Google Drive just keeps getting better and better!!

posted 28 Nov 2013, 03:29 by Chris Barrow

In the summer of 2011 I was comparing two office platforms, Google apps for business and the Beta version of office 365. At the time Google Apps were clearly ahead and we decided that we would become a Google Apps reseller.

Fast forward two years, the platform transformation and the pace of development, new features and products is simply astounding. Google Drive (originally known as Google Docs ) is a good example, announced in April 2012 and released not long after.

We now have an app or application which is truly cross platform, working on Windows, Apple, Linux, Android and iOS, allowing you access to your files any time and any place.

This used to be anywhere you had an internet connection, now with offline access you can access your files and even edit documents.
In June 2012 Google announced the acquisition of Quickoffice, an app for both android and iPhone. They have since made this app available for free for both Google Apps for  business accounts and Gmail personal account users. Using this app you can open, create and edit both Google Docs (currently forwarded to the Google drive editor) and Microsoft word documents.

So you have created a presentation using Google Docs and you are off to do a sales presentation to an important new sales prospect, what do you do?
If all goes well you arrive in their office, connect to the internet and wow them with your fantastic presentation. What happens if there is no internet connection, well luckily for you, you can mark the presentation as being available offline.

Google Drive integration with GMail just got better, email attachments are now shown as thumbnails which can be previewed, downloaded to your PC or Chromebook or save directly to a folder of your choice in Google Drive, this makes the experience of Gmail and Google drive so much more intuitive and easy to use.
This intuitive new feature addition of allowing email attachment files to be saved directly to a Google Drive can dramatically help shift how collaboration is done with the various Apps, Gmail, Drive and Google+ being more closely woven together.

The drive app itself has received a number of improvements since its first release, when describing the drive app, I would normally say it is similar to dropbox, which at the time was the market leader.

Once installed on your PC or Macbook, the files stored on the Google servers will synced with your computer. Where this is a Google Doc, it will be a file link which opens in your web browser, for other files they will open in whatever programme created them. For example a word doc, will open in Microsoft word. You can even be selective on which folders are synced from Google to your PC.

Want to manage sharing permissions for your files and folders, you can now do this directly from the drive app rather than opening up drive in a web browser. Thanks to a recent update, you can now share files to people that do not have Google accounts. Domain administrators can set permissions by organisation unit if you do not want to allow sharing outside your company.

If you wanted to email a large file attachment to a business college or customer, you can now. Simply attach the file from Google drive to your email, it does not matter if it is 10 MB or 10 GB, it's just a link to the file in Google Drive.  
The resource savings are considerable, consider for example the traditional way of emailing out a document for review to 10 people. There are then 10 copies of the document that have to be stored at minimum. Then they get downloaded to your local hard disk to be opened. by the time this document has been reviewed emailed backwards and forwards there could be hundreds of copies.

With the new preview feature in Gmail, you can now open a document directly in your web browser and if it's a Google doc, even edit it. The security advantages are obvious. since Google uses a secure data connection between your web browser and their data centres to transport attachments  nothing has to be downloaded to your computer. This keeps all transport on Google’s private network between data centres, your file is far more secure.

Collaboration has always been a strong feature of Google Docs and Drive, going back to my example of 10 people reviewing a document. In the world of Google docs, this is a single document that gets shared out. Everyone has the same version and they can all work on it at the same time, chat, collaborate and see each others edits in real time as they type. Gone are the days when you have to chase everyone for their input and then 5 minutes before the deadline have to merge everything together.

By Chris Barrow
Google Apps™ Consultant and deployment 
specialist

Google announces Janet agreement for the UK education sector

posted 9 Oct 2013, 02:01 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 9 Oct 2013, 02:07 ]

The "Cloud Services for Education Agreement" signed by Google and Janet will help UK educational institutions reduce time and cost when deploying Google Apps.

Janet, is a UK education body that sets the standards for technology in schools and universities www.ja.net.

Janet has worked closely with Google to define and refine the full set of documents covering the terms and conditions for the use of Google applications in Higher and Further education. It includes due diligence on over 40 pages of contractual documents which will be maintained and reviewed regularly. This is a big saving in time an effort for educational institutions with Janet having already done the work for them.

Google claims that over a third of UK colleges and universities are already using Google Apps for Education, which, in addition to Gmail and Drive (Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations), also includes Google Hangouts, Google Groups, Calendar and Sites.

