How Your Small Business Can Make the Most of Google Docs

Last week, Google released an upgraded version of Google Docs its online suite of productivity tools and software. The upgrade is widely recognized as a competitive move on Google’s behalf, preempting the release of Microsoft Office 2010 which is expected to ship out in June.

For budget-wise small businesses involved in business travel, remote collaboration, or any form of project management, the improved online software package may be especially appealing. Some of the more prominent changes to Google Docs include: a faster, and more versatile user interface, upgraded document importing/exporting, and a bunch of neat collaboration features, such as real-time collaboration and editing for up to 50 users, character-by-character editing, and enhanced management of groups and user discussions.

Best of all, the business version of Google Docs costs a mere $50 per year, per user. (The standard version is free). There are many ways that Google Docs can be integrated into a small business’ operations. Here are a few examples:

Integrated business communications. Need to discuss a quick point with a co-worker or client? With Google Docs you can have an instant video conference or audio chat right from your Gmail window. This is in addition to being able to send email, sms, and conduct instant messaging.

Off-site data back-up and storage.Though many have concerns regarding the security of data stored on Google’s servers as well as Google’s own history of exploiting the information it gleans from its users, Google Docs is still a versatile data back up and remote access solution. But business owners should definitely be cautious about uploading their sensitive data. Where data security is top priority, then it is worthwhile selecting a more dedicated and proven service like, Dropbox.

Time tracking and integrated scheduling. The Google Calender application is a great tool for both project and time management. The web-based calender is integrated into Gmail allowing users to send “invitations” to others for events and meetings. When someone responds, the person’s email is then added to the calender. With Google Calender, users can also overlay multiple calendars to see when people are available and set up a range of sharing permission controls to so that the can calender either be viewed by the company as a whole or only shared with specified employees.

Real-time collaboration on documents. Google Docs allows up to 50 users to make real-time, character-by-character changes to a document and to simultaneously hold interactive discussions.

Create and manage groups and share info. Users can access and search present and archived discussions sent to their lists. Moreover, users can control who has access to content by managing group membership.

Custom domain registration. For $10 a year, small business owners can purchase a custom domain name. The site is automatically set up to work with Google Apps, such as Google Sites, the Google website builder.

Integrated business tools. Easily access other Google products and tools such as, Google page translation, Google maps, and Google search.

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