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(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog)

In a little over two years, Drive has become the cloud storage and sharing solution for more than 190 million people worldwide who use it regularly at home, work and school. For many of the 30 million students and educators using Google Apps for Education, Drive has even replaced their bookbags. Why lug around piles of paper or overstuffed binders when every type of document or file can be retrieved from the nearest Chromebook, tablet, smartphone or browser?

Earlier this year, we introduced Drive for Work—a premium version of Google Apps for Work—and now we’re bringing that same power to schools. Today we’re announcing Drive for Education, an infinitely large, ultra-secure and entirely free bookbag for the 21st century.
Drive for Education will be available to all Google Apps for Education customers at no charge and will include:
  • Unlimited storage: No more worrying about how much space you have left or about which user needs more gigabytes. Drive for Education supports individual files up to 5TB in size and will be available in coming weeks. 
  • Vault: Google Apps Vault, our solution for search and discovery for compliance needs, will be coming free to all Apps for Education users by the end of the year. 
  • Enhanced Auditing: Reporting and auditing tools and an Audit API easily let you see the activity of a file, are also on the way. 
All of this comes with the same world-class security that protects all Drive users. Every file uploaded to Google Drive is encrypted, not only from your device to Google and in transit between Google data centers, but also at rest on Google servers. As always, the data that schools and students put into our systems is theirs. Classroom, which recently launched to Google Apps for Education users, makes using Drive in school even better by automatically organizing all Classroom assignments into Drive folders. And Google Apps for Education remains free to nonprofit educational institutions with no ads or ads-related scanning.

We want educators and students who use Google Apps for Education to be able to focus on the learning experience—not the technology that supports it. With Drive for Education, users can put an end to worries about storage limits and more easily maintain a safe, effective and compliant learning environment.

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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Hari Ravichandran, CEO and Founder of Endurance International Group, which helps small businesses get online and manage their web presence.

Launching a small business is tough, and getting a website up and running along with marketing your company online can seem especially daunting. At Endurance, we realized way back in 1997 that the Internet was going to change how small businesses reach and serve their customers, and that bringing the power of the Internet to them was both a great business opportunity and a way to support aspiring business owners globally. So we built our company around helping SMBs manage their web presence with hosting, domains, email, design and online marketing. With Endurance doing the technical heavy lifting, SMBs can focus more on growing their companies and making them succeed.

Google Apps for Work is now is now an integral part of our e-mail and cloud productivity offering we recommend and provide to our customers, and it’s going to make business owners’ lives easier. How do we know? Because we started using Google Apps ourselves, and we’ve seen firsthand how we’ve used it to connect more often with our teams, get projects done faster and save money.

Today we serve over 3.7 million small businesses around the world, and we operate a number of leading brands such as iPage, Bluehost, HostGator and Domain.com from offices around the globe. In such an environment, communication is important. In the past, it took too many actions to complete simple tasks — sending emails back and forth, with employees from different offices not easily able to collaborate on documents or see each others’ calendars to schedule meetings. That all changed when we moved to Google Apps.

We knew of Google Apps and wanted to use the suite, which has all the e-mail, calendar and document-sharing features we needed to run our business. Many of our employees had personal Gmail addresses, so they were already familiar with Google and were genuinely excited about making the switch. Our IT department was equally happy about the short learning curve for Apps, since it made migrating our employees over to Apps surprisingly easy.

Perhaps the best part about our move to Google Apps is the ability to communicate with our colleagues across the company, no matter what country we’re based in. We talk to each other and keep in touch far more often than we used to, thanks to Hangouts and Google+. Since Google Apps has everything we need, from file storage to video calls, we will no longer rely on expensive or hard-to-use video conferencing, email, and file storage solutions.

We have built a relationship with Google to help small businesses harness the power of the web in multiple ways, first through the AdWords Referral program, and more recently via joint programs in the US, India, Africa and Southeast Asia including the “Get Your Business Online” program. Once we saw how quickly Google Apps changed the way we work, we wanted to share it with our small-business customers. That’s why we’re excited to be joining the Google for Work Partner Program. We’re integrating Google Apps with the dashboard that our customers use to manage their businesses, like email marketing and website design, so customers can have one seamless experience working with their website and productivity apps. And since we use Google Apps everyday ourselves we can help our customers get the most value out of it.