The other companies signed up there services to the "Cloud Services for Education Agreement"  are Microsoft Office 365, Dropbox and Amazon.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

New Google+ Features for Enterprises

posted 20 Aug 2013, 02:52 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 20 Aug 2013, 02:53 ]

Google have announced three significant updates to Google+ for Enterprise. 
  1. Improved mobile support for Google+ users
  2. Launch of the domains API
  3. Launch of domain labels for profile cards on the desktop
Having more than one Google+ account, the multiple account login certainly makes things a lot easier on my Android. I no longer have to log out of one account and into another, which was a pain. This still does not mean you don't need to switch accounts if you want to upload photo's to the correct Google+ account.
I now get notifications from my business, personal and Scout accounts direct from the Google+ app and can reply from the correct account automatically.

The changes to to add domain labels now makes it easier to ensure you are posting to the correct person in your company domain and with the added benefit of being able to restrict Google+ conversations to your company domain if required.
  
Below is list of changes that came out in the latest Google update notification:

1. Improved mobile support for Google+ users: The updated Google+ mobile app includes support for post restrictions, the addition of domain labels, and multiple account login. With this new functionality it is now possible to do the following on the Android Google+ mobile app:

Post Restrictions
Apps users can now create restricted posts on the updated version of the Google+ Android app just as they can on desktop. Restricted posts can’t be shared outside the author’s organization, so they can have private conversations that are only visible to co-workers  Apps admins can set defaults for new posts to help users share with the right people. In addition, users will have indicators that illustrate if a post is restricted or not, and won’t be able to change that if re-sharing.

Domain Labels
Users will also see domain labels on the Google+ Android app in two main areas to help them make sure that they share with the right person: Auto-completes (including +mentions) and Profiles.

Multiple account login
The Google+ Android app features multi-login support with the ability to easily switch between accounts.

2. Launch of the Google+ Domains API: The Google+ Domains API allows customers and partners to integrate their applications with Google+ and streamline actions like creating posts, adding comments, or assigning circles. These methods can only operate within a Google Apps domain. They include:

  • Write restricted posts and comments on restricted posts (a restricted post can never be shared outside the domain)
  • Read posts authored by users in the domain along with comments on those posts (even if those comments have been authored by people outside the domain)
  • Manage circles and circle membership
Here are some enterprise specific use cases users will be able to accomplish using the new Google+ Domains API:

Pre-populate Circles
By pre-populating circles, admins can ensure new employees are welcomed into Google+ with relevant and interesting content by colleagues and leadership from the moment they first sign in. It also makes it easy for employees to send posts to, or start hangouts with, specific teams.

Monitor Posts
Organizations can track and monitor shared content for compliance and archiving purposes, as well as to catch unintended external sharing. Admins can read posts and comments authored by users in the domain, comment on posts, and review with whom employees have shared content.

3. Launch of domain labels for profile cards on the desktop
In January, we launched domain labels to help users find and share with co-workers more easily by identifying people in their domain in share and +mention auto-completes  and when hovering over profile pictures. Domain labels also appear in profiles, and starting today they will appear in Google+ search results and profile cards in Google+'s "People" section as well to help users share with the right people.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

Google Vault Now available to companies signed up to Google Apps before August 2012

posted 22 May 2013, 14:44 by Chris Barrow

Google Announced today that companies who signed up to Google Apps before August can now sign up to Google Vault.

Google Apps Vault is an add-on to Google Apps for Business. Its necessary that the customer have a Google Apps for Business subscription as a prerequisite to ordering Vault.
Prerequisites to ordering Vault
A Google Apps customer needs at least one user with super administrator privileges. And the customer’s Google Apps account needs to have its domain ownership verified. Vault customers should also disable the new Hangouts and continue to use Google Talk

You can now manage Google Chrome for your entire company

posted 17 Apr 2013, 05:29 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 17 Apr 2013, 05:33 ]

This has made managing Google chrome so easy and is a big bonus for IT departments who want to common setup across their company. Schools and colleges gain much needed features allowing them to manage access for students and teachers independently, ideal for those adopting Google Apps For Education and Chromebook.

Now you can configure and manage your entire companies Chrome web browser policies centrally from your Google Admin Panel. Not just chrome, but also any Chrome devices that you have. If you want to stop your users attaching external drives to your Chromebooks, now you can.

When this was first announced, I was expecting access to administer just a handful of policies, however I was amazed to discover that you have the ability to customize 100+ Chrome policies for users. That means employees will be able to access pre-loaded applications, custom themes, or a private app web store from any computer.

Policies can also be applied to individual organisational groups, so you don't have the problem of applying a policy needed just for the accounts department company wide.

