Google Apps for the Enterprise (Week 10)

February this year the City of Los Angeles began their pilot project of Google Apps, and by May they had migrated over 10,000 users from their existing Microsoft and Novell products and services to Google Apps.

Government departments is definitely one of the target markets that Google Apps wants to focus on, on the Apps website there is a product they have put together specifically for governments to find information about implementation.

Google Apps is a online product package created and managed by tech giant Google Inc. It is a cloud computing service that seeks to replace existing business software packages, such as those owned by companies like Microsoft and IBM. Google Apps basically takes all of Google’s popular services (and so many more!) and puts them into a single package. It not familiar with what Google has to offer, they have email (Gmail), Calendars, Contacts, Docs (collaborative document sharing), Groups, Sites (web hosting), video and voice. On top of this, Google offers an Apps Marketplace, where customers can obtain (mix of free and paid) additional applications to suit their business needs. A good thing to keep in mind is that all of this is in the cloud, so it doesn’t matter where you are or what device you’re using, you can access all of your data.

There are a few different types of Apps subscriptions available to customers, but the two that I want to focus on are, the Standard and Premier Editions. The Premier Edition is the version that costs and this is what most companies that are considering Google Apps will want to look at. The Premier Edition includes all of the features that I’ve listed above, without forgetting the Marketplace of apps available for all types of businesses as well. From what I understand, Apps is sold to customers for a flat rate $50 per user a year. The Standard Edition is basically a cut down version of the Premier, and it’s free! Have a look at the comparison table here.

Off the top of my head, one thing that would need to be taken into consideration (particularly for large organisations) is that everything is going to be happening over the internet, so appropriate network+ISP upgrades will need to be made to allow large amounts of data to be transferred and FAST.

Oh yeah, back where I started, the city of LA.. as stated on their implementation website, ‘has approximately 3000 locations, with 34,000 email accounts and 40 Departments in this project’, all of which they plan to move across to Apps by the end of next month! Check out this video from their site:

So I’ve covered just one product that is available for businesses and governments, do you think Google Apps is a worthy package, or do you think that it still doesn’t offer the power that other suites offer?

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Edit PDF Files Online for Free

Hey friends,
Thought I would share this link with you that I found today, as the title states, it’s a website that allows viewing and editing of PDF files online, the best bit.. it’s free!!
I was looking for some software that would allow me to add notes to my university lectures that are in PDF format (to save me on printing), when I came across it :)

It’s called PDFescape and it can be found here.
I can’t promise it’s perfect (I’ve barely used it), but from what I’ve seen, it’s good!

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Happy editing :)

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Business + SN (Facebook) = …?

Hasn’t social networking changed the way we live?! I’ve heard a few people say recently, “What did we do before social networking?”, or, “How did I ever keep in contact with my friends before Facebook?” Personally, I regularly (very regularly!) use Facebook, I also frequent Twitter and occasionally LinkedIn. Facebook in particular has been useful to me as an individual for growing and maintaining relationships with friends and family, as well as reconnecting with old friends. I’ve written a fair bit about Facebook in a couple of my previous posts, what I think is something which is really important for businesses now, is to have a presence on these social networks.

I read this story, which I think is a super cool story about how someone has used social networks to successfully build a business. Nick Kellet is the inventor of the (now) popular board game GiftTRAP, and his story is really interesting. When he was starting out, Nick got in touch with a former co-worker on LinkedIn to find that she had been doing some work for the creators of the also popular board game, Cranium, this friend then helped introduce Nick to the factory owners in Shanghai, China. He then used Flickr to find to find photos that he could legally use for the product. Once the game was produced, Nick used social networks to find buyers at Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us.
Pretty cool story huh?

Basically what I’ve got from this example, is that social networking for businesses isn’t just good for the big boys, it is also a very powerful tool for entrepreneurs and start ups.
I encourage anyone who is running a small business and does not already have a presence on social networks or isn’t using them to their advantage, explore! See how you can get your business involved in websites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and how you can better your business by adopting other web 2.0 technologies (like Flickr and Google Docs), have a look at GO2WEB20.net for a list.

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Using a Wiki can improve your team’s productivity!

Most people have used Wikipedia before, and many people haven’t used any other wiki before and many people probably don’t understand what ‘wiki’ means. A wiki is a website that caters for open collaboration, allowing many people to make changes to single documents. In Wikipedia’s case, this concept is applied to an online encyclopaedia, changes can be made by anyone.

