In today’s economic climate, it really is important to utilize simple and innovative tools that help you work efficiently. Most importantly, it would be great if those tools were free, or close to it. Since 2006, Google has given the small business owner a suite of tools known as Google Apps that I believe no business should be without. According to Google, these business Apps are meant to “reduce IT costs and improve employee collaboration,” which for the most part I have found to be entirely true for my business and for my business partners.
Over the next few weeks, I plan on exploring several standard Google Apps here in my blog posts to shed light on some of the most popular and relevant Apps. These aren’t going to be how-to guides for Google Apps. There are plenty guides and YouTube videos out there in Internet land to help with that. The purpose here is to give you overviews, ideas and strategies to help you get the most out of Google Apps.
So let’s talk a little about the standard Google Apps as a business suite of products. I will attempt to cover some of the features as well as some of the common uses in my company and even some of the drawbacks that I have come across while using Google Apps. My hope is that you find this information useful, interesting and it helps you make a calculated decision as to wether you think GA would serve your company in the way it has mine.
Today I’ll give a brief overview of Standard versus Premium editions (and why I stick with Standard) and then I’ll discuss Gmail, one of my most favorite Google applications. I’ll also give you some detailed strategies on how I get optimal use out Gmail. As always, your feedback and conversations are welcome and expected!
Gmail for Business
Gmail is a standard mail system from Google that has some pretty important, almost can’t-live-without features. I’ll try to cover some of my favorites here:
Spam Management: The spam management is almost rivaled by none because the system gets smarter about the email you want and don’t want. All you need to do is click the “mark as spam” button when viewing spam in your in-box and the system remembers the basic information about the email. I receive thousands of spam messages per month and I never, ever have to see them. They instantly filter away from my in-box into a spam folder. To clean out that folder, I click “Delete all spam messages now” and instantly they’re deleted forever. Also, spam that has been sitting around for over 30 days are automatically deleted. This might seem simple, but it’s a revolutionary idea that has saved so many businesses time and energy.
Browser Based: The fact that the whole mail system is browser based is exponentially awesome in so many ways. You can access your email from anywhere with an Internet connection, including most mobile smartphones. This is also a benefit as your mailbox will not take up a ton of space on your hard drive. This may freak out some Outlook users at first, but it’s liberating for most in the end. No more managing a mail server for your business. Let Gmail do the work for you.
Google Search: You may be familiar with Google’s ingenious search algorithms. Well, Gmail allows you to search inside your mail using this same powerful search tool. It even has some advanced features in the search that make finding that message you are looking for even easier.
Message Threads: Messages with similar attributes (addresses and subjects) are grouped automatically in singular threads so they only take up one line in your inbox and don’t get mixed up with other messages. When you click a thread, you see a whole grouping in order of the messages sent and received between you and the recipient(s). It’s another great way to keep things organized.
Labels/Folders: This is probably one of the biggest speed bumps that a former desktop mail user will hit in the switch to Gmail. You can create and apply labels to messages. If you are familiar with tagging then this concept will make sense. However if you are not, it’s pretty simple really so don’t sweat over it too much. Think of labels just like the name suggests. You can label a message thread with a term that helps you sift and sort through your messages later. So, if you are thinking of labels as folders, it allows you to place message threads in multiple folders for easy filing and finding later.
Chat: Google’s chat module is great, but the fact that they have integrated it in to gmail is genius! Now you can see your co-workers availability right in the same window as well as chat with them. Another feature to the chat is your text chats are saved to your archive in gmail so you can refer to them later or search through them (see the previous search term chart). Chat also has a video chat feature so you can see and talk to each other. Just don’t expect the video chats to be saved or searchable… yet!
Labs: Google has a collection of add-on features for their products. The repository for these little helpers is referred to as Google Labs. Inside your gmail settings there’s a tab for Labs that holds a bunch of potential plugins for you to add to your gmail functions. One that I find extremely useful is the Send & Archive button. Kills two birds with one stone. Sends my message and archives the thread out of my inbox (until I get a reply, then the thread shows back up – but that’s what we want to happen, right?). There’s all sorts of great little helpers in there. You can just poke around, try them out and remove them if you don’t like them. It’s a great little extra perk to the system.