Editor's note: Today's guest blogger is Benjamin Doyle, Information Systems Administrator for Alta Planning + Design, a company that combines the skills of planning, design, landscape architecture and engineering to create bicycle, pedestrian, greenway, and trail projects for communities. With headquarters in Portland, Oregon, Alta has a total of 12 offices across the United States.
Benjamin talks about choosing Google Apps over both hosted and in-house Microsoft Exchange.
Scalability, without complexity Alta has 60 employees and we’re growing rapidly. We knew we needed something that could scale up without bogging us down with decisions on hardware, upgrades, and maintenance. We also needed portability and easy collaboration because our employees are constantly on the go, visiting the communities we work with around the globe. We were pretty sure we didn’t want the headache and constant maintenance of an in-house system.
Our previous email system – provided free through our website host – couldn't keep up with our needs for reliability and ease of access. Messages were downloaded to individual computers, limiting remote access and making archiving near impossible. It also left us without a way to have a shared calendar solution accessible to all our users in all offices (many of us were already using Google Calendar), and it made sense to choose a service which so cleanly integrates calendars with e-mail.
Savings We compared hosted Microsoft Exchange, in-house Microsoft Exchange, and Google Apps Premier Edition – plus their associated operating costs – and Google Apps came out way below the other alternatives cost-wise, yet provided all the functionality we were after.
Google Apps was projected to save us about 62% in the first year over setting up an in-house Exchange server and 67% annual savings compared to hosted Microsoft Exchange. For a business with no prior communications budget to speak of, Google Apps was a huge advantage that provided great cost savings.
Many unexpected benefits Google Apps was virtually painless to implement, and it’s given us fast, reliable communication and collaboration. Spread out among 12 offices, there's not another solution on the market we know of that pulls together all the tools we need as well as Google Apps. We’re pretty much using the full gamut of capabilities: Gmail, Google's instant messaging, Google Calendar, Google Sites, Google Video and Google Docs. We use the web mail interface to keep things simple.
Communication via integrated voice the video chat was an unexpected boon for us – it’s widely popular for our network of offices as a way of quickly sharing information without having to pick up the phone. We were able to create a more reliable and accessible intranet with Google Sites than we could have done with other tools.
Being able to access our documents and other data from almost any browser is also great since we all travel so much. Everyone has access to mail and calendars with their mobile devices, and they can go from their workstation to a travel laptop seamlessly.
What’s great is that Google offers constant improvement and development. New features are introduced on an ongoing basis. Some of the extra features included in Google Apps aren't available with other services. I keep up on the new features by subscribing to Apps Update Alerts (RSS feed or email alerts). Because updates and improvements are implemented by Google, and not on on-premise servers, it's fewer "off hours" working hours for me.
Our IT budget has been able to shift more dollars into data storage and networking – money that would have otherwise been spent on a mail server and user applications. Plus, with Google keeping our mail and intranet secure and running with a 99+% up time guarantee, we have less to worry about and more time to spend on other important projects. Since our information is flowing quicker between users through a range of mediums, and our users have no trouble accessing communication and internal resources on the go.
- Benjamin Doyle, Information Systems Administrator, Alta Planning + Design
Posted by Serena Satyasai, The Google Apps Team