Google Apps fits in perfectly with our philosophy of guiding small businesses to success – not simply getting online but being online. When you have an easy-to-use solution like Google Apps, working together on projects, accessing documents from anywhere, and keeping costs in check becomes part of doing business every day.

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Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a handful of stories from disrupters and trailblazers in the UK who are using Google Apps for Work to support their mission while growing at faster and faster speeds. Today we hear from Rytis Vitkauskas, co-founder and CEO of YPlan, a mobile app that lets users discover amazing experiences they can do that same night.

For many, planning a night out on the town means grabbing the local weekly newspaper and thumbing through it to find entertainment and club listings. My co-founder Viktoras Jucikas and I think there’s a better way to plan an exciting night out with our mobile app. YPlan provides curated entertainment listings for London, Edinburgh, New York, San Francisco and Las Vegas, and gives our users the ability to easily buy tickets with two taps on a smartphone. The app has surpassed one million downloads to date and our company has swelled to 60 employees. Growing rapidly, we’ve learned some valuable lessons. The following are five insights that might help business leaders stay focused and keep momentum when growing their business.

1. Identify a real problem — the more personal the better — then try to fix it
YPlan started as a solution to solve a personal problem. My co-founder Viktoras and I previously worked in finance but quit our jobs to travel to San Francisco to find inspiration. In San Francisco, we found it challenging to easily find things to do on our free nights. There wasn’t a central destination to find events and book tickets. So we decided to create an app to solve that problem.

2. Model early and often 
In the early stages of our business idea, we came up with 50 different project ideas before finally settling on YPlan. We constructed a business model, subjected it to an intense process of testing, then eventually scrapped it and started over. When we returned back to London we started the concept for YPlan. We conducted user testing that included Viktoras and I running around to make sure people had their tickets on time (we hadn’t finished the e-ticket mechanism by that point). Testing heavily during the first few months highlights problems you might not have anticipated and gives you the opportunity adapt your product accordingly.

3. Growth stems from your culture and early DNA 
From early on, we established a culture of creativity, collaboration and a relentless focus on our customers, which has been a foundation for our future growth. From the first day we stopped negative office patterns of blaming and arguing, and instilled frequent communication, positive reinforcement and team problem-solving. Our primary focus is to deliver the best experience for our users and our employees tackle that task creatively on a daily basis.

4. Communication and collaboration fuels growth 
YPlan’s success is largely due to successful collaboration and integration with our partners. With our teams working in at least three time zones simultaneously, Google Drive allows us to collaborate globally in real-time. It’s our central communication hub for content sharing and project collaboration. Having files accessible from anywhere on a mobile device is big plus. This has enabled seamless working and communication with our local teams, which has directly affected our global success and allowed us to expand.

5. Growth opportunities start with the user 
When surveying growth options, look to your users and learn from that data. We’re constantly analysing the data we have on our existing users to see how we can improve our services. At any one time we have two thousand versions of the app running in parallel, undergoing a highly selective process of A/B testing, which means the app is constantly being refined. Closely studying our user data led to us introducing “collections.” We knew people wanted to choose from a wide variety of events, but had to present numerous selections in a way that wasn’t a boring list of options. By adapting our interface to meet the needs of users, we now provide a curated experience, which in turn leads to consistently high retention rates after download.

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Editor's note: We’re counting down to next week’s Atmosphere Live with a series of interviews from speakers who will be featured at the interactive online event. Today, we hear from Jeff McConathy, VP of Engineering & Consumer Services for Trulia, who is speaking in our session on delighting customers in new ways — online, offline and on the go. Learn more and register for Atmosphere Live, which takes place on October 1st, here.

Buying a home is a stressful process. How do you make that experience more pleasant for your customers? How do you delight someone who’s making one of the biggest financial commitments of their lives? 

Industry research tells us that the home buying process takes an average of 18 months, and as many already know, there’s a lot of anxiety, especially when the process is new. Trulia was founded to make that process easier, less stressful and more enjoyable, by providing information and insights to consumers and connecting them with real estate professionals to help them through the rest of the process.

Our goal is to delight consumers by making home search unexpectedly enjoyable by understanding what they want and giving it to them when and where they need it – which, in our case, often means on their phones, while they’re touring neighborhoods and open houses.

