1. What is Google Apps for Business?

Everyone’s heard of Gmail, but not everyone knows exactly what people mean when they refer to Google Apps. Google Apps is comprised of Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Sites, and other handy things like Hangouts, Chat, and Groups. It’s one place for you to email and communicate with colleagues, invite them to meetings, collaborate and share documents, and maximize your efficiency doing so. Essentially, it’s a comprehensive office productivity tool for any company.

2. But I’ve already used most of those tools without being a Google Apps customer.  What’s the real difference?

The tools are the same as the free consumer products, but they are dedicated to your own domain. So instead of having an @gmail.com account, you can have an @yourcompany’sname.com. That way, your information is hosted on Google’s servers but administered by someone at your company. The amazing thing about it is that you can access it from anywhere, so you’re not limited to your company’s office. Whether you’re working remotely, traveling and need access from the airport, or need to check something from your mobile phone, it’s all available wherever and whenever you need it. Here’s Google’s explanation.

3. And what’s the deal with Drive?  Is it different than Google Docs?

Drive is where you store your Google Docs. You’ll notice that you have “My Drive” (where documents you create are located) and “Shared with me” (where documents others’ shared with you are).  You can create documents as well as folders so that they are organized, and share them with whomever you’d like to collaborate with.

4. When I share Documents with others, who owns them, and how do I prevent others from messing up the work I may have created in Docs?

When you share a document, you’ll still be the owner unless you grant ownership to someone else. If you remain the owner, you can give varied levels of document access to whomever you choose. You can grant an individual full access to edit the document, or you can limit them to only commenting or viewing the document. You can also set the entire Doc to be completely public (people outside your company have access), or you can restrict the Doc to people within your company or keep it completely private and simply choose individuals with whom you want to share it. If they have limited access, there’s no way for them to mess anything up in your document, but if you allow them to edit the doc, they will be working and collaborating on the same document in real-time. If you’re worried about others editing important information but want to share it with them, you can back up previous versions with a Google Apps backup product so you don’t lose any important information you need.

5. But I really love using Microsoft Office. Why would I use a Google Spreadsheet when I could use Excel?

 You aren’t limited to only using Google Docs. Google Docs are easy to use and have some very advanced features, so you can be productive with them alone.  But if you’re tied to Excel, Powerpoint, etc. you can always store those in your Drive as well.  If you do so, I suggest you use the desktop version of Google Drive (which is like Dropbox), but you can access Office documents from your web-based drive as well.

6. Sum it up for me, what’s the real takeaway?

Google Apps is a great business productivity tool, and provides a lot of functionality so your employees can work effectively and efficiently whenever and wherever they want. I highly suggest it!