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SMB users enthusiastic as they try out Google Apps

They like the ease-of-use, simple setup and that it's free

By Todd R. Weiss
August 31, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - With small IT budgets and limited technical staffs, a sampling of small and medium-size businesses (SMB) have been kicking the tires of Google Inc.'s free, Web-based Google Apps for Your Domain collaboration offerings and are finding that it meets many of their business communications needs.

Alejandro Pivaral, CIO of Miami-based 2night Entertainment Corp., a local entertainment Web site, said his company's 100 employees have been signed up for Google's free services, which will allow him to dump an e-mail server and its associated expenses for upkeep.

"I don't use Outlook anymore," Pivaral said in an e-mail response. "I only use Gmail," which is Google's free hosted e-mail service. "Managing accounts is easier than ever," he said.

The key to trying the new hosted applications, he said, was that they are offered for free, but the value has turned out to be deeper. "Definitely [being free was] one of the main reasons" to use the services, he said. "It's ad-supported, but the ads don't distract; many times they are interesting. I love Google products. Their innovation is changing the way we work."

Launched under beta on Monday, Google Apps for Your Domain is a suite of free, hosted collaboration applications for SMBs and other groups. The company plans to expand to larger companies by year's end.

Google said a wider, "premium" set of the applications, which will carry fees, will be available by the fourth quarter for large enterprises. One of the big pluses of Google Apps, users said, is that companies can create free e-mail accounts using their own custom domain names, giving them added professionalism and credibility on the Web.

The suite includes Gmail and Google's Calendar, Talk and Page Creator applications, all of which have either been rolled out in recent months or are being integrating with each other this year. More applications will be added over time.

Another user, Michael Renzi, director of finance and administration at San Jose City College in California, said the school joined an early-user program last February and created the school's first e-mail accounts for its approximately 11,000 students.

"It's providing them with services that we haven't been able to provide before" because of budget restrictions, he said.

While providing e-mail access to students has been in the school's technology plans for several years, the money wasn't available to set up servers, administrators, software and other equipment, Renzi said. Gmail made it work for the school, which is a two-year college. "I know there are other products out there, but this is just the best fit for our organization," he said. "We wanted a primary means of communications with students," as well as training them to use e-mail so they could go on to use it successfully in four-year colleges and in business.



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