Any startup or an SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) should seriously consider using Google Apps for their electronic communications within their organization. We switched to Google Apps (http://www.google.com/a) in June 2007 and so far it exceeds any and all of our expectations.
One of the company’s, that I co-founded, has about less than 30 employees within Pakistan. We used to run a Linux based mail server within our own office. The machine was a high end Linux server with SATA drives 2 GB of RAM and 60GB of multiple hard disk arranged in a RAID configuration. The server was behind a Linux firewall but was accessible through the Web client for us to check our emails when not in office. At the same time, we took regular backups of our mail server data just in case of any disaster. The machine groaned day in day out with an increasing load and traffic in our Islamabad office. On top of that, our server would constantly come under scrutiny due to thousands of Spam messages and viruses that would penetrate through our various filters, thus causing downtime for all our employees. To top it all out, our Systems Engineers had to keep the server in top condition by updating any patches to the software and operating system and doing other routine administrative tasks to keep the hackers at bay.
That was June 2007. The time when we decided to find a better and cost effective solution. We looked at Zimbra, Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps. And after various tests and user feedbacks, we chose Google Apps for our organization. Here is the reason why.
All the mail is hosted on Google Servers. Hence, the need to manage and run a Mail server is no longer required. Thus freeing up our Systems Engineers to use their time more constructively elsewhere. It comes with extremely powerful Spam filter, thus our unwanted mail traffic has literally ground down to zero from maybe 100 messages a day. All messages are pre virus scanned hence, we do not need to worry about viruses hitting our network. The mail server supports web and POP both interfaces which is excellent for all our traveling employees. The web interface is actually identical to GMAIL, thus not requiring any training or a steep learning curve. And last but not the least, it is totally free for companies that require less than 100 licenses.
This is further coupled with the Document sharing (for excel, word and power point) feature within the organization. Hence, now all our important documents are shared on line. We can share, modify and work on the documents simultaneously without needing to worry about running and managing yet another Document Sharing server on our network.
Small organizations usually have a static website having a dozen or so pages. Google provides free web hosting for static (html based) websites on Google Apps. Hence, the hosting cost is once again eliminated.
It even provides a customized Google Talk for chat (voice and Instant Messaging) within the organization on our own domain. Hence, the staff communicates in a private and secure messenger when required.
It also comes with a company wide calendar for each employee so that we can manage our appointments in a collaborative environment. Thus increasing our productivity.
There are many other advantages to using Google Apps, but the greatest is productivity and speed. Already, we have convinced half a dozen other SMEs in Pakistan to switch onto Google Apps for their office communication needs. So far, everyone seems highly satisfied.
So if your business relies heavily on electronic communications, then Google Apps is an ideal platform and especially for SMEs that usually have less than 100 employees.