A New Logo for a New Direction

I realize we just updated our logo a couple of months ago, but consider that an iteration on the way to the final product, which you can see here. The last logo was a circle of blue around an empty center, with a cutout at the bottom. It was meant to symbolize a ring of water encircling the customer, but some people just didn’t get it or thought it looked like an unfinished life preserver.

Our new logo essentially means the same thing as the old logo: it’s a water shawl surrounding the customer representing the suite of services we provide. But one peculiar thing happened once the new logo was created. I was on my way to Lafayette to visit a networking meeting and I realized that the “water shawl” could also represent a “cloud”. It was if a light bulb went off and I didn’t know how I had missed it before. Erich Stauffer was a cloud consulting firm that specialized in WordPress web design and Google Apps integrations.

Who is Erich Stauffer?

Erich Stauffer has helped small businesses around Indiana build cloud-powered, WordPress web sites; and cloud-based email, document, and sales management. Erich Stauffer provides cloud technology consulting to help small businesses do more with cloud applications and platforms like WordPress, Google Apps, and Salesforce.com. Our services range from cloud marketing to cloud migration to cloud management. Cloud technology helps small businesses market their business, reduce spam, and be more productive all at a lower price point than traditional software.

Cloud Storage for Small Businesses

There are three good options for small businesses wanting to store and share documents in on the Internet in the cloud: Dropbox, Google Apps, and Microsoft’s Office 365Docs for Facebook, and Windows Live SkyDrive.

Dropbox

Simplify your business and boost productivity with the freedom to use the same tools you work with daily. This means you don’t have to switch the programs you use, you just have to switch where you save and open your documents.

You can share Word documents, Powerpoint slides, and large files easily and securely with colleagues and/or clients. Collaborate across the hall or around the globe and get more work done on the go because your files are always available from Dropbox.

Dropbox works with Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. It even works when you’re offline. You always have your files, whether or not you have a connection. Watch your changes synced instantly across shared folders.

With easy setup and control you can get started in minutes. Put Dropbox for your business on a single invoice for all of your employees and manage and migrate accounts with admin controls. If someone leaves, you can simply change their permissions online and if someone needs more space, use the admin panel to add more.

This is the same service trusted by tens of millions of personal users that’s now available for businesses. Enjoy dedicated phone support, bank grade AES-256 bit encryption, and unlimited version history for all your files. This means that you can view previous versions of your files if you need it.

Plans start at $795 for 5 users, but before you balk at the price think about all of the other hardware and software this one service is replacing. There are no more USB flash drives, external USB backups, taking backups to an off-site location, managing grandfather schemes to keep revisions, or buying expensive file servers. There is one more login account that users will have to manage, but that’s a minor inconvenience for what you’re getting.

Google Apps

Google’s web-based messaging and collaboration apps are more than just cloud storage, but they can do that too.

Google Apps requires no hardware or software and needs minimal administration, creating tremendous time and cost savings for businesses. Google allows email clients like Microsoft Outlook to have POP or IMAP access to email, contacts and calendar so the transition can even be seamless to your employees.

Each employee gets 25 GB for email storage, so they can keep important messages and find them instantly with built-in Google search. This is higher than what personal Google Mail users get, which is hovering around 8 GB right now. Google Docs lets you store documents in the cloud in a Dropbox-like way, but only 1 GB of storage is included with the plan. More storage can be added as needed for a nominal fee.

Gmail is designed so employees can spend less time managing their inboxes, and more time being productive. Time-saving features like message threading, message labels, fast message search and powerful spam filtering help employees work efficiently with high volumes of email. It’s spam protection is one of the primary reasons we recommend Google Apps for business.

With several options for accessing their information while on the go, employees can be productive with Google Apps even when they’re not at their desks. At no extra charge, Google Apps supports over-the-air mobile access on BlackBerry devices, the iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android and many less powerful phones.

With synchronous replication, your data and activity in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites is simultaneously preserved in multiple secure data centers. If one data center is unable to serve your requests, the system is designed to instantly fall back to another data center that can serve your account with no interruption in service.

Integration options let you connect Google Apps to your existing IT infrastructure if you’re business is already on a domain and support options include: phone support for critical issues, email support, and self-service online support. Plans start at $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year.

