So why did we choose Google Apps, what are its key strengths?
Here at the IT Team we see seven key benefits to AFS from the use of Google Apps. These are:
- Integrating volunteers
AFS is driven forward by our volunteers and because of this, at the IT Team we feel that it is important to put access to as much information in their hands as possible. This information empowers volunteers, allowing them to be more productive, develop closer relationships, and ultimately be happier in the organization.
Google Apps gives us the power open our @afs.org domain to our volunteers, given them access to their very own @afs.org email address and all of the tools in Google Apps. This means that just like staff, volunteers can share information and collaborate on projects with very few restrictions. In tern, the IT Team believes that this will help to break down the wall between board members, staff and volunteers, empowering each of them do a better job by working both smarter and harder.
- Single Sign-On
For a while now the IT Team has been expanding the Single Sign-On system for AFS, which allows users to maintain a single username and password to access to all of AFS's IT Tools.
One of the main barriers to completing this system has been Lotus Notes, but with the implementation of Google Apps we can over come this, expanding Single Sign-On to cover the following information and resources:
4. Partner and topic specific websites (Lotus Notes database information)
5. AFS Global - the productions, test and training system
6. The Online Application system
7. The AFS World Cafe
Google Apps also provides a common home screen which can be used to link all of these tools together, acting as a central hub.
- Ease of Use
Ease of use is extremely important in AFS due to out fragmented structure, differing levels of technical skill across users, language mix and cultural differences. Google is well know for its clean and intuitive design which attracts millions of users to its tools everyday. It allows users to tailor their account with different languages and they also write support documents in many languages; something that the IT Team cannot do.
- Lower Cost
It's free! What more is there to say!
- Centralization of user management
The IT Team believes that although access to information is important, it is crucial that partners maintain control over the environment. Due to openings into the system, Google allows AFS to customize aspects of the user management, centralizing them in AFS Global. This is beneficial for us as it allows the IT Team and partner administrators to keep working in a system which is both familiar and well supported.
In AFS Global administrators can activate and deactivate user accounts, setup mail forwarding and manage user statistics. For more information on what can be done please see the Google Apps in AFS section.
- Offline Mode
All of the Google Apps tools are provided through a web browser, requiring an active internet connection to view and edit information. However, Google now provides a offline mode for its Mail, Calendar and Docs tools, allowing users to view and edit information through a web browser even if they are not online.
Google Mail also supports POP and IMAP which are two protocols that allow you to pull your email down onto your desktop and view and edit it in your favorite email client.
- A reduction in Partner's need to sustain technical skills
As Google Apps is a group of web applications, there is no software which needs to be installed to make the most of them. This means that partners no longer need to maintain technical skills within the office to manage complex software like Lotus Domino and Lotus Notes. This also gives smaller partners the possibility of reducing expensive support contract with external IT companies.