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5 things about Google Aps that concern me

I’m a Google aps kinda guy. Even so, there are some aspects of this powerful little office ‘sweet’ that concern me. Here are 5 things I’d recommend any church, charity or other community organization consider and be on guard about when moving your operations to any such online office suite:

  1. Organization-wide publish and sharing policies

    Simply put, just about every church, charity and/or community organization has some form of policies about who speaks on behalf of their organization and how.

    This leads to the question, how do you enforce various levels of document visibility across an enterprise?

    Yes, the account administrator can check “Users cannot share documents outside this domain” … but what about the ability to email, and worse, publish documents?

    Especially in cases where I want a good number of pastors and/or lay ministers to blog their notes – but might not want that one well meaning church secretary to pop the publish button by accident.

    This worries me a bit.

  2. Version Control

    I like the fact that Google documents in Google Aps has the ability to recall previous versions.

    I’d like it more if I had the ability to check-in/out documents. Yes, the collaboration features rock, and I do get a bright orange “Also editing now: …” prompt at the bottom left corner of a collaborative document.

    Still, sometimes I just want to lock’r down to make some critical edits. And as admin, I’d want the ability to override other locks.

    Such features aren’t yet available in Google aps documents – and perhaps they’re overkill for a small organization. Still, losing work to multiple, concurrent edits gnaws at me a bit.

    Even more so for start pages, web pages and calendars.

  3. Bulk download and backup

    I need an easy button. One that says “backup all documents, calendars, web and start pages for all users on this domain.”

    It might be nice to do the same at a user-by-user level as well.

    There’s been alot of blog-ink on this issue, often under the title of ‘whose data is it?’

  4. Notifications and/or Content Approval

    Okay, now I’m asking for the moon, but it would be REALLY nice if:

    1. I could get email notifications when stuff is published to the blog
    2. I could identify users who need authorization from an in-organization editor before a document set for publish is made public.
  5. Content ownership at the domain level …

    … rather than content ownership at the the user level.

    Anyone who has been around a church and/or charity know that people come and go.

    So when the leave, I need to lock down their account. When I do, what happens to their content – which is property of the organization?

    Do I have to go in an share it? Can I ‘give it’ or ‘assign it’ to another user?

    Moreover, it might not hurt to be able to brand and/or disclaim any/all such content as/per the needs of the organization.

Keep in mind, this is a pretty fine-toothed comb I’m running through Google Aps – the free version – and something I wouldn’t be thinking about if the functionality stuff didn’t work so great.a cornucopia of offic sweets

Meaning, while I may not lie awake at night worrying about this stuff – it does concern me during dull moments. Like say when someone is trying to sell me on thick client applications at the Microsoft Tech*Ed SEA ’07 conference.

Point is Google Apps, Zoho, ThinkFree, Zimbra and/or even Microsoft Office Live offer online office solutions can really boost the collaborative and budgetary needs of any church, charity and/or civic organization.

Just so long as they consider and acknowledge some of the privacy and policy concerns I’ve enumerated above and have made arrangements to deal with those pesky worse case scenarios.

2 Comments

  1. My wife manages the church phone list for our small church (120 or so members). It’s just an Excel spreadsheet. She uploaded it to Google spreadsheets to give it a try and sent me an invite to edit it. Would make keeping it current a lot easier.

    When I followed the link, it immeditately let me see all the content. Every church member’s address, phone number, email addresses, kids names and birthdays. All of it. I wasn’t even logged into Google yet. I was shocked. I couldn’t edit it, but once I logged into Google I could.

    I was never given any authentication info for logging into the document nor was I asked to verify that I was the person who was given access. How did Google know that I was authorized to edit it? Simply because I received the email with the appropriate link? What if I forwarded that link to someone else? Is there some way that the authentication is tied into that link and my email account? If there is, it was completely hidden and it seemed that the info was easily accessible or anyone. It felt very, very vulnerable.

    Needless to say, we removed the document and stuck with the old tech local spreadsheet.

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