googleapps

Tag: googleapps

Dropbox

Flood Recovery

Well, over the weekend one of my clients offices was flooded by a burst pipe from the apartment above. As I took the call on a surprisingly nice Sunday morning (no snow!) I thought that she couldn’t have imagined for a worse start to the new year.

I have spent the last few days assessing the damage over the telephone with her. At the moment we don’t know if the Macs survived the power surge that knocked out the mains electricity, after all surge protection only goes so far. What she hasn’t had to worry about, however, is her data.

About two weeks before Christmas I finally persuaded her to take out a 50gb account with Dropbox. So if the computers are toast, we can setup new ones, link them to her Dropbox and be up and ready to go in no time. She has also been using Google Apps Standard for the past year or so, so her email is safe, as are her calendars and contacts.

Whilst we wait for permission to move the computers from the insurers to a place where we can see if they work I have been able to email her essential documents, as and when she has needed them straight to her Google company email account on her Blackberry.

So all in all what could have been a disaster six weeks earlier, has been an unsurprising inconvenience but in the end not a disaster. Phew.

Thanks go to Dropbox and Google for making this possible!

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Fragmented Google

Like most of us I’ve been the frequent and appreciative beneficiary of the wonderful talents of the Google engineers, however, all too frequently I experience the downsides that are a clear consequence of the fragmented results of a company run by engineers (and sometimes I think for engineers). Take this most recent experience:

At the beginning of last year I setup Google Standard Apps for one of my clients. It is really the perfect solution for practically any business (to be honest though I know some people who pay for the business version I can’t really see the advantage; what SME really needs more than 7gb of email storage per account?).

At the same time I moved them over to my hosting account (only £25 a year inc. setup of the Google Standard Apps) but for the moment that was all she wanted to do, although we discussed re-vamping her website, we decided to leave it for the moment.

So at the end of last year we started to discuss a revamp and over the last few days we have done exactly that. In just a couple of days, with a few adaptions to a free WordPress template (cleanr if you’re interested) and we got the new site up and running. Check it out here if you’d like to take a look.

As part of this process I had to setup Google Analytics for her site and as experience has taught me rather than adding it to my account (after all I’m probably the person most likely to use it for her) I prefer now to set it up in an account in my clients name.

Now my client uses a private msn email address rather than Google. So I had to setup a new Google account for her. It is possible to setup a Google account using another email address so I used her work one (from a Google Standard Apps account) and off I went.

It surprised me that there is no method within the Google Standard Apps account management interface that would allow me to add a Google account for an individual user (or at least an administrator) or to link an existing account in any other way. Just so everything was under one roof so to speak.

It seemed a natural leap for me to assume that if you were going to use Google Apps for your website then you would likely be going to use Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Google AdSense and maybe Google Checkout to think of just a few; all of which you need a Google account for.

In the SME arena (mostly under 25 employees) if you’re a business owner then setting up an additional account for a business is pretty straightforward, though an unnecessary extra step, but if you are hiring someone to do it and you’re not sure what is going on this can place alot of power in the hands of your consultant.

Anyway to get to the point, you have to activate each of these services, individually authenticate them. For example, if you’ve verified your Google Standard Apps account, you still need to verify your Webmasters account, your Analytics account, and so on.

This all adds additional costs, additional time, and additional hassle. It’s the perfect example IMHO of an unnecessarily fragmented service. This seems to be something Google is attempting to solve (see Analytics in AdWords) but it doesn’t seem to be taking the easy route. So come on Google cut us some slack, start integrating your services.

Oh and before I go. Why do we need a separate account for Google Wave?

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Google Apps for Business

So if you haven’t yet made the google apps plunge for your business, the new year is the time to do so.

Despite Google having made the standard edition of google apps more difficult to find (by the way it’s here) I really don’t think that most businesses require more space than is provided for by the free edition; seriously 7gb and growing.

Re-directing your domain couldn’t be easier Google has a simple set of instructions for you to follow. It does involve changing CNAME entries and the like but it really isn’t very difficult and google has some great advice: available here with popular instructions for most domain hosts.

I’d also really advise if you want your employees to be able to easily access your services to set easy to find addresses such as: mail.yourdomain.com, calendar.yourdomain.com, doc.yourdomain.com and sites.yourdomain.com. Google has some easy to follow instructions here.

Uploading your archived email is also pretty easy. For windows users Google has it’s own special uploading program found here. For Mac users once you have setup your email (IMAP is essential) then you can just drag and drop your emails from the old files to the new and wait for the upload process (it can take some time) and you’re done.

