When you sign up for a free account of Google Apps (called the Standard edition), you’re not getting all the best things that Google Apps has to offer. To do that you need to buy the Business edition for US$50 per user per year. This edition is mandatory for businesses with more than 10 user accounts.
What do you get for your money? BoxFreeIT asked Anil Sabharwal, Google’s head of mobile product management, Google Docs (pictured on right), for the answers.
Google lists the benefits of the paid edition under three headings. Support and SLA, application features and mobile features.
1. Google Groups
Google Groups, which lets people send messages to members of a group, is accessible by those with a Gmail account or Google Apps standard edition – but it will only let you create public groups.
Google Apps business edition lets you create private groups for which you can manage membership and the information posted within them. Google has given Groups a wider purpose – as a way of controlling access to internal documents.
Folders containing sales material and quotes can be linked to a Google Group set up for sales staff, for example. When a person is made a member of that Group they then have access to all those documents.
Anil says Google Groups is valuable in replacing distribution lists. A business with franchisees in several cities could set up a Google Groups for each store.
“If a person joined our Sydney store all of a sudden they have would access to a thousand documents. If they transferred to Melbourne, they would have access to a completely different thousand documents. They don’t have to get manually added to (share settings for each document), it just happens instantaneously.”
Google Groups can also replace public folders for email. In another scenario a travel agency links its inquiries form to a Google Groups for its agents. Instead of the inquiries form emailing all the agents with no way to know who was following up on a lead, a Google Groups would show all agents which leads had come through and who had assigned themselves to each.
“It becomes a single inventory of every customer inquiry that’s come through the site. You can go back and say, ‘We got in touch with this customer and they’re going on this trip’”, Anil says.
2. Google Video
Anil calls Google Video “YouTube for your business”. It’s only available in the business edition and is used for sending out messages internally or hosting training videos.
Google executives use Google Video internally every quarter to tell staff about results, wins and product announcements.
3. A bigger, better Gmail
Google Apps standard edition gets 7GB inbox in Gmail, just like the free Gmail account. The Business edition gets a 25GB inbox and optional email archiving and discovery, which can expand the usable space for email even further.
Standard edition users are also limited to sending emails to 500 recipients a day. That quota can be quickly reached through extended email conversations with large numbers of recipients. Google counts names in the to, cc and bcc fields towards that total.
The maximum number of recipients rises to 3000 a day for business users.
4. Outlook for holdouts
Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook lets users continue with Outlook as an email client but use Google’s servers for processing email. Google Apps Sync lets an Outlook user and a Google Calendar user see each other’s free/busy schedules.
The tool is designed for large companies that have decided to shift from Microsoft Exchange servers to Google Apps but want to reduce upheaval to staff by letting them stay on Outlook.
Google Apps Sync is only available in the business edition.
Support and SLA
5. Phone support
Standard edition users get help through Google’s forums, which effectively means searching for the answer to someone else’s question or posting your own and waiting for a reply from Google staff and fans.
Business edition users on the other hand can call a 24×7 phone number for support.
“For business, that immediate response to deal with their particular scenario – with someone on the phone who can look up their account, look through their control panel, understand what settings are there, make modifications in real time as required – that’s a pretty significant benefit,” Anil says.
What about support for apps bought in the Google Apps Marketplace that connect to Google Apps?
Anil says that any issue which has to do with buying, installing or integrating an app will be supported by Google Apps; if it’s application functionality then the user has to contact the vendor of the app.
Anil adds that Google works with its top vendors in its marketplace to ensure they provide an equal level of support to Google Apps customers.
6. Compensation for downtime
While standard and business editions of Google Apps run on the same servers in the same data centres, only business users receive compensation if Google Apps stops working for a period (has “downtime”). Google Apps’ SLA (service-level agreement) gives credits to businesses if they are unable to use their Google Apps accounts.
A business can receive a maximum 15 free days a month if service drops below 95% availability, or one and a half days downtime that month.
A standard edition user receives no compensation and, more importantly, has no way of finding out how long the problem will take to be fixed. A business edition user can call the support line.
“With the business edition you can contact someone and say, ‘For some reason my Gmail appears to be down’, and we can isolate it. It’s understanding that this particular user has that problem and there are things we can do to help get that user back up and running,” Anil says.
“In the rare cases where outages happen they only typically affect half a percent of our users because of the way in which we manage our data in our systems.”
Google has a BlackBerry connector that lets users sync email and calendar information to their BlackBerrys over Google’s servers. Google Apps Connector for BlackBerry Enterprise Server is only available in Google Apps business edition.
Google tries to keep the features gap to a minimum between the standard and business editions, Anil claims. The main difference between the two is the number of users permitted.
But Google believes businesses will be better off on the business edition even if they have less than 10 users. Google has “tens of thousands of businesses” in the single digits, Anil says.
“If you’re five users that’s $250 a year. Considering everything else you’re managing in your business, knowing that you have the comfort of having that support and SLA and guaranteeing you have access to the exact same set of products that Flight Centre has, that’s a very comfortable feeling.”
So, how do the paid versions of Google Apps benefit your business? Share them in the comments below.