The question here is, how can a wiki be used by a company to better it’s productivity and overall workflow? There’s a number of potential uses of Wiki’s for businesses, project management, tech support, research and development, event planning, reference material, CRM and collaborative document production to name a few.
One of the major ideas of wiki’s is to use it to replace email in project collaboration. Many people receive hundreds of emails every day that they need to sort through for their job. On top of this, when there is a large (or even small) number of people working on a project and emailing it between each other, everyone will always have a different version of the project from others, this is the problem. Wiki’s can replace email in this instance, a wiki page could be created, where every user can edit it at the same time as well as seeing what others are writing, this is the solution.

There’s a pretty cool video promoting Microsoft Sharepoint, it shows a great illustration of this.

Many companies now use wikis for their business purposes, companies like SAP, Sun Microsystems, Sony Ericsson and IBM. It has been reported that Pixar use a wiki for managing film production, for example, “to help coordinate new computerized animation tools for the studio’s planned 2008 release of a film called “WALL-E.”
In a similar way, Walt Disney have a wiki setup in some parts of the company. Eric Freeman from Disney started using Wikis as early as in 2000, when they used a ‘development’ wiki for an engineering team. After that project was over and he was moved to research and development team, he setup a new wiki and after just two weeks he reported that he had seen a ‘a great amount of activity on the Twiki, in fact it has quickly become the central resource for ideas, notes, “how tos”, specs, and brainstorming.’
Robert de Forest, also used a Wiki at Disney in 2003 and he noted, ‘I’m surprised at how well most of the company is accepting the wiki. There are still a lot of people who don’t understand it, and a lot who reject it outright.’ Here he has pointed out one of the issues relating to using wikis in the Enterprise, which is people not accepting it, or refusing to become a part of the community. This is can be purely because people in general don’t like change, but also because some people may be reluctant to contribute in fear they could make mistakes and be corrected.

For probably the last couple years, my church’s tech team has had a wiki page setup that we have used for describing hardware, software, locations, and providing ‘how to’ manuals for regular tasks, I’ve written some of this wiki too. I’ve found there’s actually a lot of helpful info on the wiki, such links to product manuals, warranty expiry dates for computers, how to record audio and upload podcasts.

Could a wiki be the solution to the collaboration issues that your team is facing? There are many wiki platforms that are available for use!

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Single Line Paragraph Spacing in Live Writer

I’ve just started using Windows Live Writer, and like many other programs (and websites) it would create a double line space every time I hit the enter key, the solution:

Hit Shift + Enter when creating a new line.

Big thankyou to John Kavanagh as I found this solution on his blog :)

I can’t find how to add WordPress tags to my posts through Live Writer though…? Only tags from external providers, e.g. Technorati.

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Some kind of micro…machine?

In a post a couple months back, I gave a very brief introduction to blogs, now I just want to create a bit of discussion about what blogging and micro-blogging is and how they can be used for business purposes.
BLOG is a blend of the term web log, they allow an individual or a group of people to create posts on a website for any purpose that they wish to achieve. These posts often consist of a mix of text, images and video.
People that use blogs for personal use usually use them to write about and share their thoughts, view and opinions on topics that are important to them, or activities and events that interest them. Businesses also use blogs to share news, create awareness of their presence in the market, provide help on products, engage with customers.. and the list goes on! For today, I just want to talk about the business side of blogs.

Over the last few years, blogs have become increasingly popular, particularly within the business world. Many companies, large and small, use blogs for their business services. Here’s a short list of companies “that really get corporate blogging”.
It’s important to mention, all blogs will fall into one of these two categories, internal and external. External blogs are open to public, anyone can read and often comment on it as well, businesses use these blogs for the purposes mentioned in the above paragraph. Internal blogs are for within the business only, they are kept private from the world, and they serve a different purpose from external blogs.Lenovo Files

Lenovo is the 4th largest PC maker in the world, and has a few blogs that they maintain for different purposes. For example, ‘The Lenovo Files‘ is a blog with the intention of providing readers with the behind the scenes of what’s happening at Lenovo. Posts are usually focused on talking about new products and technologies, as well as providing help for users of it’s products. For die-hard Lenovo fans, this is a really good blog, they can keep themselves informed of new products and features.
As this blog allows commenting, it does create room for negative comments which is a risk, but this risk either can be controlled by monitoring the comments made or it could be turned around to become an advantage, if Lenovo employees provide useful feedback on these comments, as well as using this as a communication channel to listen to customers feedback.

