We recently started using Google Apps at SlideShare. Reasons were many. I wanted the convenience of Gmail for our mail. Google Docs makes a lot of sense for informal spreadsheets and documents to keep track of things we are working on.
How the switch went
I registered for Google docs one weekend. It took me some time to configure email so that I could start downloading it into Thunderbird. I had to search around on the web to get the settings exactly right. Next I setup accounts for my cofounders. It was pretty easy to setup administrator accounts and to create email nicknames so that we could receive email to other addresses into our email boxes.
Over the years I have acquired many email addresses, and I set up all my work related ones to come into the one Google apps account. That required me to verify my other email addresses through Google Apps (once again, it was a pretty smooth process).
Next weekend I setup emails for everyone in the SlideShare team. By and large the move to Google Apps was welcomed. While I did send out instructions for how to download into Thunderbird, I realized that several of our team members just plan to use the Gmail interface rather than download into a mail client.
Google Docs: We have immediately started using documents to create to-do lists or other information that everyone in the company needs to share. For example, I have a list of interview notes (things to remember to ask when interviewing someone for a job at SlideShare).
Spreadsheet: Is also invaluable. We use it for keeping track of stuff when the data is more structured. For example our admin created a “Furniture to buy” list. For each room, we have furniture we need to buy, how many of each, price range at diff stores, furniture dimensions (not bigger than X). Yes, we try to be organized!
Google Sites: I have not used Google sites yet. I hear its basically an updated version of JotSpot. But I have tried and given up on many wikis. So hoping I will like it.
Back and forth with personal gmail: The biggest issue with using Google apps for your domain is how to go back and forth between my personal gmail, gtalk and google calendar and my new Google Apps account. I tried to use Google multi accounts, but it does not work with Google Apps. Now I keep my gmail and slideshare account open in different windows. I have not had problems being logged into them at the same time. As regards calendar, I feed my personal calendar into my Google apps calendar.
Slowness: Sometimes Google apps for one’s domain is really really slow. This does not happen for Gmail, or Google calendar. It seems specific to Google Apps. This happened so long the first day I started using it that I was concerned that I would not be able to keep using Google Apps. But it seems to be a periodic thing.
Customization: Its great that you can do some visual customization to match look and feel of your website (I put up the SlideShare logo). But whats more important is that Google apps lets you customize URL’s. This required some mucking around with DNS settings. But it is great to simple, domain specific URLS. For example, if your compay name is “Whatever”, your email page can be “mail.whatever.com” and calendar can be “calendar.whatever.com”.
Overall, I am pretty happy with Google Apps (so far!). And I would recommend it for a small startup like ours.