9 Ways To Enhance Google Apps With Unified Communications - InformationWeek

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9 Ways To Enhance Google Apps With Unified Communications

There's no shortage of ways to communicate. Unifying the many communications channels can help you keep it all straight.

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Google Apps has evolved from a pale imitation of Microsoft Office with innovative collaboration capabilities to a serious productivity suite competitor that many businesses have come to prefer over traditional on-premises software.

Google Apps includes communications tools (Calendar, Gmail, Hangouts, and Google+); storage (Drive); collaboration tools (Docs, Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Sites); and management tools (Admin and Vault). It's used by more than 5 million businesses and at least 40 million individual users worldwide.

But just because Google Apps resides far away in the cloud doesn't mean it needs to remain disconnected from enterprise infrastructure. Google Apps plays nicely with unified communications systems, which can extend the utility of Google's software and add value to tools provided by communications vendors.

Unified communications (UC) is a term for the integration of a diverse set of communications services, real-time and stored, such as email, telephony, presence tracking, videoconferencing, instant messaging, and call routing. UC vendors include Avaya, Cisco, HP, Microsoft, and ShoreTel, to name a few.

Mohammad Nezarati, CEO of Esna, a UC integration firm, said in a phone interview that UC allows people to communicate and collaborate more effectively, but it works best when embedded in the applications people regularly use.

That's where Esna comes in. Its Officelinx software can connect computers and mobile devices from Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft to phone and video system hardware, as well as SIP- or TDM-based PBX systems. As a result, information from one system, like voicemail messages, can be made available in another system, like Gmail.

[Are you sharing data safely? See Cloud Apps & Security: When Sharing Matters.]

"As a software developer, our goal is to make UC disappear inside the apps," said Nezarati.

This disappearing act allows all sorts of interesting possibilities, which will be discussed at Interop New York on Oct. 2 in a session titled Integrating Google Apps With UC. Some of the opportunities include:

1. One inbox to rule them all
Just in case your inbox isn't crowded enough, Google Apps/UC integration allows you to manage voicemail messages and faxes (a primitive form of electronic communication that's apparently still used in some places) through your Gmail inbox.

2. Different environments
Nezarati described how enterprise chat software like Cisco Jabber can be linked to Google Hangouts and allow conversations to be escalated from instant messaging to Hangouts videoconferencing. The same can be done with voice messaging, he said, so that the recipient of a voicemail message can return the call directly or respond via Hangouts.

3. Just the fax
Not only can you receive faxes via Gmail with the appropriate UC integration, but you can also send them. If you're lucky, that will deter some unnecessary printing.

4. Presence
Presence information from a PBX and availability information on Google Calendar can be piped into Google Talk, within Gmail, to let colleagues know when you're available.

5. Click to dial
See a phone number in Google Apps or in your Chrome browser? Just click it to initiate a call on your mobile phone, your desk-based phone, or your designated communications application.

6. Awareness of place and date
Your phone number no longer needs to be tied to a specific device. Calls to your number can be routed to a phone at your location or directed to a specific device based on your calendar commitments. Calls can also be directed to voicemail if your schedule puts you in a meeting.

7. Speech control
Too lazy to click? Tell your phone to read your Gmail messages. You can even navigate through your calendar, contacts, and Gmail using only your voice.

8. Hardcopy
You can listen to voicemail messages converted to MP3 files in Gmail. Or you can read the transcript, rendered through speech-to-text conversion. Never fear phone messages from long-winded colleagues again.

9. Book 'em
Nezarati said many enterprise customers use WebEx as a collaboration tool. With a connection to Google Apps, users can book and schedule WebEx sessions. They can also manage Cisco telepresence rooms from Calendar.

Nezarati said Google is changing the way people think about collaboration. "The biggest challenge is not whether people use this technology, but whether they understand it."

In its ninth year, Interop New York (Sept. 29 to Oct. 3) is the premier event for the Northeast IT market. Strongly represented vertical industries include financial services, government, and education. Join more than 5,000 attendees to learn about IT leadership, cloud, collaboration, infrastructure, mobility, risk management and security, and SDN, as well as explore 125 exhibitors' offerings. Register with Discount Code MPIWK to save $200 off Total Access & Conference Passes.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Apprentice
9/5/2014 | 1:41:33 PM
Re: Not
I will agree that Google Docs does not have all the functions that Microsoft Word has. But yet oddly, Google Docs does do the simple numbering format, headers as well as footers...

I'm curious to know what tasks or functions you deem "perfunctory".
User Rank: Strategist
8/27/2014 | 12:57:07 PM
Re: Implementing is another story
Definitely agree. It's all doable but is the convenience, ease of use there? Sometimes, people aren't looking for just what's doable.
User Rank: Strategist
8/27/2014 | 12:56:15 PM
Re: Not
Google Docs is best for collaborative work. It's not something I would consider using if I had another option, ie Office. For what it can do, Google Docs is great, but I wouldn't call it a productivity suite either.
User Rank: Ninja
8/27/2014 | 12:18:57 AM
Re: Not

I agree. It's simply a collaboration tool, not a 'productivity' suite. THat's what Office is for.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/26/2014 | 7:23:33 PM
Re: Implementing is another story
Agreed. Just because something is "doable" doesn't mean it's useable or elegant or appealing.
User Rank: Ninja
8/26/2014 | 7:18:01 PM
I would never refer to Google Docs as a "serious productivity suite."  If all you want is the ability to create a document, then Docs is great.  But if you have advanced formatting needs such as a simple numbering format, headers as well as footers, then all bets are off.  Google Docs is not for you.  It is perfunctory at best.
User Rank: Ninja
8/26/2014 | 11:35:33 AM
Implementing is another story
Its one thing to say "with appropriate UC integration" but the devil is in the details.  It's not so fast, easy, or simple.  Although "doable", expectations need to be well managed.
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