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Google Apps Deciphered: Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0137004706
ISBN-10: 9780137004706
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Scott Granneman is an author, educator, and consultant. Scott has written three books (Don’t Click on the Blue E!: Switching to Firefox, Hacking Knoppix, and the seminal Linux Phrasebook), co-authored one (Podcasting with Audacity: Creating a Podcast With Free Audio Software), and contributed to two (Ubuntu Hacks and Microsoft Vista for IT Security Professionals). In addition, he is a monthly columnist for SecurityFocus, with op/ed pieces that focus on general security topics, and for Linux Magazine, in a column focusing on new and interesting Linux software. He formerly blogged professionally on The Open Source Weblog and Download Squad.


As an educator, Scott has taught thousands of people of all ages–from preteens to senior citizens–on a wide variety of topics, including literature and technology. He has worked to educate people at all levels of technical skill about open source technologies, such as Linux and Firefox, and open standards. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, where he teaches a variety of courses about technology, the Internet, and security.


As a Principal of WebSanity, he works with businesses and non-profits to take full advantage of the Internet’s communications, sales, and service opportunities. He researches new technologies and manages the firm’s UNIX-based server environment, thereby putting what he writes and teaches into practical use, and works closely with other partners on the underlying WebSanity Content Management System (CMS).


Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction: Computing in the Cloud

Introduction: Computing in the Cloud

Microsoft Office is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla in the office suite jungle, with millions of users and billions of dollars in sales. However, as we saw in King Kong, even the mightiest gorilla can be hurt by enough buzzing planes. If one of those planes is actually a mighty jet named Google, then good ol’ Kong may be facing more trouble than he’s anticipated.

Over the last few years, Google has been polishing Google Apps, its online suite of software that includes most of the features found in mainstream office suites, and then some:

  • Word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • Email and contacts, including message security and recovery
  • Calendar
  • Wikis and websites
  • Instant messaging
  • Video sharing

Google is seeing phenomenal success with Google Apps. Over 3000 businesses a day are signing up at a rate of over one million per year. In total, over 500,000 businesses use Google Apps, with more than ten million active users. Of those, hundreds of thousands pay for the Premier Edition of Google Apps, which costs $50 per year. In the realm of education, thousands of universities, with more than one million active students and staff on six continents, are using Google Apps.

Some of those clients in business include the following:

  • Brasil Telecom
  • The District of Columbia (38,000 employees)
  • Genentech
  • Indoff (500 employees)
  • Intel
  • L’Oreal R&D
  • Procter & Gamble Global Business Services
  • Prudential Real Estate Affiliates (450 employees)
  • Telegraph Media Group (1400 employees)
  • Valeo (32,000 employees)

As for clients in education, there are many impressive wins in that list as well:

  • Arizona State University (65,000 students)
  • George Washington University
  • Hofstra University
  • Indiana University
  • Kent State University
  • Northwestern University (14,000 students)
  • University of Delhi
  • University of North Carolina—Greensboro
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Virginia

Just to give one example, Arizona State University has 65,000 students, which is obviously a huge number, but it took only two weeks to deploy Google Apps. As a result of the switch, ASU is now saving $500,000 a year, which is nothing to sneeze at.

This might all seem like a drop in the bucket compared with Microsoft’s reach and profits, and in strictly numerical terms it is. However, remember that Google makes its money primarily through ad sales, and it therefore has an overwhelming interest in moving as much of our lives as possible online. The more we move online, the more opportunities Google has to place ads in front of our eyeballs.

In addition, every person who starts using Google Apps is potentially one less customer for Microsoft, which hurts Google’s biggest competitor in the long run. Microsoft has finally woken up to the fact that software and services are inexorably moving to the Net, and it has responded with its own attempts in this area, called Microsoft Online Services.

Note - Microsoft also markets a service called Office Live (http://www.officelive.com), but don’t be fooled. That’s just rebranded Hotmail, document storage (you still have to have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed on your PC), and el cheapo website hosting.

Microsoft’s involvement, however, remains tied to its “software plus services” model, in which online tools still require the use of software running on a PC to work. This protects Microsoft’s cash cows, Windows and Office, first and foremost, while allowing the company to trumpet its participation in moving online as well.