Also added is support for older web apps through Legacy Browser Support

When companies use browsers that are two or more versions old, employees and developers are unable to benefit from the incredible web innovations of the past four, or even ten years. With Legacy Browser Support, users on Chrome are automatically switched to a legacy browser when they begin using an older app. Admins can simply define which sites should launch from Chrome into an alternate browser, and then set this Chrome policy for all employees.


By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

Are you getting the most out of Google™ Drive

posted 6 Nov 2012, 08:52 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 12:30 ]

The Drive, originally known as Google Docs, was re branded as the Drive earlier this year so I thought it was about time to to see what's available.

Google Drive is not just a cloud storage service, it is a collaboration tool designed to make your life easier. You can store and edit your documents, photos, music, videos, etc. all in one place. It syncs with your smart phone, tablet and your computer, so if you make a change from one device, it will automatically show up on all your devices.

It tracks your changes too, so if you make an edit to the document, you can still look back at all your revisions from the past 30 days. Best of all, it relies heavily on Google search, with image recognition for browsing your photos and some OCR capabilities for sniffing out text in pictures. So if you scan and upload your expense receipts without naming them, Google will index the text in the image allowing you to search for a particular receipt. Now that is cool!

Web Browser Access
All Google documents  and files are stored in the cloud at Google managed data centres, so you can access and manage the content of your drive using a web browser (Google Chrome recommended  on Windows, Apple or Linux PC's, basically anything with a web browser.

Google Drive App
You can also access the drive directly by installing the Drive Application which is available on both Windows and Apple, this installs the Google Drive folder on your computer where you can access files and folders much like any other file or folder. Any changes made to a file are instantly synced with the Google servers
  • File types - You can store files in the native formate where they can be opened by the application that created them, any Google native documents will open in your default web browser.
  • Preferences - Through preferences you can decide if you want to sync all files and folders or just a sub-set, this is useful if you have a large amount of data on the drive and do not want to sync it all down to your computer. The files will always be available if you log on through a web browser.
Smart phones and Tablets
This is where the drive comes into its own, the are Apps for both Android and Apple which allow you access to your drive anywhere where you have a data connection.
The other day I was in a meeting when I got an urgent text asking for an important document, as always I had my phone with me so it was simply a case of opening up the drive App, searching for the document and the email it off.

Not only can you view, print, share and email documents and files you can also edit them with your device.

Offline Access
With any cloud based service you always ask yourself the question, what happens if the internet goes down, how can I continue working. By enabling off-line you're able to view Google documents and spreadsheets even when you don't have an Internet connection. You're also able to edit Google documents offline. It's really handy when you're on an aeroplane or train without wireless Internet!

If you access your files using the web browser Google Chrome, you can enable offline access to view your files. You can also edit Google Documents, though  offline access isn't currently available for every part of your Google Drive. The table below indicates what you're able to view and edit while offline.

WebAndroidiOS
ViewEditViewEditViewEdit
My Drivecheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Documentscheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Spreadsheetscheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Presentationscheckmarkcheckmark
Drawingscheckmarkcheckmark
Other Drive filescheckmarkcheckmark

If you are using a smart phone or tablet, you can also mark individual files to be available offline, this is very useful if you think you will not have access to an important document or presentation when visiting a customer.

NOTE: Anyone with access to a computer with offline access enabled will be able to view all of your synced documents and spreadsheets when they open Chrome. To help protect the security of your data, it is strongly advise that you don't allow offline access on public or shared computers. Instead, allow offline access on personal computers where only you have access, and where your access to the computer is password protected

Third Party Apps
Another useful addition to Google Drive is the array of very useful third party apps, these can be accessed in Chrome from your Drive web page through the "Cog" and selecting manage Apps or directly from the Chrome Web Store. Under the collections section you will find a selection of Drive based apps, which integrate directly into Drive and enhance what you can do.

For example, if you want the ability to edit Microsoft Office documents directly within your web browser and Google Drive, try installing "Free Nexus", this replaces the Google Drive document editor with Office (You will need office installed on your computer for this to work). Once this is installed, when you open a MS word document in the web browser the familiar Office editing tools are available. 

There are many other Apps available from image, Video and photo editing tools, Lucid Charts for your diagrams and even Auto Cad. Why not give them a try, many are free.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

New Compose available in Gmail

posted 2 Nov 2012, 12:06 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 12:21 ]

So what do you think of the new compose in GMail?  I have given it a spin and it takes a little getting used to.
For personal GMail users you will get a prompt message asking if you want to give it a try, the same for Google Apps™ users if they have fast track release turned on. Don't worry you can still turn it off for now if you don't get along.

There are some features that are not available at the moment such as inserting an invite or emotion so you will need to switch back if you need them. However the icons are there and greyed out with a message saying coming soon. This is clearly still in Beta and will no doubt change before becoming general release.

