Google recently removed more barriers to adoption of Google Apps in the enterprise, thanks to new storage options, enhanced editing features, and improved migration tools.
One service, two names
Google gave its latest enterprise offering two names: "Google Drive for Work" and "Google Apps Unlimited." It's one service with two names. It includes all the features of the $5 per user, per month Google Apps for Business, such as Gmail, Calendar, Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Sites.
The new $10 per user, per month service adds unlimited Google Drive file storage, additional Google Drive management controls, and Google Vault services.
For clarity, I'll refer to the new, premium service as Google Apps Unlimited and the basic service as Google Apps for Business.
Storage plus administration
Even if you use Google Apps only for Google Drive storage, it's competitively priced.
- Google Apps for Business provides each user 30 GB of storage for email, files, and photos. Notably, only files in non-Google formats count against the storage limit: that means Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs, photos, video, and audio files, etc., take up space. Files created with Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides don't count against storage limits.
- Google Apps Unlimited provides each user unlimited storage — as long as there are 5 or more user accounts. Google Apps accounts with fewer than 5 users may upgrade to Google Apps Unlimited, but storage won't be unlimited. Instead, users will receive a storage limit of 1 TB per user.
The $10 per user per month pricing for Google Apps Unlimited is extremely competitive. Similar business offerings from Box and Dropbox cost $15 per user per month (as of June 30, 2014) and also require a minimum of 5 users.
Beyond simple storage, Google Apps Unlimited also offers enhanced administrative control and file audit features. For example, Google Apps for Business provides an administrator three choices to manage the installed Google Drive software for the entire organization: 1) allow users to download, 2) allow use, but hide the link (to enable Windows MSI distribution of the software), or 3) do not allow. With Google Apps Unlimited, an administrator may allow specific users access to the Google Drive client.
Google Apps Unlimited also includes Google Vault, which provides email retention and search services to help organizations meet legal discovery and compliance needs. Google Vault continues to be available as a separate add-on service, with licenses assigned on a per user basis.
Separately, Google streamlined the transition from legacy files to Google Apps, thanks to integrated Microsoft Office file editing features, a new "suggested edits" mode, and new mobile apps that work offline.
You can now open and edit Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files within Google Docs in your Chrome browser with the help of a Chrome extension. (Similar editing features will arrive soon in updated Android and iOS apps.) Previously, Office format files had to be opened, converted, edited, and then saved again in Office formats. Now, you just open and edit legacy format files — extra "convert and save" steps are eliminated. Of course, you can always convert a file to a native Google format to access additional collaboration features.
Google now offers several ways to collaborate on a document. Most recently, the company added a "suggested edits" mode (click "Editing" in the upper right while in the browser, where you'll see Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing as options). Switch to "Suggesting" to recommend specific changes to a document; the document owner can either accept or reject a suggest edit.
The older methods of collaborating continue:
- Shared editing, which allows up to 50 people to simultaneously edit a document
- Real-time chat, to discuss a document live
- "Insert | Comment" to discuss a document asynchronously
- Third-party add-ons, such as Letterfeed's Track Changes for attributed multi-party editing
You can edit your documents anywhere once you install four Google apps on your Android and/or iOS devices: Google Drive, along with individual apps for Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These new apps all let you create and edit files — even offline. (Slides for iOS is not released as of June 2014.)
Google has promised they'll also soon add the ability to edit Office documents to these apps, as well. As of June 2014, PowerPoint editing in the Slides app on Android is actually better than native Google Slide format: you can insert an image in a PowerPoint format file, but not a native Google Slide file. However, I expect this to change.
Improved migration tools
Finally, Google launched a new, web-based Data Migration Service in May 2014. The service imports email to Google Apps from email systems such as Office365, Exchange 2007 (or newer), or any IMAP email server. No software installation is needed to perform the migration. The service migrates email, not calendar or contact information.
In late May 2014, Google updated the Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange (GAMME) software to support migration to Google Apps from Outlook 2013 files (excluding the "Click-to-Run" edition). An administrator uses GAMME to perform complex data migrations that import calendar and contact data, in addition to email.
Competition benefits customers
The competitive pricing, new features, and improved tools indicate that Google remains a fierce competitor for enterprise customers. Even if your organization doesn't become a customer, your organization may benefit as competitors respond to Google's offerings.
If your organization is spending more than $10 per user, per month on storage, email, or core office apps, it's time to review your vendor contracts. With Google Apps Unlimited, new mobile apps, and improved migration tools, Google appears to want your business more than ever.
Are these changes enough to convince your organization to make the switch to Google Apps? If not, what will it take? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.