We first used mobile computing in the 1960s, through what was called time-sharing and provided by vendors such as GE and CompuServe. The connecting device was a noisy teletype with no display screen and printing at 10cps. Connecting required a voice telephone handset an acoustic coupler and a Hayes modem. Punched paper tape made great confetti.
In 1983, at a cost of $3,950 plus tax, the Compaq luggable tipped the scales at 30 pounds restricted portability, but it was in use by auditors at client offices. In almost three decades, the world of the mobile professional has passed through many evolutions.
According to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, one third of American adults - 35 percent - own smartphones. The Project's May survey found that 83 percentof US adults have a cell phone of some kind, and that 42 percent of them own a smartphone. The survey reported that 87 percent of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld, including two-thirds (68 percent) who do so on a typical day. When asked what device they normally use to access the internet, 25 percent of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer. While many of these individuals have other sources of online access at home, roughly one third of these "cell mostly" internet users lack a high-speed home broadband connection.
Technology is a cornucopia of devices and includes laptops, netbooks, desktops, no network, small network, large firm wide network and access everywhere. We already use the limitless facilities of clouds to access data. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Financial transactions - banking, bill payment, investing
• News - breaking and research
• Location based information - directions, find people, rest stops
• Shopping - computers to groceries
• Communicating - firm-wide, remote staff, clients, contacts, friends
• Entertainment - games, movies, sports
In 1996, two Stanford students created "BackRub" a web crawler for use by students. Soon the application was overpowering and crowding out all other computer uses. In 1997, the founders agreed on the name, Google and in 1998, the company was launched.
Today, the number of mobile phone users has crossed five billion, more than the number of people who have access to pure drinking water. Access to the internet is done by two billion people connecting to more than 35 billion devices. As for searching for information, the estimates get as high as four billion per day. The statistics are staggering no matter which search engine is being used.
Into this user focused community, Google has delivered an evolving set of applications under the banner of Google Apps. With more than 30 million users, Google Apps is one of the major components of the cloud world, mobile world and the professional's world.
There were days when all microcomputer applications, Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Calendar were separate applications at a retail price over $400 with three-ring binder for a user manual. These were bundled into suites and they all evolved into one integrated application such as Microsoft Office.
Google Apps is an evolving bundle or resources. To start, most of you already use many of the Google applications - Gmail, Chrome, Reader, and most assuredly Search.
Google Apps is not just a one and done application. There are multiple editions and a whole library. The major editions are:
Free: individuals, small groups
Business: Upgrade with enhancements for SMB and individuals with more needs
Education: Free for qualifying educational institutions and non-profit organizations
U.S. government customers: to meet government specifications
The most significant question is all about why we should even consider using these Apps. The evolution of mobile access to everything is in full swing. More data and content is on some distant facility that we access on a regular basis. We constantly use email and search without caring how many tower connecting hops the transmissions have to go through. What we want is the results.
Therefore, with all that is available:
• What do you need to support your business?
• What do you need to support your lifestyle?
Technology continues to expand the functionality, features and capability to heights far more than what we need. Some people use pivot tables and mail merge and create presentation slides, but not the majority. This has been true throughout the growth of technology. Now we have smartphones, tablets and notebooks exceeding the quantity of desktop computers.
I spoke with Tom Smith, a Google Apps Reseller here in Denver. (Techen Enterprise, LLC, www.techen.net and www.GAFYD.net - Google Apps for Your Domain) Smith, a long-time technology specialist, focuses today on implementing the world of Google Apps. He assists his clients to determine the business needs first, rather than just go through the overly simple process of download, install, and then figure out how to use the iTunes or Android App . Google has created a system and not just the next data content storage device.
Like any system, implementing Google Apps needs to be done with the end results in mind. These Apps provide a lot more than a standalone game or mapping app. Smith states, "You need to develop a strategy for how you will use the Apps after installation. Too often clients do not think about elements until it is not there when you need it. We never think about electrical power, until it is not available."
When we sustain computing resources within our office space, there is a significant increase in the burden to maintain and sustain the equipment and resources. That burden includes dollars and people time, such as: power, HVAC, equipment maintenance, space required, software updates, data backup and added security for networking hardware. It is seldom that securities firms have the actual paper stock certificates. It is also rare for banks to have the total amount of cash that is in their depositor's accounts. The burden of computing and telecommunications has to be managed wisely and effectively.
Using cloud-based resources will reduce the burden of overhead from all that is needed to support computer technologies. The most frequently expressed for off premises computing is security. This is where valuable files are not totally under control of employees and the brick and mortar surrounding your office. This is a real issue. We can write several volumes comparing and contrasting security components - physical security, computer security, power needs and real off premises backup. With the volumes of transactions, archived data and 24/7 access, cloud computing offers a significant level of security that your firm may equal, but will not surpass.
Using these applications is in the eye of the user. Whether as a sole proprietorship, SMB, or enterprise, having a strategy and plan to manage the application(s) is essential. Data access from anywhere requires flexibility and scalability. Companies need to consider that more or less can happen at any moment. This includes computer hardware, wireless and/or wired networks, mobile and fixed telephone connections, and data content. Resources need to be accessible and usable when the user is ready to connect.
