How To Reduce IT Costs and Stress

How can your small- to mid-sized business drastically reduce Information Technology (IT) costs and minimize the stresses of dealing with IT?  The answer is in the clouds.

Almost a year ago we completely eliminated our Exchange and Sharepoint servers.  Those two applications managed our e-mails and documents.

What replaced them?  Google Apps.  We quickly and easily moved all of our e-mail, documents, spreadsheets, images and presentations up to Google’s servers in the cloud.

My favorite part of Google Apps is a component called Google Sites.  Google Sites gives us the ability to setup a site for every project and share that site with our customers and business partners.  Sites make collaborating with the project team more effective by providing a real-time project management tool.

Let’s say that your design team and distribution center is in the Unites States and your manufacturing plant is in Mexico.  A Site could be created each time your company creates a new design.  Everyone on your project team would have the appropriate access to project scope documents, design images and the issues list.  Since these documents are maintained in real-time on the Site, management would have constant access regarding whether or not the project is staying on track.

So, how exactly does Google Apps reduce costs and stress?

Using Google Apps eliminates license fees for software such as Exchange and Sharepoint and it eliminates the need to pay IT costs to support and upgrade these applications.

There are two versions of Google Apps:  Standard and Premier.  The Standard version is free.  We elected to go with the Premier version at $50/user/year.  The Premier version provides us with additional storage space (25GB as opposed to 7.4GB) and includes spam filtering and virus scanning.

Because you are able to leverage Google’s virtual servers, you no longer have to worry about technical issues with servers at your site.  We were able to get rid of all but one server (and our goal is to get rid of it as well).  Not having to deal with servers was a huge reduction in stress for our company.

Are there downsides?  Of course.  We have experienced occasional periods of sluggish performance.  And without internet access it is a little tough to connect to the cloud.

If you are a real Excel power-user you may be disappointed in the functionality of the Google Apps spreadsheet.

However, here is the beauty of these types of Apps:  they are constantly being upgraded (sometimes daily).  The upgrades happen without any effort on your part and they are included in the annual price.

Will they eventually catch up to the functionality level of Microsoft Office?  Yes they will.  And I think they will surpass that functionality in the not too distant future.

Is your company using Google Apps?  If so, what has been your experience?

If not, why not?

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