If you look more closely at Microsoft’s offering, you see that it still requires software that runs on your computer beyond just a web browser. Sure, the cheapest offering —$3 per user per month—provides email through a web browser, but that’s just Outlook Web Access pointed to an Exchange server. To use other tools such as SharePoint server access for document sharing and collaboration, expensive licenses for Microsoft Office are still mandatory.

Prices go up from there so that the full package, with hosted Exchange and SharePoint and other tools, starts at $15 per user per month, which comes to $180 per year per person. And of course it works only with Microsoft software, which means Windows and Office. You can use a Mac to read email, but you have to use Entourage, Microsoft’s Outlook-like program that’s part of the company’s Office suite, for Macs. Linux users? Don’t be silly!

It’s not just Microsoft, however. Yahoo is sniffing around the hosted services concept with the formation of a new Cloud Computing & Data Infrastructure Group. And Amazon has been doing this for years with its Amazon Web Services (http://aws.amazon.com), which includes Elastic Compute Cloud, Simple DB, Simple Storage Service, and Simple Queue Service.

Something is changing in business, on the Internet, and in technology. The term that is increasingly used to apply to this change is cloud computing.


As a term of technical slang, the “cloud” refers to the Internet, so cloud computing refers to Internet-centric software and services that are outsourced to someone else and offered on pay-as-you-go terms. In the case of Google Apps, organizations don’t have to install software on their computers (and it doesn’t matter if those computers are running Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux), and they don’t have to install and maintain expensive servers and the associated software they require to run. Instead, they simply access Google’s services in a web browser.

Everything is on Google’s infrastructure—the software, the data, the backups, everything—and is therefore accessible in the cloud from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting to Google Apps from your computer at work or at home, or from your iPhone or BlackBerry, or from your office or somewhere in Timbuktu because everything you need is always available in Google’s cloud.

It’s not a new idea per se—decades ago, Sun co-founder John Gage proclaimed that “the network is the computer”—but it’s finally been able to reach a period of reality and even hypergrowth thanks to the spread of reliable high-speed Internet access coupled with the virtually limitless supplies of computer storage and processing power. As it gets cheaper and cheaper for companies such as Google and Amazon to build out massive server farms, and then connect those mind-bogglingly powerful resources to users across the world via the Internet, new and exciting technologies become possible. Case study number one: Google Apps, the subject of this book.

Of course, there are problems that companies building services in the cloud and users of those services will face.

To start with, there’s reliability. Yes, even the mighty Google has stumbled. In July 2008, for example, Google Docs was unavailable to many users for an hour or so. Virtually all companies have suffered downtimes, however, ranging from eBay to Amazon to Royal Bank of Canada to AT&T. This is simply a fact of life. Downtimes will happen. Humans can attempt to plan for every eventuality, but mistakes, errors, and even natural events beyond our control intrude and cause problems. It’s an interesting psychological fact, though, that we humans exhibit something called the illusion of control. For instance, we are far more likely to die in a car than on a plane, but people are often psychologically more comfortable driving in their cars than riding on planes due to the fact that drivers feel in control of the situation, while passengers may not.

For this reason, many people feel safer running their own servers instead of outsourcing to Google because they want that feeling of control over their machines and their data. However, Google now offers a service level agreement (SLA) for the Premier Edition of Google Apps that guarantees 99.9% uptime for Gmail (that means about 9 hours of downtime a year). SLAs for other services are coming soon as well.

In addition, take a look at 99.9% uptime guarantee. Before you refuse to even consider using Google Apps, think honestly about your own organization’s infrastructure. I know you work hard, and you do the absolute best you can, but can you honestly say that your servers are down less than 9 hours a year? If so, then maybe you should continue doing things the way you’ve been doing them. But if not, maybe you should think a bit more about cloud computing the Google way.

In fact, more than just a lack of downtime, I would argue that customers actually want honest communication about problems and what cloud computing providers are doing about them. If a service I use is down, that’s annoying, but if I can see that the service providers know about the issue and follow along as they fix it, I’m fine. I’m in the loop, and that reduces my stress an...


