Google Apps is growing up. Over the past six months, dozens of developers have built apps to make Google's office wares (Apps, Docs, Gmail, Calendar) more appealing for the enterprise. The following is a selection of these apps. They range from the practical (backups) to the creative (a freebie VPN replacement based on Google Talk). Better still, most of them are free.
myOneLogin by TriCipher represents a growing category of add-ons for Google Apps, those that give it enterprise-class authentication. This particular app provides users with a single sign-on, two-factor authentication portal that is easy to set up and deploy for both internal and external Web and other resources. What that means is the portal not only secures access to Google Apps Premier Edition, but can help users manage their passwords to any Web site that requires one.
In September, myOneLogin became integrated with VeriSign's Identity Protection Service, which issues one-time password credentials. It adds three layers of security to Google Apps, the company says: A user-selected security image and message for mutual authentication; a browser-based password; and roaming authentication with one-time passwords for users on mobile phones. MyOneLogin integrates with Google Apps Premier Edition via SAML. A freebie version of the service is available, but so is a subscription version, offering more features, for $3 per user per month.
I know you aren't likely to yank out your corporate VPN and replace it with the peer-to-peer likes of Gbridge, but it is worth checking out all the same. It is a creative extension to Google GTalk that could be a useful tool for remote control access, or a nice low-cost VPN for your teleworkers.
Gbridge is a P2P VPN that consists of bridges that connect multiple computers via encrypted links. Gbridge lets you sync folders, share files, chat and VNC. It offers four features. DesktopShare is remote control that can even pass through your Network Address Translation. SecureShare is a file-sharing feature. AutoSync transfers large files and syncs folders. It offers upscale features like auto schedule and resume. EasyBackup lets you back up your files from one computer or Google Docs to a computer.
Gbridge supports Windows folder sharing and remote printing, and Windows Remote Desktop through the RDP protocol. Best of all is the price ... free.
gStepOne by WordWare is a wizard generator that helps you create a business process workflow that is tightly integrated with your Google Apps. Better still, it can also integrate with many other Google Services like YouTube, Picassa, Calendar, Gmail, Maps and Search. GStepOne helps you plan each step and track the progress of the task.
Once created, the Wizard lets others easily perform the workflow operating. It has applications with training, collaboration ... anytime multiple steps are needed to perform a task by multiple people. Some examples include writing contracts or proposals, creating budgets, managing travel.
Commercial workflow and business process engineering applications used to cost corporations as much a million dollars back in the day. Apps like gStepOne show how much cloud computing, and in particular, Google's cloud services, have made such projects a thing of the past. Like many of the apps on this list, this tool is free.
ProjectGoo by by ManageScope is a cloud-based app that brings the collaboration features of Google Apps to Microsoft Project. While we're sure Microsoft is none-too-pleased with it, Project users should be thrilled.
Microsoft is working on its own cloud services based on Windows Live, but Windows Live is far behind Google Apps' collaboration features. It is always requiring users to log in, some of its apps quirkily prefer Internet Explorer, and so on. With this tool that bridges Microsoft Project to Google Apps, Project user don't have to wait on Microsoft to add Internet-based collaboration to their Project documents.
Project managers upload documents to Google Docs and then determine which project team members should have access to them. Once the documents are uploaded, team members can perform a variety of project management tasks with them such as distributing assignments to the team through Google Apps while maintaining data on issues and resolutions.
Project team members can view task assignments for each project, update their status, which in turns updates the project manager and appropriate MS project task. Project Goo is free but requires user registration.
What good does it do you to move to a cloud Office system if you still have to pay and host local media for archiving and backup? Google Docs Backup could be your low-cost answer. Google Docs Backup by L-Tech allows admin users of Google Apps Premier and Education Editions to download documents to another spot while maintaining the folder structure used in Docs. With Google Docs Backup, documents can be accessed even if your Internet connection goes down, shared with those who don't use Google Docs and archived for later retrieval.
What's super cool about Google Docs Backup is that, not only can you back up to local media or a networked drive, but you can also send your backups to another cloud, Amazon S3, the company says. It supports multiple formats for Google Docs expert, can schedule automated, recurring backups and admins can specify which parts of their Apps domain to backup, from all of it to a single user. And, you guessed it, Google Docs Backup is free.
We've included a second backup tool in this list to give you an idea of just how sophisticated some of these Google Apps offerings have become. CloudSave by Salvair is in its second release and with the revised tool, the company has added support for the one thing every enterprise needs in an archive product, e-discovery. The latest release of the software also allows customers more flexibility in how they archive documents, and has dramatic performance improvements for archives and for document restoration using the “un-delete” functionality of the product.