For calendars, just export from outlook or ical in the vcal format and you can import your calendar directly to your new google apps calendar. Then share as you like amongst other employees. This is particularly good for office wide holiday calendars and the like, keeping everyone up to date with whats going on.

And really that’s the basic setup. Questions in the comments. Oh and if you need some help please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Buying More Google Space

So it seems that you can now buy additional google space, which is kind of cool, but it seems to me that google’s apps are still rather fragmented, for example: you cannot currently share your gmail space with your picassa account, although email takes up a infinitely smaller amount of space I’m currently using 2210 MB (29%) of my 7398 MB allowance covering about 50,000 emails and all their respective attachments, whereas I only have 13 albums in my picassa account and I’m using 378 MB (36.97%) of my 1024 MB allowance.

Although it is great to be able to buy additional space and it is certainly something I’d consider, if they can share purchased space why do they not allow us to have a single quota shared between all of the google apps? It’d certainly make more sense… In the mean time if you want to buy more space you can do so, at ever depreciating prices by visiting: here.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Essential Communication Tools

When setting up a new system as well as setting up a standard email program such as Apple Mail or Thunderbird I also setup a couple of other essential communication tools, mostly to help me keep in touch with the user, in this case Glyn, but also to maximise the number of methods by which that user can communicate with the world.

Which Email program?

To be honest since 10.3 I’ve used Apple’s Mail as my principal email client, prior to this I used Eudora and I have, to be honest, occasionally dabbled with other programs such as Microsoft Entourage; but the email client I generally recommend to switchers is Thunderbird.

The reason for this is because when I am brought into consult at a small firm I generally find them running un-patched versions of Outlook Express, which is in my experience is the easiest and quickest root to viral infection in the Windows world, in these situations I replace it with Thunderbird, which being free adds no additional cost burden. So when we come to switching it seems best to go with Thunderbird to minimise the amount of adjustment the user requires.

However, as Apple has improved Mail, or more importantly improved it’s integration with the Address Book and iCal adding great usability functions like data detectors, (essential time savers once a user becomes more savvy) it has become an increasingly attractive client. Thunderbird 2 still uses its own address book rather than the system wide one offered by Apple, and although version 3 now offers integration it feels like it has been in beta forever.

The ability to sync Apple’s integrated address book with google mail accounts (including google apps accounts) in Snow Leopard has proved to be a great additional benefit for small businesses, especially as you can hack this to provide a locally available address book to all users in a company by using a single master default email such as info@foo.com to sync addresses to, which is great for small businesses. (if you’re running 10.5 this tutorial will show you how to hack this feature to make it available for you).

Google Sync from Apple Address Book
Just tick the box to activate Google Sync

So after a quick discussion with Glyn as to these pros and cons we decided to setup his email with the Apple Mail program, which ran smoothly, although I think it is a shame that you can’t select the type of mail service you are connecting to when you enter the initial details as this would cut down the setup time significantly whilst you wait for it to determine if there is a mail server present at the address you have given. It would also be great if you could tell Mail that it was a google apps account so it would pre-fill the imap and smtp details for you (come on Apple should be easy enough to do!).

Other tools communication tools…

It is really important for a small business to be reachable by as many methods as possible, as we have moved into an era of increased connectivity it is important that they adapt to this so that they can reach the broadest possible audience.

The first tool I always start with is Skype. Although I tend to use this less and less since the advent of Google Talk, I still find that many of my clients use the program on a daily basis. As Slingsby Interiors didn’t already have a skype account, Glyn and I downloaded the latest client and within minutes had managed to bag slingsbyinteriors as a name, surprisingly easy to do for most small businesses.

Then we moved on to setting up Google Talk, for which I always use a great little open source program called Adium, which is compatible with just about every protocol you can imagine from: AIM, MSN, Jabber to Yahoo to name just a few, meaning you only have to install the one program. As well as integrating with the built-in Address Book it offers tabbed browsing of conversations and all important growl notifications.

After a quick series guide around each of these programs, Glyn is up and running and ready to communicate with the world and more importantly after I installed skype on the PC in the 1st floor office he no longer has to run upstairs or use the intercom when he wants to ask Kay in accounts a quick question!

UPDATE –

Apparently you can bypass the automatic mail setup by holding down the option key after you’ve entered your email address and password, changing the button to continue and allowing you to continue as you normally would. For more see macosxhints.com

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk

Catering to a Business Switcher

So I’m starting the rather insidious process of introducing a Mac to one of the businesses I consult for, why would that be insidious I hear you ask? well once you introduce one shiny new Mac in my experience it’s not long before more follow… after all when compared to the horrid beige (or slightly nicer black) desktops most firms seem to have it is unsurprising that a measure of jealousy starts to creep into the lucky recipients colleagues mind and before long they’re all clambering to have a nice shiny Mac (after all they usually (and correctly) argue, “It looks so much easier to use!”).

