Transition to Online, Part II (Implementing Google Apps)

Posted: January 8th, 2010   |   Category: Blog | Labs | Strategy | Tools

Google Apps has a number of tools available to users that pay for the premium service (something I recommend for all small businesses) including the following:

  • Email (Gmail)
  • Calendar
  • Chat
  • Contacts (which is in Beta mode)
  • Docs (Google’s version of Open Office)
  • Site management
  • Mobile integration
  • Groups and
  • Postini

For $25 per year, you have access to all of the above, your file space is a decent (but not whopping) 25 Gigabytes (GB) and the tools are platform agnostic (which means I can access them anywhere and use them on any platform including Linux or Ubuntu).

All of my mail is forwarded to Gmail now and I can effectively control the volume of activity.

Google Apps – Gmail

There are several things you need to do:

  1. Add all of your email accounts and have them organized here.
  2. Update all of your mindset about ‘folders’.

I’ve been working with the Gmail product for a few weeks now and I’ve finally come to a point where I don’t even open Outlook.

Probably the coolest transition is the adoption of ‘labels’ (basically tags) for all of your email.  Instead of having a bizarre array of folders, I can tag my email with specific descrtiptions and then archive them instantly.

This saves you from having to go through the painful process of deciding about the following levels of organization:

  • Main >> Clients >> Billing >> Client A >> Campaign A >> Contracts
  • Main >> Contracts >> Client A >> Campaign A

You just label each email with the specific characteristics (eg. ‘Billing’ and ‘Contracts’), archive it and it’ll be easy to find next time around.

The only problem is that I’m up to about 100 tags, which opens up another issue with organizing these type of things:  overkill.

Now that I’m aware of this problem, I’m trying to be as rational and limited with my tagging as possible, but I can’t imagine ever going back to a system of folders.

To top it all off, you’ve got Google’s powerful engine searching all of your files and if you enter the word ‘John’ with the search, you’ll immediately find any conversation / email related to anyone (or anything, I suppose) named John.

Here’s some more rationale from Google about using labels instead of folders:

Labels Folders
A conversation can have more than one label You can only put a message in one folder
A conversation can be in several locations (Inbox, All Mail, Sent Mail, etc.) at once, making it easier to find later You have to remember where you filed a message to retrieve it
You can search conversations by label You can’t always do folder-specific searches

The Migration From Outlook

It wasn’t easy to get me going (read my first post on this transition), but once I gained momentum, I couldn’t wait to abort Outlook completely.

The critical change was with my contacts.  I’ll describe this in my next post.

P.S.  For the record, I own a whopping 20 shares of Google.  While I appreciate that this might influence me to write about these activities / events glowingly, I do my best to maintain a level of objectivity and tear a strip out of the Big G whenever I can.

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