One example of using Google Apps successfully is from the Cybertary company. Cybertary is a network of highly skilled professionals working as virtual assistants (VA) providing administrative support and specialized services to businesses and busy people. In Colorado they are located at Littleton.Cybertary.com.
The Cybertary team rarely works on site, in-person, or at a local beverage station. They rely on on effective use of the Google Apps platform. This includes document sharing and calendar scheduling. Collaboration is essential to their efforts. They just completed integrating their Google Calendars and Mail into the Sugar CRM system. They received valuable technical support from DenverDataMan http://www.denverdataman.com/. This integration enables such added features such as generate calendar reminders, tracking campaign referrals and marketing metrics directly from the Client's CRM system.
Google Docs enables collaboration on documents, spreadsheets and a wide array of projects. One benefit is the reduction of sending large email attachments or using extra resources to add multiple versions of documents to limited hard disk storage. The cloud has no storage limits. Pay a few more dollars provides instant access to more storage resources. This can be helpful for volume increase issues like tax season.
While focusing on Google Apps, know that other vendors are in this space. Microsoft has packaged Office 365 with 11 different plans, three editions, two tiers and tied to its desktop software. With cloud-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus several new communications and collaboration tools, analysts say the offering could be quite appealing. The price, at $72 a year, is somewhat above Google's, but it carries the Microsoft name and familiarity.
Here are some basic functions and tips
• Gmail - Setup a free email account, use different e-mail addresses - @google-mail.com and @gmail.com. Set up either address as generic to use on newsletters, etc. Create filters to sort messages to a specific folder.
• Calendar - Keep your own, share with a group, sync with Outlook
• Docs - Use to share documents, with or without edit privileges
• Cloud Connect - Plugin for Microsoft office, sync with Docs
• Services Status - Check if there are any current problems
• Sites - Host your microsite
• Avoid Account Hijacking - Set up a two-stage login verification procedure. Google can send you a voice or text message requesting verification of login. This stops unauthorized use, even if your password is stolen.
• Access to Your Account - By clicking the Details link at the very bottom of the Gmail page, you can view when, where and how your Gmail account was last accessed. The last 10 logins are listed.
• Speed Test For YouTube Connections. Right-click any video and select Take Speed Test, to compare your playback speed with the average speed for your ISP, city and country.
Google Mobile Apps
Google Search. Search the web and phone.
Google Suggest. Shows some locations for your search.
Google Goggles. Searches for an image and lists relevant results.
Voice Search. A feature of the Google Search app for iPhone and BlackBerry
Voice Actions. Speak instead of type in any app where you launch a keyboard.
Google SMS. Use SMS for sending and receiving text messages through voice, calendar and other Google services.
Google Maps. Navigation with turn-by-turn GPS voice-guidance, or directions in a list, 3D maps, find a business or place.
Google Latitude. Share your location with others, or turn it off to avoid being found.
Google Earth. Explore 3D imagery and terrain.
Buzz. Post a message tagged with your location for your social friends.
Gmail. Email in the cloud, features include search, stars and more.
Google Tasks. Convert emails into to-do tasks.
Google Voice. Set up multiple numbers for a business and have them ring to any phone. Send free text messages, listen to voice mails, and read voice messages via conversion of the voice message to email
Google Talk. Instantly message your peers or clients. Video-chat is coming soon.
Blogger. Publish posts with pictures, labels, and location information.
YouTube. The YouTube mobile app delivers access to any video.
Google Reader. Follow news, sites or blogs all in one place. Syncs with web version.
Google News. Stay current with the latest breaking news, locally and globally.
Google eBooks. Read full texts.
iGoogle. Personalize content in your browser: news, weather, finance, email view, and more.
Google Sync. Keep your Gmail, Calendar and Contacts information in sync.
Google Docs. Use the Google Docs mobile app to create and edit office documents.
Google Translate. Translate text into more than 50 different languages.
6. Mobile Commerce
Google Shopper. Scan the barcode of any product to learn about it Search the name of a product by voice Find prices online or locate a store nearby.
Google Wallet. Make payments using your mobile phone.
But Wait There's More - Google has recently released "Google+" a social networking application with connecting tentacles in every direction.
Google + enables an online "social circle" to share websites and search results. Direct similarity with Facebook with added features. There is no doubt that Facebook is increasing its feature set with more search options. Google+ adds a dark colored bar when using Google search engine for one click access. A few other features:
• Circle groups - Use group names, your names, or Big 10, Dirty Dozen, CPAs United
• Sparks - Scans the net for articles and videos that it thinks you will like
• Hangouts - A new form of chat room for people with similar interests
• Huddle - Conference calling through an online connection
Always remember that switching technology, adding technology or discarding technology requires planning, training, effort and careful implementation. Google Apps is no exception. Focus on your goals to use technology in a manner that enhances your business operations and personal life.