Google's aim as always, is to make Gmail faster, so this new feature should save you time and uses less screen space and is simple to use. The new compose experience opens a window at the bottom of your inbox, you still have the option to pop-out the message. What is great about this is that you can compose multiple messages at once, search through your inbox and even reply to other messages all while keeping your new draft open.

For more information:

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

Going Google™

posted 2 Nov 2012, 09:01 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 12:28 ]

What do the following companies have in common, Jaguar Land Rover,ITV, Rentokil, Spec Savers, Ocado and BBVA? They have all gone Google.
As companies start to wake up to the reality that they no longer need costly office based servers to host their email and back office systems, they are starting to look around at the  options available. This is where cloud based solutions come into their own, there is no large upfront cost, no servers to set-up and maintain and usually an affordable pay monthly plan with no ongoing commitment.

The cloud is a great leveller, where small to medium businesses can afford to have the same business solutions as the multi million pound companies. It has never been so inexpensive to set up a full set of IT business solutions for a company, with anything from email, CRM solutions, accounting packages, project management tools and VOIP solutions all being available for a very small cost if not in some cases free.

The two main players fighting it out in the Market place are Google and Microsoft. Microsoft are the incumbents with the a huge market share in office server based solutions, the new boys on the block wadding in with a cloud based office solution are Google with the Google Apps set of solutions. Not to be outdone in the cloud arena  Microsoft have waded in with their latest  cloud based office solution, Office 365.

As to which is the best solution, there are many arguments on both sides and both products have made progress over the last 12 months, though Google undoubtedly hold a significant lead in terms of the shear pace of development and innovation. My vote goes to Google, then I am a little bias.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

Is Ditching the Old Microsoft Office such a bad thing for Google Apps™?

posted 15 Oct 2012, 08:21 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 11:34 ]

A lot has been written the last few weeks about Google's decision to stop supporting file exports from Google Docs (Drive) format files to the classic Microsoft Office formats, .doc, .xls and .ppt. Most comments have been negative with some analysts immediately stating they will ditch Google Apps for Microsoft Office 365. Since then Google have announced on their  Google+ post that they will delay the move until 31 January, 2013, after realising that some of its customers wanted more time.

After January, Google will focus on supporting exports to Microsoft Office formats, which rely on open standards (.docx, xlsx, .pptx) and anyone with Office 2003 or older will need to download the office compatibility pack from Microsoft

So Google is ditching a document format which is over ten years old and moving to the open standards format available from Office 2007 and used by other software products.
Is this really all that bad? Those companies and consumers with the older versions of Office, probably already have the compatibility pack already installed as they they are always being sent documents in the new format.

If we followed through, then any change is bad and we should all be using typewriters, or maybe back to the slate.

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

The integration of Postinie features into Google Apps™

posted 31 Aug 2012, 05:35 by Chris Barrow   [ updated 25 Feb 2013, 11:37 ]

The integration of features previously only found in Postini are now nearly complete, with only message encryption left to implement.
The features and services are spread across Google Apps for Business and Google Vault. The move to the Google Apps platform will provide a more robust solution and bring new features such as E-Discovery, Chat archiving, Legal Hold and unlimited retention.

Integrated within the Google Apps control panel are a fully featured set of enterprise level email management tools, from spam filtering and email content compliance to email routing to and from multiple systems, which includes split and duel delivery of email.

Postini product - Being phased out over the next yearGoogle Apps product
Google Message SecurityGoogle Apps for Business
Google Message DiscoveryGoogle Apps for Business and Google Apps Vault
Google Message EncryptionWe’re working on a solution to support your encryption needs. 
Google Message FilteringThis product is being phased out. Customers will be sent a non-renewal notice later in 2012.  
Postini Small Business EditionThis product is being phased out. Customers will be sent a non-renewal notice later in 2012.

Main Features of Google Vault

Retention policies

Define retention policies that are automatically applied to your email and chat messages.

Email and chat archiving

Your email and chat messages are archived and retained according to your policies, preventing inadvertent deletions.

E-discovery

Be prepared for litigation and compliance audits with powerful search tools that help you find and retrieve relevant email and chat messages.

Legal hold

Place legal holds on users as needed. Email and chat messages can't be deleted by users when they're placed on hold.

Export

Export specific email and chat messages to standard formats for additional processing and review.

Audits

Run reports on user activity and actions in the archive. Searches, message views, exports and more are shown.














Take advantage of the new services and contact us now

By Chris Barrow
Aragorn Consulting - Google Apps™ Authorized Reseller

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