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Why Google Apps is winning IT hearts and minds

Jon Gold | March 20, 2014
Google's cloudy productivity package is making inroads everywhere – including many Microsoft Office shops.

"For writing an academic paper, for instance, where you're using specific citation styles, if you're conforming to APA citations or whatnot, Google Drive isn't there," he says.

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Colleges aren't the only educational institutions using Google Apps, either The Hannibal, Missouri public school system has been using the service for about three years.

Unlike at Holy Cross, the main concern that Hannibal's schools hoped to overcome was productivity software fragmentation, according to technology director Patrick Harrison.

"We have Microsoft Office products on many of our computers, but there are various versions, running all the way back to Office 2000. Lots of 2003, lots of 2007," he says. "Some of them, it's not so backwards- or forwards-compatible. So as kids make documents and move from classroom to classroom, there was no guarantee that they were going to be able to deal with what they had been creating in an Office product in the very next room they go to."

Google Docs fixed that problem, unifying documents under a single system and putting them into the cloud, to boot. But the changes didn't happen overnight, nor did they happen smoothly.

"It was kind of a rough transition," Harrison says. "It was implemented and information went out to faculty and staff hey, this is here, this is how you use it,' and that was the end of it. It literally just kind of languished for several months after that and we were off for break for three months."

It took extensive training and "many, many workshops," he says, to get teachers to use Google Apps, and it's only recently that students have started to come around.

"This year is the first year that it's really been used in the classroom, with the kids. And those teachers that are doing that are seeing a lot of neat things the kids are very much engaged, they're interested," says Harrison. Some classes now turn in assignments via Google Docs, he adds.

The public-cloud architecture of the Hannibal Public Schools' Google Apps installation is a typical reason cited by businesses that use the framework, according to Keitt.

"We're at a point where the vast majority of businesses that we survey say that they at least have the intention to put something into a cloud environment," he says.

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Probably Google Apps' most famous organizational customers, however, have been government institutions. The city of Los Angeles was the first major city in the U.S. to make the switch, but others have since followed suit, including Pittsburgh, Omaha, St. Louis, Des Moines, Orlando, and most recently, Boston.

That city's outgoing CIO, Bill Oates, said in an official blog post earlier this year that 76,000 email accounts had been moved from a "collection" of different on-premise systems to Google Apps.

 

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