If you have not heard about Google Apps, I suggest you do some research at http://www.google.com/a. At its core, Google Apps is a tool that allows you to effectively communicate and collaborate online.
The small business edition gives you 10 GB per account of mail storage for $50 a year. That's probably more than you'll ever need. The free edition gives you 2 GB.
There are two ways to organize your e-mails: 1) You can archive emails when you are done reading them (and use Google's built in search to locate them later) or 2) you can apply labels. A label is similar to a folder.
I suggest that every time you receive an e-mail that is not important for you to see during your daily work flow, apply a filter. For example, I receive many newsletters that I enjoy reading, but cause a distraction to my daily work flow. So I apply a label that I name the same as the name (say that fast 5 times) of the newsletter, and automatically archive it, so I don't see it until I choose to. Later, when I have reading time, I will look at my labels along the left. Items I have not read will be in bold, making it easy to see whats new.
Think of this feature as a basic version of Microsoft Word that allows you to instantly collaborate with your team members. You can edit a document simultaneously and speak to the collaborators via an attached chat window over the Internet. You can also apply labels to documents and use Google's built in search to find what you need.
The spreadsheets are similar to Microsoft Excel, but a stripped down version. It works collaboratively like the Google documents as described previously. This tool makes it easy to create and track budgets collaboratively.
This tool helps you keep your team in sync for meetings and events. You can also mark some items as private, so that your team cannot see the event, but know that you will be away. I suggest that you only use the calendar for actual scheduled events or items that must be done on a particular day.
If you have a system or process that needs to be followed company wide, you can use the customizable Google start page as a portal for your business. You can add links, notes and countless other widgets to implement a central starting point for your business. There is a personal version of this feature at http://www.igoogle.com.
Please send all feedback, topic suggestions and/or questions to TechTalk@AboveTheLimit.com. Digital archives can be found at BlackVoiceNews.com and IngleWoodToday.com.
Elmer Thomas Jr. is Founder of Above the Limit, Inc., an award winning web and software development company dedicated to bridging the digital divide. You can find out more about Mr. Thomas at http://www.abovethelimit.com/.
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