SherpaTools brings Google Apps enterprise-level management

Third-party add-on brings directory management to Apps, offered as a free, cloud service.

I'm always interested in third-party tools for Google Apps that will make Apps more attractive to business users. The folks at Cloud Sherpas recently contacted me to talk up their latest add-on, SherpaTools, and I have to admit, they are attempting to solve a number of administrative pain points for Google Apps such as better directory management. Best of all, SherpaTools is free (at least for now). What's not to like?

So I popped a few questions over to the company and got more details from a spokesperson. The company has made a name for itself by migrating enterprise users to Google Apps. It claims to have moved tens of thousands of users to the cloud e-mail and office productivity suite. SherpaTools was inspired by feedback from Cloud Sherpas customers .Q: What functionality does SherpaTools add that isn’t available elsewhere? Q: This product differs from LTech in that it’s a cloud service, why is that important to users? Q: How much does it cost?

SherpaTools offers a number of Google Apps add-ons that aren't available anywhere else. It allows administrators to specify end-user email and calendar settings, and "push" those settings to defined groups of users.  For example, if a company has many domains, an admin can now push to a group of users the ability for an end-user to send email from a particular domain.  Previously an admin would have had to either instruct the user, do it for the user, or write custom code to manipulate the Google APIs to achieve this.  [note: this feature will be released on 3/9/2010]

One of the key advantages of moving to the cloud is that you no longer have infrastructure to manage, whether it's hardware or software.  With SherpaTools, there is nothing to install and nothing to update.  In fact, you don't even need to create an account.  As long as you're logged into Google Apps, you can access SherpaTools via Single Sign-On using Google Apps as the OpenID identity provider.  

While the product remains in beta, SherpaTools is free.  We expect to exit beta and have both a premium product and free product in Q3 later this year.

Q: How does the management of shared profiles compare to long-time established directory tools for doing this (ActiveDirectory for instance)? Q: What value does the IM bot add, and how is it secured?

The biggest advantage to managing User Profiles and Shared Contacts through SherpaTools versus a traditional directory is the fact that you can eliminate yet another component of your traditional on-premise infrastructure, allowing your organization to take full advantage of the cloud computing model.

DirectoryBot is an instant messaging agent that allow users to query the corporate directory.  This is especially useful for mobile device users where only their personal address book is synchronized with their device.  With Directory Bot, mobile users can access the corporate directory with any Google Talk enabled chat client.  Directory Bot is enabled per domain and requires a Google Apps user to be logged into Google Chat in order to access the directory.

By the way, here's a demo video.

 

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