CloudSave is also faster than ever, letting organizations back up documents, spreadsheets, presentations and even PDFs fairly quickly. Like others of its elk, it lets users specify which parts of the domain to back up, from full domain to individual users.
This tool isn't free, with prices that start at $25 per user, but the company does say nonprofits and schools that qualilfy for reduced fees for Google Apps can get the tool at a reasonable price.
OffiSync is an cool little utility that lets Microsoft Office users save files to their Google Apps accounts from inside of the Office application. Click a couple of buttons and your MS Word or Excel doc is placed into your Google Docs workspace, and shared with your Google contacts. The tools offers the best of both worlds – users keep access to the richer, local Microsoft Office client but they don't have to mess with the harder-to-use and no-one-is-on-it Windows Live to collaborate. The tool also embeds Google search into Microsoft Office and lets you do fancy things with by integrating search results into your documents.
On the downside, this tool isn't yet packed with the kinds of controls an enterprise IT department would want to see when allowing its users to save apps to the clouds. Should you opt to let your users install OffSync, you would need to tack on those controls via a backup product, perhaps like CloudSave. But given the price ... free ... the productivity gains the tool provides, and the fact that your users may have already found it and downloaded on their own, OffiSync is definitely a utility IT should keep its eyes on.
OffiSync supports Microsoft Office 2003, 2007 and the tool's makers say it will support 2010. It can be used with Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
The Sword ECM gadget is one of the rare tools on this list that isn't free (and it might be quite costly -- the company wasn't forthcoming about the price). The gadget brings a Google Apps front end to large-scale enterprise content management systems, such as EMC Documentum and IBM Filenet. Even with the nebulous pricing, given the cost of ECM, this may be one of the more affordable ways to open up Web access to these documents.
The ECM gadget lets users securely access documents from anywhere across the Web or from their smartphones even while those documents are safely maintained on premises, behind the firewall. It works in conjunction with Google's enterprise search software Google Sites. Google Sites creates a private search engine for a domain. It is typically used by companies that want their documents available to visitors from the Web. (For instance, Network World uses Google Sites to let readers search for published articles.) But with the Sword ECM gadget, case, documents remain secured away from authorized eyes.
The gadget isn't just a Web front end, though. By harnessing the power of Google's App Engine, it brings to ECM documents the kind of collaboration features they are used to having with their Google Docs, even doing fancy things, like creating data mash-ups or adding workflow, the company says.
Companies that use CAD to design products or create construction plans have been for years held hostage to high-end software and expensive online collaboration portals that support specific CAD documents. Renderjam aims to change that. It offers a CAD software-as-a-service that can be used on its own, or integrated with Google Apps for document sharing. The cool thing about Renderjam is that CAD files can be seen, edited and manipulated completely through the browser, with no client software needed ... not even so much as an ActiveX or Java app.
The SaaS converts CAD docs into the company's own Webdoc format so that they become brwoser friendly. Users can upload CAD and 3D files, share and view them just like a Google Doc. Users can link CAD diagrams and models into your Google Apps, too. You can also add Google Docs alongside CAD documents in project folders.
The CAD documents are not locked inside the SaaS. You can save them to industry standard PDF or CAD file formats and share them that way, too.
AfterCAD lets users try the SaaS for free for 30 days, after which it wants you to sign up for one of its three tiers of of pricing.
Tungle is one of those applications that its users quickly say they could never live without. It allows people on Google Calendar to share scheduling and calendar data with folks on Outlook, iCal or Entourage. Scheduling between calendars does not require non-Tungle users to sign up to Tungle, either.
Tungle allows others to see your free/busy info, just as if you were all on the same calendar system, and it integrates with Gmail and Google Maps. You can attach Google Maps directions to your meeting invitations. Users say set up a no-brainer ... invitees to a cross-calendar meeting can easily understand how to confirm their choice. Tungle offers an OpenSocial extension that lets it work with social networking sites like Ning, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. OpenSocial is a project spearheaded by Google that created a set of common APIs to let applications integrate with social sites.
Tungle is available as an iPhone or BlackBerry app (though the company hasn't yet released an Android version). Tungle is free.
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The Source Seeker blog is written by Julie Bort, editor of the Open Source Subnet site as well as the Microsoft Subnet, Cisco Subnet sites. Indeed, Bort is the Online Community Editor for all of Network World. She also writes The Microsoft Update blog. If you have an idea for a blog, or a news tip on open source, Microsoft or Cisco, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 970-482-6454 or follow Julie on Twitter @Julie188.
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