In the world of enterprise collaboration, Google Sites is often seen as a collaboration platform lacking in features and security when compared to other platforms such as Microsoft SharePoint. While this might be true in a default installation, applications are starting to appear in the Google Apps Marketplace that can change all of that.
Here are some applications that can help you "pimp" your Google Sites so your organization can use the platform to its fullest potential.
Cloudlock DLP - Enterprise class Apps security
One of the objections I've always encountered about Google Sites is the lack of enterprise class security. I took advantage of the seven-day trial of Cloudlock DLP - Enterprise class Apps security and found a Google Sites security solution that is easy to implement and feature rich. While you can use it to secure other elements of Google Apps, I'm going to focus on how you can apply it to Google Sites security.
Cloudlock DLP lets you pimp out the security on your Google Sites with strong security tools such as data loss prevention and the capability to detect and remediate sensitive data exposure based on content/context aware security policies.
Even better, it supports auditing and compliance for Google Sites which is make or break in many organization's internal collaboration platforms. You can also use it to enforce acceptable use policies to meet data privacy regulations. When it comes to audit time, you can generate audit reports that detail access from internal and external users, privileged users, and data owner actions. Additionally, it gives your Google App Administrator a bi-directional view from security policy down to the end user on the site.Cloudlock also provides visibility and control over all data in the Google Apps domain. When it comes to Google Sites, you can search by keyword for sensitive content, change permissions, transfer ownership while maintaining a full audit trail of all the actions. Figure A is an example of a Google Sites report from Cloudlock:
Cloudlock DLP is easy to implement, economical, and fills a critical gap in Google Sites security and compliancy. I definitely recommend at least taking a look at the trial if you are seeking a security solution or if your organization needs better security over Google Sites to meet compliancy standards.
Simplebooklet.comThe IT technical writer in me likes parts of Google Sites for publishing but realizes that the formatting and publishing options are quite limited. Simplebooklet.com, a free tool, aims to change all of that with a wizard driven content creator that has one click publishing directly to Google Sites. A free version is available on the Google Apps Marketplace. Figure B shows an example of a Simplebooklet.com template for a brochure:
This is a good tool if you want to make internal corporate information a bit more user friendly on your internal Google Sites. While it's a bit on the simple side when it comes to features, this could work in its favor when repurposing content from documents and presentations to posting on Google Sites and when you want end users to perform the task.
Site Copier for Google Apps
To really pimp out Google Sites inside any mid to large enterprise, you need to be able to replicate sites quickly and effectively. Site Copier for Google Apps is a free app that allows you to copy individual Google Sites off domains to your Google Apps domain. This app is handy for consolidating domains during a rebranding or merger.Using Site Copier for Google Apps supports Google App Standard, Business, and Education Editions but you have to be the owner of the sites you are copying. Figure C shows the simple interface of Site Copier for Google Apps:
Site Copier for Google Sites
Ecwid Store for Google Sites
Perhaps the ultimate way to pimp out your Google Site is to add ecommerce support. While Google Sites might be traditionally considered as intranet sites more than commercial sites, some organizations do use them on the public Internet.
Ecwid Store for Google Sites is a free ecommerce solution that you can plug into an existing Google Site as a Google Gadget. Payment processing is handled through Google Checkout. It's an AJAX based Google Gadget with support for drag and drop.It is a SaaS-based ecommerce solution that takes away all of the back-end setup and configuration which makes ecommerce out of reach for some individuals and smaller operations. While at first, I had a hard time thinking of using a Google Site for ecommerce, I came to see Ecwid Store for Google Sites as the ultimate pimp for Google Sites because it puts ecommerce in the reach of side businesses and individuals seeking another source of income. Figure D shows an example of Ecwid Store for Google Sites:
Ecwid Store for Google Sites
Is it time to pimp your Google Sites?
From initial launch, I've always ranked Google Sites as an underutilized resource inside the enterprise but sometimes it was with cause. When you pimp out your Google Sites using the apps I profile in this post and other apps found in the Google Apps Marketplace, you learn you really can roll your own solution at little or no extra cost.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.