So I thought I’d share with you the process I go through when configuring a new Mac, what programs I add to make sure that their transition is quick and easy and they gain the maximum benefit from switching. I’ll also be giving a shout out, for my first time, to some of the best shareware, open source and small developer maintained software that I use on a daily basis that is so helpful to me and many other Mac users round the world; feel the love developers! As well as posing some questions about what are the best methods and approaches for going about the task.

I’m going to stretch this over a number of posts, but we’ll start with the setup process, so:

I’m working with a new 13″ Macbook Pro. We bought it online yesterday morning and it had arrived by lunchtime today (which impressed everyone in the office) I opted for a refurbished model, as it was 16% cheaper than a perfectly new model and effectively the same. It’s going to be used by Glyn, the youngest member of staff who is currently sharing a desktop in my client’s show room with an older colleague. I’d normally start by letting him open and unpack the box, but he was out at lunch when I arrived so I got straight to the unpacking and getting ready for his arrival.

When introducing a new computer, especially when someone is switching from PC to Mac I always start by allowing them to run the initial setup process, it’s always good to let the new user experience the speed and straightforwardness of getting a Mac up and running from scratch, their genuine surprise at how quickly they are up and running is always a source of encouragement and help in getting them to engage with the new machine and I find can help make the transition from Windows to Mac much easier.

So 15 minutes later we are up, connected to the office network and begin our configuration. First things first I tutor them on the importance of keeping the machine up-to-date, something people who run PCs rarely do as much as they should, by introducing them to the apple button in the menu bar and getting them to run their first Software Update.

10 minutes later we and we are running 10.6.1 and have installed all of the available updates. I’m amused by Glyn’s surprise at how smooth this process is and especially by the reboot time after the installation, which is down to seconds (he normally goes and makes coffee whilst his old desktop boots up in the morning! LOL – I guess he’ll just have to carry his new MBP with him from now on!)

Whilst we were downloading the updates I walked Glyn through program switching and the strange notion for most PC users, especially those with older systems, that you can actually run lots of programs simultaneously without having to wait an inordinately long time  for the system to respond. I am not helped at this point by my own MBP slowing to a crawl by the fact that I am running a dozen programs and have 120 or so sites open in Safari, which adds a frustrating 2 min delay to me finding their computer passwords so I can connect the new MBP to the windows printers available on their network.

This does however cause Glyn much amusement as he normally has to go and find the piece of paper with such passwords written on, rather than relying on a technological solution to the problem. Anyway whilst we wait for my MBP we switch on sharing to allow me to place the printer drivers we will need into his public folder. I am disappointed to say that the new method of not installing all printer drivers by Snow Tabby means I have to resort to running installers, including activating rosetta, which is an unnecessary pain.

Anyway five minutes later we have the Windows shared Epson setup and have printed a test page successfully, although we did have to resort to using the Gutenberg printer driver for their Epson Stylus SX200 as the Epson drivers don’t work (fortunately I installed the printers on my MBP earlier in the week to test and had identified this problem). The HP3600 is a little more problematic. It doesn’t automatically detect the driver, even after installing it from disk (as expected) and we have to manually select the printer, as well as running Software Update to make sure that we actually have the right version from Apple.

This process only takes ten minutes however, and whilst we were waiting for these things we installed the stella Dropbox, which installs in a few seconds and lets me run through the drag and drop process of installing apps and warn of the dangers of running programs from a disk image, Glyn handles the transition like and pro and I’m not seeing glazed eyes, so I think that the message will stick. Phew.

Now on to Mail. It’s simple and quick to add Glyn’s Google Apps account via imap and in less than a couple of minutes it’s downloading all of his email and now he’s pretty much ready to go. Although there is lots more software to install, all of which I’ll come to in other posts, he can email, print, and courtesy of Dropbox he has all of the files he needs access to. Textedit will keep him going with word docs for the rest of the day, as he finds his way about the system and I go head upstairs to move the remainder of the companies folders across to dropbox and recreate their locations with symbolic links, whilst he has a play.

Now that the most essential basic programs are installed, or configured I’ll be taking the new MBP home with me at the end of the day to install the rest of the programs he’ll need to become the savvy Mac user I know I’ll be proud of. Catch you later.

I’m a small business consultant enabling small business owners to achieve sustainable growth, whilst working part-time at Tees Valley Arts. For more about me personally see peterneal.co.uk