The HALO Trust: Helping communities reclaim the land with Google Maps for Business

From time to time we invite guests to post about subjects of interest and today we’re pleased to share a post from Guy Willoughby, Executive Director of the HALO Trust, a U.K.-based nonprofit dedicated to landmine clearance in post-conflict areas. Hear how HALO is using Google Maps for Business to fight the war against mines, clearing more than 1.4 million landmines worldwide. -Ed.

When conflicts end, making communities safe and livable often means removing dangerous remnants of war. “Getting mines out of the ground, for good,” as we say at the HALO Trust, has been our mission over the last 25 years. We work in more than a dozen countries and regions across the globe, clearing landmines and other explosives, many of which have been buried underground. While we’ve been in operation for almost three decades, there is still more to be done.

In Kosovo, where people are reclaiming their homeland after the conflict in 1999, we’re working in close cooperation with the government and local population to collect and share information about where mines are located. It’s a true community effort—farmers tell us where they’ve seen signs of mines and where accidents have occurred. It’s our job at the HALO Trust to take this data and make it usable, accessible, and visually compelling, so clearance becomes more efficient and happens faster.

One of our biggest challenges is keeping our field teams safe. We need easy-to-use tools that can help us find, map and clear hazardous areas without putting our operations at risk. Over the years, we’ve continuously improved our mine clearance techniques, including the deployment of Google Earth Pro.

Google Earth Pro makes it easier for the HALO team to do the dangerous and detailed work of finding and mapping at-risk areas. Because it’s based on the same technology as Google Maps and Earth, it’s easy for our teams to use and create maps without IT or GIS expertise. It’s a tool that is familiar to our employees and something they use in their daily lives, so we can start mapping right away.

The information we gather, including GPS references to landmines in the field, is imported into Earth Pro so that we can plot mine locations. We also use the incredibly detailed satellite imagery in Google Earth to identify and map hazardous areas. These high-resolution maps serve many people: from families who live near mines, to crews who clear them, and donors and other organizations that support us. When donors view the vivid interactive maps of our project areas—with mines so close to schools, farms and houses—they understand why the HALO Trust’s work is so critical.

Accurate maps from Google Earth Pro mean safer working conditions for our local teams, and faster progress toward our goals. In Kosovo alone, we’ve removed thousands of landmines, cluster munitions and other explosives. And with the help of Google’s mapping tools and our donors, we’ll be able to declare the country mine-free.

Get stuff done in the cloud. Go Google.

You probably hear terms like “the cloud” or “cloud computing” being used a lot these days. While the idea of the cloud may seem abstract, many things you already do on your computer and smartphone today, such as email, photo sharing and video streaming, are made possible by the cloud.

At the heart of it, Google is about cloud computing—helping people live online and get things done in the cloud. Whether you need to add “milk” to a shared shopping list from the train, collaborate with your teammate back in the office to finish your presentation from a hotel lobby, or chat face-to-face with your mom from halfway around the world, we believe that getting stuff done in the cloud is a better way. We like to call it “going Google.”

We’ve built cloud-based tools like Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs to help you connect and collaborate online with others more quickly and easily, without having to deal with the hassles and frustrations of installing and managing traditional software. Last week’s launch of Google Drive is the next step: Google Drive brings together many Google services—documents, spreadsheets, images and more—all in one place so you can easily create, collaborate, and share in real-time. Files are saved automatically, and friends, teammates, roommates, families and co-workers can do things together—even when they’re not. If you haven’t already tried it, Google Drive is a great place to start going Google.

Today, hundreds of millions of people, including 16 million students and teachers at 66 of the top 100 U.S. universities, employees at more than 4 million businesses worldwide including Burberry, Costco and National Geographic (and maybe even your 13-year-old daughter and her entire soccer team) have all already gone Google.

If you’re going Google to build a company, great. If you write your grand opus poem, even better. If you have to turn a project around from different time zones overnight, awesome. And if you video-chat with grandma while you do—well, that’s just showing off.

So go on. See what it’s like to get stuff done and go Google.

Atmosphere 2011: A view from the cloud

Last month 350 CIOs and thousands of live stream viewers joined us for Atmosphere 2011, our annual cloud event. Leading companies from around the world came to explore how businesses are using the web to drive collaboration, innovation and growth in their organizations. In case you missed them, the keynotes are now available on our YouTube channel. You can watch the entire conference in order on the Atmosphere playlist.