How has technology helped Trulia deliver on that vision and change the experience of the average prospective homebuyer?

The old way of buying a house revolved around talking to the neighbors, checking the newspaper on Sunday, driving around neighborhoods and chasing agents down on the phone. With Trulia, you provide the parameters for the home you want and, within seconds, get all the information you need, seamlessly integrated on a map, which includes school districts, parks and amenities nearby, as well as additional information.

We’ve learned that the combination of mobility and maps is especially suited for home seekers. That’s why we recently launched a feature that will alert you, via the Trulia mobile app, when you’re near a home that meets your search criteria and has recently been listed.

Home is also about safety, so if you’re concerned about natural hazards, such as floods, you can see historical data integrated into our maps. If you’re worried about overpaying, we can show you the average sales price per square foot in your area. And if you want to talk to someone from the neighborhood, we have millions of people in a social community who give unfiltered answers to all sorts of questions — everything from “How often do trains pass through?” to “Will I have to move my car when it snows?”

Finding the right broker or agent is also extremely important, so Trulia built an agent directory, with hundreds of thousands of agent profiles, which is helpful to consumers and agents who want to connect with potential new clients.

We get really excited about this stuff. It’s why I tell people that Trulia is really a technology company that happens to dabble in real estate.

What advice do you have for other businesses looking to improve the experience of their customers?

Never assume that other people have your expectations, and never stop learning and adapting to your customers’ feedback. One way we make sure to deliver on this promise is by running extensive user studies. Last year, our Consumer Research team ran surveys in eight different cities, for example, collecting information and insights about our customers. That’s how we learned that many of our customers keep a separate tab open in their browser just to check distances on Google Maps because they can’t find the feature on our site. By responding to these insights, we can significantly improve the customer experience — in this case, by integrating Google Maps into our site. I often ask my team how we can make our searches that much more local, that much more precise and that much more delightful for our customers.

We also have a team of data scientists that develop insights from anonymized site searches to understand the most important things people want in a particular city or neighborhood. Then we use that data to tailor the results, accordingly. Say, for example, you’re looking to rent a two-bedroom house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. When you get the first page of search results, even if you’re a first-time Trulia customer, it reflects what people just like you are seeking.

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Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a handful of stories from disrupters and trailblazers in the UK who are using Google Apps for Work to support their mission while growing at faster and faster speeds. Today, Neil Delaney, International SMB Director for Google Apps for Work, shares insights from a new research report from Google and Deloitte on how cloud technology helps businesses overcome growth challenges.

Fast growth often seems an elusive concept, something a lucky few tech start ups capture for a few fleeting years before slowing to smaller, incremental advances. But a new report we commissioned with Deloitte, Small business, big technology: How the cloud enables rapid growth in SMBs, paints both a more complex and uplifting picture — that small and medium businesses are using cloud technology to overcome growth challenges and scale and grow faster. The research explores the operating practices and strategies of businesses in the United States and Europe with up to 750 employees, and suggests that SMBs should move tools and applications to the cloud in order to free up time, capital and resources, and to establish a platform for sustainable rapid growth. Here are a few of the key insights we discovered.

Cloud technology unlocks faster scaling and growth opportunities Eighty-five percent of SMBs reported that cloud technology enables them to scale and grow faster, while sixty-six percent said that the cloud allows them to outperform against their competitors. It’s this ability to leapfrog other companies and scale rapidly that makes cloud an essential part of any small business’s strategy.

Cloud technology has a bright future Sixty-six percent of companies expect to increase their use of cloud-based technology in the next three years. This is another trend prevalent amongst companies who have gone Google, who begin adopting cloud services early on in their development and, through experimentation and iteration, begin to adopt more and more cloud solutions across their business processes. Businesses using an above average number of cloud services also grow 26 percent faster and drive 21 percent more profit than those that use no cloud tools.

The cloud is favoured by both startups and established companies It’s not just startups that use the cloud as a tool for fast growth: 79 percent of relatively mature companies — those older than 5 years who are growing at less than 10% per year — believe cloud technology enables them to access new markets and revenue streams. This will become even more important as organisations adopt more digital tools in order to expand into new regions or product areas.