Microsoft Office 365, Docs for Facebook, and Windows Live SkyDrive

Office 365

For those who want the familiar Microsoft Office collaboration and productivity tools delivered through the cloud, Office 365 is the ideal solution. Everyone can work together easily with anywhere access to email, web conferencing, documents, and calendars. It includes business-class security and is backed by Microsoft. Whether you are a small business or multinational enterprise, Office 365 offers plans designed to fit your organization’s unique needs.

Microsoft Office 365 for professionals and small businesses is $6 per user per month subscription that lets your employees access email, documents, contacts, and calendar from virtually anywhere on almost any device. This plan is ideal for organizations with fewer than 25 employees that do not have IT staff or expertise. Compare Office 365 to Google Apps for Business.

Docs for Facebook

Built using Microsoft Office 2010, Docs for Facebook provides the best possible document service for the Facebook environment. Seamless integration with Facebook means that the service is all about sharing your documents. Docs enables Facebook users for the first time to create and share Microsoft Office documents directly with their Facebook friends, using the Office tools they already know. Docs uses the Facebook login and is intended for personal use, but can be used for business if it suits your needs.

Windows Live SkyDrive

Windows Live SkyDrive is a free cloud storage service that allows users to upload files to Internet file storage and then access them from a Web browser. It is part of Microsoft’s Windows Live range of online services, and uses Windows Live ID to control access to files, allowing users to keep the files private, share them with contacts, or make the files public. Publicly-shared files do not require a Windows Live ID to access. The service offers 25 GB of free personal storage, with individual files limited to 100 MB. Compare this service to Dropbox for Teams.

Erich Stauffer Technology Consulting

If you need help choosing or deploying any of these solutions at your business, contact Indianapolis Technology Consultants, Erich Stauffer, Inc. We serve the Greater Indianapolis area, but travel all over the state of Indiana helping small business owners get more out of their technology.

Best Android Email App for Google Apps Email Users

If you have an Android phone and you use Gmail, you’re in luck. There are plenty of apps for you to choose from that work great, but if you’re a Google Apps email user, the setup is a bit more tricky with most apps because there are currently no specific Android apps for Google App users.

What’s the difference between a Gmail account and a Google Apps account if the email looks the same in a browser?

Google Apps users may have noticed that things are a little different than Gmail. While the mail interface is now the same, that hasn’t always been the case and you can’t login to your Google Apps account through your Gmail address, although there are options, which I’ll discuss later. While a Google App email address can become a Google account or be linked to an existing Google account, a gmail account can’t be used to access a Google Apps account directly.

So what are my options?

First, if you are checking your Google Apps email from Outlook or Thunderbird because that’s how you or your IT department or vendor set it up for you, great. You’ll probably need them to help you set it up on your Android phone as well. This really isn’t for you. But if you check it in a browser or on your Android mobile device already, you are who this article is for. Google provides several web addresses to login to your Google Apps email even if you don’t have a custom domain setup for it such as mail.yourcustomdomain.com. Try placing your domain name after the a/ in http://mail.google.com/a/yourdomainnamehere. Adding a ‘s’ to http makes it secure. Google will change it to https anyway because that is the new default. If you browse here on your mobile phone, chances are Google will redirect you to the mobile version. This is your best option if you want to view pictures in your email. The default Android email app with Sprint’s HTC Hero, which is what we use, does not display pictures in email because it does not support HTML email.

So what is the best Android email app for Google Apps email users?

If you want to see pictures in your email, use an HTML email viewer, of which there are few. This is because Google has had an inline image/html email problem with Android since 2008. MailDroid is said to have success with viewing images, but Google says that the best way is to browse to http://www.google.com/m/a/example.com where example.com is your domain. If you have a T-Mobile G1, then you have pre-installed programs for Google Apps, but otherwise, you’re out of luck and the browser is the best alternative. The only downside to using a browser is there is no push email; there is no alerts when new email is received. This means that you’re stuck constantly checking your email through the browser or not getting inline images or HTML email through your default Android app.

The solution? Use your default Android email app for push email and syncing, but keep an icon to the web address in the browser for viewing inline images (attached images can be downloaded and viewed just fine). This is the work around until Android and it’s apps develop a little further. Remember, it’s new here.

If you or your business needs help or support with Google Apps, please contact us and we’d be happy to consult you.