This year’s speakers included a best-selling author, award-winning computer scientists, Google executives and product managers, and several Google Apps customers including Flint Waters, CIO of the state of Wyoming, Bryson Koehler, SVP of Global Revenue and Guest Technology at IHG, Michael O’Brien, CIO of Journal Communications and Christine Atkins, VP of Group IT at Ahold.

One of the highlights was listening to Christine Atkins talk about Ahold’s experience moving 55,000 users to Google Apps and how, in her words, “Google Apps is helping us deliver on the promise that we've all been seeking: that of strong collaboration platforms that help our company come together and work together.” You can watch Christine’s presentation here:

Wyoming has officially gone Google

Q: What do national parks, female governors and Google Apps have in common?

A: Wyoming was the first state in the country to have each of them.

This morning, Governor Matt Mead announced that the state of Wyoming has completed its transition to Google Apps for Government. Since the state first declared its intention to go Google eight months ago, Wyoming has worked quickly to move all 10,000 state employees onto Google Apps.

For the first time ever, Wyoming’s entire state government now shares a common email, calendar and document system, making it easier for employees to find and collaborate with one another. By going Google, the state is also saving taxpaying Wyomingites approximately $1 million annually. Who knows which next great “first” they’ll put these savings towards?

You can view the live stream of the Governor’s announcement starting at 8:00am MT.

Happy 1st birthday to the Google Apps Marketplace

A year ago today, the Google Apps Marketplace launched with 50 web apps integrated into Google Apps, making it easier for organizations to customize web-based solutions for their specific needs.

We’ve come a long way since then, and now offer 300 apps across 11 categories, including a new set of education apps. Each web app in the Marketplace provides meaningful integrations that range from single sign-on convenience to contextual gadgets inside of a user’s Gmail inbox.

Read our post on the Enterprise blog or visit the Apps Marketplace to learn more—and join us in celebrating a year of expanded Apps functionality.

New ways to experience better collaboration with Google Apps

The Google Apps collaboration tools have steadily and swiftly improved over the last couple years, and many companies have found that Google Docs and Google Sites are faster, simpler and more powerful than traditional software for the majority of common tasks, especially tasks where people need to work efficiently together. Today, we’re launching two new initiatives to help more people experience the productivity benefits of web-powered collaboration.

First, Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office is now available worldwide. This plugin for Microsoft Office is available to anyone with a Google Account, and brings multi-person collaboration to the Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications that you may still need from time to time. The plugin syncs your work through Google’s cloud, so everyone can contribute to the same version of a file at the same time. Learning the benefits of web-powered collaboration will help more people make a faster transition to 100% web collaboration tools.

We’re also introducing the 90-Day Appsperience program, a way for companies that currently use cumbersome legacy systems to see how web-powered tools help their teams work together more effectively. A nominal fee covers 90-day access to Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Cloud Connect and more, as well as assistance from Google experts to help coworkers quickly become more productive together. And companies trying Google Apps can use the new collaboration dashboard in the Google Apps control panel to assess the value of our tools. The dashboard provides data on how people are using Apps to collaborate more efficiently without the hassles of document versions, check-in/check-out or attachments.

If you’re curious how your company could become more agile, efficient and innovative with better tools for teams to work together, read more about these updates on the Google Enterprise Blog.

Introducing Google Message Continuity, powered by Postini

When we acquired Postini in 2007, we incorporated additional cloud-based spam and virus filtering, email archiving and encryption services into our Enterprise products. We had a vision that the power of the cloud could deliver not only increased productivity and collaboration but also security and corporate compliance tools for organizations of all sizes. Today, a new Google Postini service takes this vision of the cloud and extends it to on-premises email environments.

Google Message Continuity is a cloud-based email continuity solution—a service that helps ensure that you always have access to your email. Organizations running on-premises email systems, such as Microsoft® Exchange, can run the risk of losing email access—or even worse, their email data—during a server outage, which can impact employee productivity, revenue and even company credibility. Research suggests that a 500-person company could lose nearly $90,000 annually due to email outages*, which a continuity solution could help prevent.

Google Message Continuity works by replicating email accounts hosted on Microsoft® Exchange Servers in the cloud, using Gmail, Calendar and Contacts. If the Microsoft® Exchange Server fails, or requires scheduled maintenance or downtime, all you have to do is log into Gmail and continue regular, up-to-date email communication through Google. Since Gmail and Microsoft® Exchange are constantly synchronized with each other, you can seamlessly switch from one email environment to the other. Additionally, features such as synchronous replication that are built into Google’s architecture help ensure that your data won’t be lost at any point while being delivered to you with maximum efficiency.

