Google Apps Deployment Best Practices

Google Apps has a great many fans these days, and it’s the cloud solution of choice for small businesses with just a few employees, and big corporate organisations alike. General Electric, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, to name but a few companies have taken a punt on Google and decided that it fits in well with the way they work. After all, as a flexible communication and collaboration platform, it can be tweaked and tailored so that it offers the very best performance for your company. Its simplicity of use has won it huge fans among people who appreciate seeing the same interface and setup, whether they are in the office, or home or on the road.

But migrating to a new platform can be a massive wrench both for staff and management. The chances are that your current system is a bit like family – full of problems and eccentricities that you’ve learned to cope with, make compromises and work around, but at least you know where you are with it.

There are many different tools for migration, and which you use comes down to your current setup or legacy systems. But all migrations share similar processes and pitfalls. So let’s look at some of the best practices for deploying Google Apps and give you an idea of what you are in for and how best to prepare.

Check if you’re ready

You need to make sure you carry out an evaluation of your current network before you start. This means making a note of all your network locations, the type of internet access you have (T1 or DSL) and the amount of bandwidth you are using in different locations.

You also need to check your access to your Domain Name System (DNS) records for your domain to ensure that your team won’t face any issues performing the switchover to Google Apps. You won’t even be able to activate any Google Apps services for your domain until it is verified that you own it, so this should be one of the first things you do, whether you’re running one domain or several. You should also reduce your Time To Live (TTL) settings to as low as your DNS provider will allow. This ensures that you can propagate any changes MX Record changes (and reverse any mistakes!) quickly.

Use the wizard

If you are only running a small company with a few users, Google’s Setup Wizard is a great tool and rather easy to use. In fact it could migrate all your team in a few hours. But we recommend that it’s used to run a Google Apps pilot with your IT team. This way it can become a learning tool to help you learn about the application and do basic training.

Employ Change Management

Cloud computing has great benefits, as we’ve shown you in our other blog posts, but it can feel like a revolutionary change for some businesses and staff members, so you want to ensure that any transition goes as smoothly as possible. Actually changing software itself is the easy part, it’s getting your team ready for the changes that is challenging. Good change management is vital so you can address user concerns and get everyone up to speed as quickly as possible.

Of course, how you approach change management will vary depending on the size of your organisation and the industry you’re in. But there are ways to make things easier for yourself. Many businesses find that the best approach is to first roll out Google Apps to the IT team and some of the managers. By doing this, you are keeping an eye on the tech while getting an understanding of issues that less IT-savvy staff might face.

After a while it is a good idea to offer Google Apps to the more technically-minded members of the team – yes, we mean the nerds. These are the guys who will be eager about the new tech and in the best position to train other members of the team. Google themselves actually recommend a 30/60/90 day approach.

  • Days 1 – 30 – set up Google Apps accounts and Gmail for main IT team while planning a company-wide migration. Make sure you announce that a transition is imminent.
  • Days 31 – 60 – choose the early adopters and create accounts. Make sure they have access to calendars and contacts and have configured their phones and tablets so they can learn their way around the system. Keep the rest of the teams in the loop about what’s going on.
  • Days 60 – 90 – it’s time to go live and migrate all of your users and their data and emails. You should have training, handbooks and Q&A sessions ready prepared.

A trial period for small teams allows you to identify problems and work out best practices. However good your planning process is, it is very common for dependencies or business processes that rely on the legacy platform to be missed and rolling Google Apps out to a subset of users will help identify those.

Your staff also need to know about policy and process changes, for example how Google Apps will affect how they access data on tablets and mobiles. Being prepared, communicating with your staff and getting them excited about changes is important, but this needs to be backed by ongoing training.

Make sure you have a checklist

This is vital to keep track. A checklist should include an inventory of your IT setup, keep you up to date with any migration activities and training and helps you to know who is responsible for which area and whether the deployment is going to shedule.

Migrating your emails

There’s little doubt that for most companies, email and scheduling are probably the most important tools at your disposal. So choosing the best way to migrate your emails, calendar and contacts is important. Before you start, you have take into account the size of your company and where your data and email are currently stored. The chances are you could have literally hundreds of thousands of email that you want to keep for reference or for your records. As to what migration tool you use, depends upon the legacy tech you are using. Your service provider will know the best tools to meet your needs. As email is so important, it is vital your team has access to their legacy email at all stages of the process.

If you are using Google’s recommended 90-day migration, you should migrate email, calendars and contacts during the first 30 days but in small batches. This allows you to understand how it work and how long it takes.

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Plan your mobile strategy

There’s not much point in migrating to Google Apps at all if you’re not planning to take advantage of its mobility. So you have to prepare for this when planning a deployment. Look at the tools your staff uses and decide what types of mobile devices you need to support. Android devices sync up well with Google Apps but Apple iOS devices may require a bit more preparation. You will also want to think about security and access at this point. Consider passwords, two-step authentication and remote data wipes for example.

Keep an evaluation report

After you’ve made the switch to Google Apps, you still want to review the process. An evaluation report can help you assess how things went and look at how effective each stage of the transition has been. A thorough report can help with training in the future and will serve as an important record of what was learned during the process.

Work with a Google Apps partner

Migrating to Google Apps is like moving house, it brings its rewards but can be very stressful. The tips here only cover the bare minimum of what you need to know. It is well worth simply delegating the migration to a Google Apps specialist like Damson Cloud who can work closely with your IT team to ensure the best results. We can manage the transition and make sure it goes smoothly and speedily. Having migrated hundreds of organisations to Google Apps, we are very familiar with a range of legacy systems and complex configurations that can be the real pitfalls in the migration process.

Thinking about migrating? Talk to the team at Damson Cloud IT. We have the expertise to ensure a smooth and successful transition.