Google Apps is certainly gaining in popularity and the price (FREE in most cases) is right, but how does it benefit Real Estate Agents specifically? At the bottom of this blog is the standard verbaige from the Google Apps website, tweaked a little and found on my own site, www.macwinconsulting.com, but still it's the techno jargon that doesn't give you the full easy to understand picture. So what can Google Apps do for you?
- Google Apps hosts your email. You get 7GB worth of space on the free account, 25GB worth of space on the paid Premium account ($50 per user per year). You can still use Outlook to send and receive email (although I prefer the web based Google interface). I use it for mine, email going to firstname.lastname@example.org is directed to my Google Apps account.
- You can have multiple users on the same domain, or use domain aliases to host multiple domains under the same account. Let's say you are The West Valley Home Team and you own www.thewestvalleyhometeam.com, you can have up to 50 users (unlimited number of users on the paid Premium account) that all have an @thewestvalleyhometeam.com email address. If you own multiple domains, each user would get the same email address on those second domains as they do on the first, so email@example.com would also automatically be firstname.lastname@example.org
- You can setup "Groups", which I use mainly for email distribution lists (there are many other things Groups can be used for as well). Want to send an email out to your entire team? You can either constantly add each individual separately on each email you send, or just create a Group "All Email users" with an email address of email@example.com and then add all your users to it. Now anyone can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it will go out to everyone at once.
- You can share Calendars across your domain. Not only does Google Apps have a great web based Calendar application, it also allows you to share your calendar with your other users. You can setup multiple calendars under your own account and only share the ones you want to, keeping the others private. Maybe you want to give your assistant access to your calendar to schedule appointments, or your transaction coordinator access to enter action items. On the paid Premium account you can setup a "Resource" and then allocate that resource to an event in your own Calendar. Say you have a conference room that multiple agents use, set that conference room up as a Resource and when agents are scheduling a meeting with their clients they can add that Resource to the meeting, then all your other agents will see that room is occupied at that time if they try to reserve it during that same period.
- Google Doc is another application in the Google Apps suite. While I don't know if Google Docs is ready to replace Microsoft Word or Excel yet, it is a great place to store and share documents and files. Instead of sending out an email each time a document, contract, fax cover sheet or any other file your team uses gets updated, just post it to Google Docs. Your users will always have the most current up to date version of commonly used files and templates. You can also control who has access to them on a User or Group basis. Want an agent to have access to read and print it but not edit and change it? it's easy to control who has what access.
- Blackberry "over the air" synchronization is easy as well. There is a free Blackberry App that will sync your email and calendars directly to it. The iPhone and Android phones will connect to Google Apps as well, all for free. Normally with a Hosted Exchange email provider you have to pay extra for the Blackberry synch feature. Take a look at www.mailstreet.com (a popular Hosted Exchange provider) and compare their prices with Google Apps, even the Premium $50 per year per user account is a lot less. Mailstreet charges $7.95 per month per user for a 2GB account, plus $9.95 per month per user for Blackberry synchronization for a total of $214 per year.
Google Apps for Business is a suite of applications from Google that allow small businesses to receive email, share calendars, store, share and collaborate on documents, upload internal training videos and presentations, all in a secure web based environment. Tired of managing documents, templates, contracts, calendars, contacts, presentations etc… the old fashioned way? Copying them from one machine to another, storing them on a “thumb drive” then copying them over to an employees computer or sending them as an email attachment when they need them? Worrying if your team is all using the newest version of a contract, showing clients the latest presentation or sending out correspondence on the old letterhead? Google Apps will solve all those problems and more!
Gmail for business: 25GB storage, less spam, and a 99.9% uptime SLA, and enhanced email security. End users can use the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface for email, contacts and calendar as they transition to Gmail and Google Calendar.
Google Calendar: Agenda management, scheduling, shared online calendars and mobile calendar sync. At no extra charge, Google Apps supports over-the-air mobile access on BlackBerry devices, the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android and many less powerful phones.
Google Docs: Documents, spreadsheets, drawings and presentations. Work online without attachments. Share and collaborate on documents, templates and stop wasting time sending out the “newest edition of your template” by email.
Google Groups: User-created groups providing mailing lists, easy content sharing, searchable archives. No more wasting time adding multiple email addresses to each email you need to send something out to your team, group or company. Now you can just add “Sales”, “Buyer Team” or any custom group you want to create to get the word out instantly to multiple people.
Google Sites: Secure, coding-free web pages for intranets and team managed sites. One of the most powerful features of Google Apps. Create a Site called “Short Sales”, add your company or teams Short Sale templates with a description of each template and now your team members have access to the most current edition of all the necessary documents. Now for the best part, your Google Apps users can also “Subscribe” to the site and each time a document is updated they will receive an automatic notification of the change! No more worrying if the correct document is being used or sending out an email each time your template, contract or presentation get’s updated.
Google Video: Private, secure, hosted video sharing. Upload training videos, sales presentations, “screencasts” using the free software Jing and make them available online to any of your Google Apps users. Stop wasting time showing each member which document to use in a certain situation, fill out a contract correctly or what to say during a sales presentation, record it and upload it once!
Pricing: So now the big question, how much does it cost? There are 2 editions of Google Apps that are meant for businesses, Standard and Premier. Google Apps Standard Edition is FREE! The Premier Edition is $50 per user per year but includes additional features:
- Google Video (not available on the Standard Edition)
- Google Groups (not available on the Standard Edition)
- 99.9% uptime guarantee
- 25GB of email storage per employee
- Blackberry and Microsoft Outlook interoperability
- Mobile email, calendar and IM access
- Industry-leading security
- Full administrative and data control
- Helpful support choices