Google Message Continuity can also help organizations transition to Google Apps down the road. Since Microsoft® Exchange and Gmail are always in sync with one another, there’s no need to migrate email data when eventually deploying Google Apps. With Gmail, Calendar and Contacts available, users can get familiar with these cloud services without having to abruptly stop using their regular email system.

Google Message Continuity takes Gmail’s availability and extends it to Microsoft® Exchange users, delivering on the cloud’s promise of greater reliability and security for organizations of all sizes. And with research suggesting that on-premises email solutions often face regular email downtime, this extension just seems to make sense.

For more information on Google Message Continuity, stop by the Google Enterprise Blog or visit

*Osterman Research, 2009. “Key Issues in Selecting an Email Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Solution”

SAP joins the Google Apps Marketplace with a collaborative decision-making app

Today SAP, the leading provider of business software to more than 100,000 customers in more than 120 countries, is launching their SAP StreamWork collaborative decision-making app in the Google Apps Marketplace. SAP StreamWork brings together people and information—from the web, the desktop or business systems—and applies structure to discussions with business tools including pro/con tables and polls to drive fast, meaningful results.

Just like the other 200+ Marketplace applications, users will be able to login to their StreamWork account with their Google Apps account and navigate to it from the Google universal navigation bar. SAP will bring deeper integrations in the near future.

To learn more, read the guest blog post on the Google Enterprise blog by David Meyer, SAP’s senior vice president of On-Demand, Productivity and Sustainability Solutions and register to attend our live webinar with SAP discussing tools to optimize your business processes at 11:00 a.m. PT on December 14.

Ten times more applications for Google Apps customers

(Cross-posted on the Google Enterprise Blog and the Google Small Business Blog)

As customers begin to recognize large productivity gains with Gmail, Google Docs and the rest of Google Apps, they frequently ask when they’ll be able to use services like Google Voice, Reader, Blogger and AdWords with their Google Apps accounts. We’ve steadily added new functionality to Google Apps and recently added support for third-party apps, but we’re thrilled to swing the floodgates of new functionality wide open now. Starting today, customers worldwide can access a full spectrum of services from Google—including more than 60 productivity-boosting applications that extend far beyond any traditional software suite.

Coupled with the ability for administrators to provide different sets of applications to different groups of users, the possibilities for empowering workers in new ways are remarkable. For example, you could equip your marketing team with Picasa Web Albums so they can collect and share photos from customer appreciation events, and let that team publish your company’s blog with Blogger. Services like iGoogle and Alerts, on the other hand, may be broadly useful, and could be enabled for your whole organization.

Existing customers can transition at their own pace over the next couple months to the new infrastructure supporting these applications from the administrative control panel. New customers will automatically have the new infrastructure. The additional services are not covered by the Google Apps SLA or telephone support, but we’ll be watching for feedback how we can make these new applications even more useful.

In tandem with this big improvement, we’re also simplifying the names of the versions of Google Apps. Here’s how we now refer to our line-up:
  • Google Apps is our free service geared towards families, entrepreneurs and other groups up to 50 users.
  • Google Apps for Business offers 25GB of email storage per user, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, data migration capabilities, advanced management tools, telephone support, added security features and more, all for $50 per user per year.
  • Google Apps for Government is FISMA certified and designed with local, state and federal agencies in mind.
  • Google Apps for Education offers many benefits of Google Apps for Business, but at no cost to schools, universities and qualifying non-profits.
The team has worked hard to unlock all of this new functionality for our customers, and we think many of these new applications will become indispensable within your organization. To help get you started, each day the Google Enterprise Blog will profile how your organization could put a different application to use. The first post tomorrow will focus on Google Reader, so visit the Enterprise Blog to follow the series.

App Tuesday: Eight new apps for your business

The Google Apps Marketplace helps your business discover and deploy the right web-apps that integrate with Google Apps, reduce IT costs, and eliminate redundant log-ins and data entry. Every App Tuesday, we welcome even more apps that expand the range of solutions available to businesses.

Today, eight more apps join the Apps Marketplace, all with single sign-on convenience and hassle-free access through the universal navigation bar. Most apps have even deeper integrations—read below to learn more.

Embed this presentation on your own site to spread the word about our newest apps

Read more about the apps launching this App Tuesday on the Google Enterprise blog, or go shop the Google Apps Marketplace to find the perfect solutions to help you move further into the cloud.