April 28, 2010, 3:37 PM — Google would like you to believe that its hosted e-mail and office productivity tools are just as good as Microsoft's. While that's probably not the case yet, Google Apps is a valid and inexpensive alternative to Microsoft Office for many types of customers. (See related story, "Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office: Who will win the office war?") Here's what you need to know about Google Apps.
Key components: Google Apps includes all the major applications businesses need to collaborate: e-mail, calendaring, a word processor and several other Web tools. Gmail for business users provides 25GB of storage, spam blocking, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Google Calendar includes the ability to compare multiple calendars to determine optimal meeting times; integration with e-mail and other calendar apps; shared project calendars; access on mobile devices; and ability to publish calendars on Web sites. Google Docs provides word processing, spreadsheets and presentation creating tools, all hosted online, with the ability for administrators to manage file sharing permissions. Google Postini provides hosted e-mail security and archiving for Gmail.
More Apps include Google Groups, for mailing lists, content sharing and searchable archives; Google Sites, a Web site creation tool for people who lack knowledge of coding and HTML; and Google Video, a private video sharing service for internal communications such as corporate announcements.
What it costs: The business price is $50 per user per year; individual users can access Gmail, Google Docs and other Apps for free. Postini services cost extra, ranging from $12 to $45 per user per year.