and collaboration software suite.

Traditionally, Google Apps offered Gmail, Google Docs and other capabilities. Now, Google has opened up access to applications like Google Voice, Reader, Blogger, Maps, Picasa, YouTube and a host of other Google applications to Google Apps customers. Most of those applications required a personal Google account, but are now accessible via a Google Apps login, meaning users can access them via their business Google accounts.

Google also added the ability for IT administrators to offer different sets of applications to different user groups. "For example, you could equip your marketing team with Picasa Web Albums so they can collect and share photos from customer appreciation events, and let that team publish your company's blog with Blogger," wrote Derek Parham, Google Apps lead software engineer, in a Google blog post. "Services like iGoogle and Alerts, on the other hand, may be broadly useful, and could be enabled for your whole organization."

Sponsored post

Existing Apps customers can move to the new infrastructure that supports the new lineup of applications from the administrative control panel and new customers will start with the infrastructure when they begin using Google Apps. Google cautioned, however, that the additional services are not covered by Google Apps SLA or telephone support.

Allen Falcon, CEO of Google reseller Horizon Info Services, Westborough, Mass., said the addition of new services and applications into Google Apps boosts the value proposition for Google Apps, which will in-turn help sales and marketing efforts.

Additionally, he said, as many users have created free Google accounts while using their business Gmail address as the login, the integration and consolidation of new applications directly into Apps will help avoid confusion about which account is logged into which services.

"This will lower support demand for resellers with customers in this situation," Falcon said. Falcon also noted that the integration of other services will bring new features and capabilities into Google Apps, which will be a win for the channel.

"With Google Voice integration, for example, we expect to see expanded communication capabilities in Google Talk, such as the ability to dial out," he said. "Again, a richer feature set with more means to offer unified communications will help channel partners sell and add value-add services."

Next: More Customer Issues Resolved

David Hoff, vice president of technology for Cloud Sherpas, an Atlanta-based solution provider and Google Apps reseller, said the updated Google Apps solves several business challenges that Cloud Sherpas customers often encounter.

Hoff said the conversion of the Google back-end infrastructure to enable the consumer-based services be integrated into Apps will take some time, but that allowing organizations to use apps like Google Voice, Picasa, Browser and others directly from Google Apps will have strong benefits and help Cloud Sherpas better solve customer cloud headaches.

Hoff said that the Picasa integration, specifically, will enable Cloud Sherpas to better solve customer cloud headaches.

"One company in particular needed the ability to capture images in the field of machine equipment at its factory," Hoff said of a customer. "They needed the ability to use a high resolution digital camera to capture images of quality defects and how the machinery was causing them. The factories were overseas and it was difficult for floor workers to take the images, upload them to e-mail one-by-one, and then send them, without running into space issues. Many people stateside had to review them, comment, and collaborate on them. Now with Google Apps and Picasa being enabled for Apps domains, it recognizes the consumer camera natively, uploads the photos with appropriate scaling/thumb-nailing and within minutes everything can be embedded in a Google Site for the entire company to collaborate and comment on securely. Another company had this same problem, but the issue was enforcing copyright protections, i.e. taking pictures of logos and such."

Hoff added that there is a strong business case for many of the Google consumer technologies and tools and adding them at no additional cost without the need to buy new hardware or software is a bonus.

"This is just another example of how software-as-a-service can expand functionality dramatically with little to no involvement by IT," he said. "Furthermore, Google is putting the necessary controls in place so that these services can be managed and controlled at a granular, organization unit level.’

Along with adding a number of new apps to the Google Apps roster, Google also updated the versions of Google Apps. The four flavors are now Google Apps, Google Apps for Business; Google Apps for Government and Google Apps for Education.

Standard Google Apps is free for families, entrepreneurs and other groups of up to 50 users; the business edition offers 25 GB of e-mail storage per user, a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee, data migration capabilities, advanced management tools, telephone support, added security features and more for $50 per user per year; the government version is FISMA certified and designed specifically for local, state and federal government; and Apps for Edition offers most of the capabilities of Google Apps for Business but at no cost for schools, universities or qualified non-profits.