Whether you love or hate Google, it’s hard to go a day without touching one of their services. From Internet inquiries to mapping your way to your next destination, the search engine giant has come a long way from its days operating out of a Menlo Park garage.
Today, Google is changing the way that we communicate on a personal and professional level. Although many organizations aren’t ready to leave the comfort of out-of-the-box software, there are many advantages to computing “in the cloud.” Web-based tools from companies such as Google offer cost-effective solutions (often free), better scalability, easier collaboration, and enhanced security. While these services aren’t for everyone, many small businesses are starting to make the switch to Internet applications without suffering any major technical setbacks.
To join the Google love affair, there are a few products that are worth trying out. They won’t take too much time to set up or install, and if you hate them there will be no nagging tech salesperson showing up on your door trying to convince you to give ‘em another shot.
Google Buzz. This is one of the newest additions to the Google family. To access this product, you’ll need a Gmail account (see below). Buzz is aiming to compete with the Twitter and Facebook communities, among other social networks. In other words, it’s trying to improve online conversations. Last year Google launched Wave, which was trying to capture the social audience. While Wave did have some cool features, Buzz definitely looks more promising since it’s integrated within your Gmail account. What also makes it interesting in a business environment is the ability to have private or public real-time conversations, helping to increase your organization’s productivity with easier collaboration using comment threads with status updates.
Google Chrome. This Google download is like the ugly stepsister in the browser world: it just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. While Mozilla’s Firefox is an excellent web browser, what makes Chrome even better is one simple thing: this Google product allows you to search directly from the address bar. Sure, this seems simply enough, but when you start to use Chrome on a regular basis you realize how much time you can save by entering your queries in the same place you normally type a full URL. You might call this lazy searching, but whatever you say about it, there’s no doubt it’s a winning feature.
Gmail. Many corporate Internet email services make sending, searching, and sharing messages frustrating. With Gmail, aside from ease-of-use, there are many business advantages. For starters, Google offers you more email storage than you will ever need (and if you do need more, you can buy it at a reasonable price). Although managing emails is a fine art, with Gmail you don’t have to spend a lot of time organizing your messages because they are easily searchable in seconds. However, if you love organizing your email account, there are stars, filters, and labels to make Gmail sorting a breeze. Another obvious benefit to this Google service is the ability to check your email anywhere, anytime, on any computer with Internet access.
Google Calendar. There is no more important tool in a business than a company’s calendar. With Google Calendar, you can easily manage all your meetings. The app’s built-in reminders make it easy for you to send a text message or email to yourself at scheduled times before an appointment. If you’re worried about your clients or customers calendar programs getting confused with your Google ways, Google Calendar plays nice with Microsoft Outlook, among other programs. Finally, even if you’re offline, you can still see your meetings.
Google Docs. Word processing is a breeze in Google Docs. From creating documents to designing a presentation to crafting a spreadsheet, all of these items can be created and exported to popular file formats, such as DOC, PPT, and CSV. There is no new technology to learn within Docs since the terminology is the same as what you’d find in much of the business world’s popular software. Oh, and it’s free, just like everything on this list, which decreases your software license fees and increases your company’s productivity.
Amber MacArthur is a social media consultant, speaker, and author of Power Friending: Demystifying Social Media to Build Your Business (June 10, 2010 release). You can follower her on Twitter at @AmberMac.