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (December 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780137004706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137004706
  • ASIN: 0137004702
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,988,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I needed to set up Google Calendar, Docs, Mail and Groups for a small NGO, then train the principals in their use. Because many of the services are free, Google Apps provides a very cost effective alternative to commercial programs if you can live with the idea of someone else storing all of your data.

I had a copy of Google Apps for Dummies to work from, which was pretty good but I always like to reference from a couple of sources. So I got this book. I really like how each program is covered in good depth, with excellent instructions. Common gotchas are pointed out and work arounds are given.

The book even offers some ways of using your existing desktop programs in conjunction with Google Apps, some of which hadn't occurred to me. Coverage is also given to backing up your online data, which probably too few people bother with. Google is good but not infallible.

I have only one small problem with the book and that's because the question of whether or not to even use Google Apps for sensitive information is a good idea or not isn't really addressed. If you're dealing with trade secrets of other sensitive information an online or cloud computing service may not be the best choice.
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Format: Paperback
Audience: Any Technical Individual interested in utilizing Google Apps as their "Cloud Computing" environment.
Skill: Some- Technical Knowledge Required
Readability: Fast Read
Information: Reference Material & How-to's

This is an excellent starter book for anyone interested in migrating a small organization to Google Apps. The book provides great reference sites and "real world" troubleshooting recommendations related to Google's Cloud Environment.

The book is divided in 7 parts:
Part 1: Getting Started with Google Apps
Part 2: Gmail
Part 3: Google Calendar
Part 4: Google Docs
Part 5: Google Sites
Part 6: The Other Services
Part 7: Appendices

The priceless parts/chapters of this book are:

Part 2: Gmail

Chapter 7-10:
These chapters will take you through a detailed overview of Gmail which includes integration and migration. It will also provide the reader with a solid understanding of troubleshooting common issues and maintaining your Gmail "Google Apps" Environment. These chapters are the "must-know" for any IT Staffer managing GMail via "Google Apps."

Part 3: Google Calendar

Chapter 11-13:
These chapters are the "must-know" for any IT Staffer managing Google Calendar via "Google Apps."

Part 6: The Other Services

Chapter 18-21:
These chapters pull together the many "Cloud Computing" resources out there in "Google Land" and aid the reader in consolidating "Cloud" technologies. Chapter 20 discusses "Things to Know About Using Message Security and Recovery"- This is a "must-know" for all IT Staffers seeking email security and recovery recommendation within "Google Apps.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Google Apps is very much a work in progress, and the poor integration between Apps and other Google products only adds to the confusion. Scott Granneman did a good job of navigating these treacherous waters to produce a guide that is both as up-to-date as possible and useful for figuring out how to work around Apps' shortcomings. I found Appendix B (Dealing with Multiple Accounts) particularly useful. I also enjoyed Granneman's casual (and sometimes brutally honest, though overall optimistic) tone.

The downside is that he does a poor job of tying everything together. It also has a bit of a cookie-cutter feel, repeating boilerplate text and sometimes substantive content from chapter to chapter. While this makes the book thicker than necessary and more of a chore to wade through the first time, it may make it marginally more useful as a reference.

While this isn't an elegant book, it's the best I've seen so far on Google Apps. Until ongoing changes to the service make it obsolete, or a better book comes along, this is the one I recommend.
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I am currently working on a Cloud Computing research paper for my Masters program. I came across Mr. Granneman's book in my local library and I was hopeful that I could find some useful information to help me with my research. While I commend the author on the job well done in describing Google apps in great detail, I have to say that I was not at all pleased with his one page assessment (pages 4-5)of the disadvantages of Cloud Computing. First of all, he conveniently leaves out some of the critical limitations of cloud technology. Also, he downplays the criticality of the two drawbacks he identifies. This gives me an impression that this 500-page book was written with one main agenda in mind and that is to advertise Google's cloud services.
I would have liked to see at least a section (or chapter) dedicated to cloud computing and identification of specific issues and limitations of Google Apps.
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Any college-level library or computer collection strong in applications processing will relish an in-depth review of Google Apps, which offers business software free. From choosing the right edition of Google Apps to exporting calendars and emails to it, making it secure, blending it with other software and using its extensive features, GOOGLE APPS DECIPHERED: COMPUTE IN THE CLOUD TO STREAMLINE YOUR DESKTOP is an outstanding, thorough review.
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