Micro-blogging is another important form of blogs. Micro-blogs are basically blogs, except really short (often controlled by a character limit), I often see micro blogs used to share links to new posts made on other blogs. Twitter is probably the most popular micro-blogging platform today, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, with over 190 million visitors every month.

Twitter

There’s a list here of mashable.com‘s best 40 Twitter-active companies. Using micro-blogs such as Twitter, allows businesses to communicate directly to it’s customers as well as other businesses, and as a result allows a much more personal relationship to grow between them. Twitter can be used by businesses to keep customers (or potential customers) interested in a product or brand by ‘tweeting’ about current business activity and release dates, etc. For example Apple could tweet about near features in the iPhone 4.

Both blogging and micro-blogging share a similar security risks. For example, an employee of a company could put confidential company information onto either one of these types of blogs, for the whole world to see, even if the information was taken back down it is very likely that someone could have replicated the data. A real example of this is of Red Cross. Noel Wardick, who was head of the international department for the Red Cross, set up a personal blog late last year, and put up posts outlining a number of serious problems within the organisation, including financial. Although Noel initially kept his identity as anonymous, he was eventually caught and suspended from his position. To tackle this, companies must stay relevant with changing technology by creating a ‘social media policy’ which will put rules around what employees can legally put on the internet.

On a different note, even today, I found Twitter really useful because I had been waiting for the new iPhone OS 4.1 update to be released, I also wanted to know how effective it would be in fixing my iPhone 3G speed issues. A Twitter search of ‘iOS 4.1′ showed me statuses of anyone who included this in their status update. As a result, I found that the update had been released and some people noted on the performance improvements as well.

So, what experience has your company had with blogging / micro-blogging? Has it helped? Has it created areas of concern?

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Legally.. Social Networks

In some of my previous blogs I’ve covered some aspects of how social network services affect organisations and most recently, the advantages and risks involved.
Today I want to talk about some of the legal risks that an organisation may face as a result of being involved with social networks.

Let’s use McDonalds as an example, I think I’m pretty safe to say, everyone knows Mcdonalds! FUN FACTS :) McDonalds is the “world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving more than 58 million customers daily.” The company operates over 31,000 restaurants throughout 119 countries.. and now they’re building another store just down the road from where I live.

According to the Nielsen report, ‘Global Faces and Networked Places‘  two thirds (2/3) of the world’s internet population are visiting social networking websites, with Twitter having 190 million visitors every month and Facebook boasting over 500 million users, think about those numbers… whoa! So McDonalds has 400,000 employees world wide, having staff numbers in this range is going to mean they must have some serious social network risks. Searching for ‘Mcdonalds work’ on Facebook straight up found me a page called ‘Not working at McDonalds’ with over 64,000 people liking it, many of them being current and past employees. This is an example of defamation of McDonalds by it’s employees, especially because many posts on the page give McDonalds a negative image (including lots of links to website that explain ‘the Truth about McDonalds’). McDonalds could reduce the risk of this happening by educating their employees of the importance of using social networking responsibility, as I heard one person say, ‘tweet responsibly’. They could even introduce rewards for positive posts and also listen to the complaints that employees are making to see if the issues can be resolved.

Another problem that could arise would be if a McDonalds manager accepted some of his/her employees as friends on a social network, but rejected others. This could potentially become a case of discrimination, and the employee could accuse the manager (and therein the company, McDonalds) of not treating him fairly or not equally. Obviously to mitigate the risk, McDonalds managers should either accept all – or none, when it comes to befriending employees online.

Also, if a third party created a ‘McDonalds’ social networking site, let’s use Twitter as an example, they could post tweets to the world pretending to be a McDonalds official, when in truth they are not. This issue would be classed as trademark infringement and would be a real issue for McDonalds because that third party than has power to say anything with the general public believing them. McDonalds would need to deal with this by possibly contacting the user to change their account name, and if not they could take legal action, as they own the Trademark.

As a not so relevant to this post point, I saw this trailer for the new movie, ‘The Social Network’, from memory, I think it has Justin Timberlake in it.

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