Is this really free? Google, Helping Small Business Do Business Better

By Kendra Hill, Alpha Source, Inc.,

Most business owners know the name Google, but there is more to Google in the form of free and useful Google Applications (Apps).  Google Apps can be fun, creative and great for personal use, but there are also specific applications that can help small businesses work smarter and leverage the benefits of collaboration through information sharing.

After conversing with a couple of business owners, I learned that it was not necessarily common knowledge that Google supplied free applications to help small business communicate and do business.  I have written this article to share four Google Apps: Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Reader, and Google Voice.  These four applications are a snapshot into the Google Apps available that can help small business owners become more effective and in some situations save money. 

Google Calendar

For those smaller businesses that do not have a Microsoft Exchange Server that connects Outlook calendars, the Google Calendar is a solution.  The Google Calendar can be customized to upload directly from Outlook, downloaded into Outlook and shared with multiple people.  It can be viewed online and via a mobile phone and is a great way to stay connected.  I currently use Google Calendar for the staff in the marketing department, so we can keep up with important dates relevant to our department. 

Google Docs

Google Docs consist of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation file formats.  Google Docs also offers a form format that can be used to create surveys or polls.  I use Google Docs when I want someone else to easily access, read and possibly edit a shared document at anytime.    Google Docs is a solution to incompatible software on computers and shows edits in real time.  Now Google has made it possible for users to share folders and upload documents of different types.  Businesses can share documents with their clients, sales reps, and team members, keeping it all stored in one location with the latest version accessible at anytime. 

Google Reader

Google Reader can help business professionals stay current and track the buzz about their industry.  Google Reader allows users to keep RSS Feeds in one location and find relevant RSS Feeds to subscribe to using the keyword search tool.  RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication and makes it easy to keep track of current and industry news.  If you are brand new to blogging and are looking for opportunities to comment on blogs or do research on other blogs, Google Reader can help you by keeping all of your research in one place for regular reviewing and updating. 

Google Voice

Google Voice is one of the coolest tools Google offers.  It is a great resource for entrepreneurs, small business owners and organizations to catch calls and access voicemails easily.  Google Voice can help with consolidating multiple phone numbers and call monitoring, which can improve voicemail response time.  Using Google Voice with your current number allows you to listen to voicemails via phone, computer, email, or text messages.  You can personalize your voicemail greetings dependent upon who calls or send certain callers directly to voicemail every time they call.  When you use Google Voice with a Google phone number, calls can be forwarded to multiple numbers (home, cell, work, team members, etc.) and based on the caller, the phone that rings can be customized.

Google boasts that more than 2 million businesses run Google Apps and thousands more sign up every day.  Will you be next?

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