Fast growth in action One businesses that knows firsthand the power of embracing digital technology to drive fast growth is Made.com, an online retailer that’s grown to 150 employees across four countries in just four years — and become a household name in the UK along the way. Made.com has relied on Google Apps for Work from its founding days to build a culture of collaboration and innovation, and cites the cloud tools as a key driver in its ability to grow quickly and at scale. “Google for Work” they said recently, “helps us connect, communicate and collaborate.”

Keep your eye on the Google for Work blog over the coming weeks for three more fast growth stories from companies that have gone Google and rapidly scaled the business food chain. You can read the full report on fast growth and the impact of cloud technology on businesses here.

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Work today is very different from 10 years ago. Cloud computing, once a new idea, is abundantly available, and collaboration is possible across offices, cities, countries and continents. Drive for Work enables collaboration and content sharing for businesses large and small and helps them share and access their files — even from different cloud applications.

Google Drive extends the reach of business applications by taking content that previously was only available in a single application, and making it available across multiple applications — all while maintaining security. For example:
  • Marketing teams can create collateral in Drive that’s accessible for sales reps who spend time in a salesforce automation (SFA) app on their mobile phone. 
  • Support reps working in a helpdesk app can use Drive to share a customer-submitted error log with engineers. 
  • Accounts payable clerks working in an accounting app can generate an invoice and share the invoice directly with a vendor through Drive. 
To help businesses gain more value from Drive for Work, we’ve partnered with leading Software as a Service (SaaS) application vendors to build deeper integrations with Google Drive. Here are a few examples:
  • Freshdesk provides a customer support service that allows helpdesk agents and customers to attach videos, pdfs, screenshots and other files from Drive to their support tickets. (website; blogpost
  • Insightly provides a CRM system for small businesses that makes it easy to search or browse files in Drive and attach files to the relevant contact, organization, project or opportunity. (website; blogpost
  • MavenLink provides a project management system allowing Drive users to seamlessly share files in a collaborative project workspace with team members, contractors, and clients. (website; blogpost
  • Sage One, from The Sage Group plc, offers a small business accounting solution for businesses to manage their finances online, with invoices automatically backed up to Drive for easy sharing and access from any device. (website; blogpost
  • Smartsheet offers a project management platform where users can attach Drive files to a project so everything is in one place. (website; blogpost
  • Solve CRM, by Norada, has integrated with Drive so customers can use Google Sheets to manage and report on sales data. (website; blogpost
  • Xero provides online accounting for small businesses and integrates with Google Drive so employees can easily export and share reports. (website; blogpost
  • Zoho CRM, by Zoho, allows users to browse their documents from Drive and associate documents to customer information such as contacts, leads, accounts, activities, potentials, cases and more. (website
And this is only the beginning. We’ll continue to work with our ecosystem so the most popular applications, and those that are most frequently used within our community, can help businesses store and access all of their content in Drive.

If you’re a developer and would like to learn more about our APIs that enable you to extend the functionality of the Google Apps platform check out developers.google.com. For a list of cloud applications that integrate with Google Apps, please visit the Google Apps Marketplace.

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Editor's note: From the typewriter to the propelling pencil to our favorite, the world wide web, inventors and innovators from the United Kingdom have brought us brilliant advances that have changed the way we work all around the world. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a handful of stories from disrupters and trailblazers in the UK who are using Google Apps for Work to support their mission while growing at faster and faster speeds. Today we hear from Samir Desai Co-founder and CEO of Funding Circle, the world’s leading marketplace for small business loans.

At Funding Circle, we’ve built the world’s leading marketplace for individuals to lend money directly to small and medium-sized businesses in the US and the UK. Since our launch in 2010, we've experienced rapid growth, lending more than half a billion dollars to over 5,500 businesses. Google Apps for Work equips our teams to work across geographies which keeps business strategy on track as the company grows. Today, I’ll share four insights that are relevant for other businesses looking for growth opportunities.

1. Use data to your advantage
We use a combination of data and risk analytics to effectively grade our loans in more detail than traditional lending institutions and to differentiate ourselves from what other banks offer. Because of our deep analytical understanding, we can offer loans to businesses that banks might turn away. We also publish the performance of every loan we’ve ever originated on our marketplace so this information is downloadable to investors. As a result, we’ve attracted 30,000 individual investors, the Government, 10 local councils, a university and a range of financial institutions, who are all willing to lend their money because of how transparent we are about performance.

2. Invest in technology that allows your business to scale and grow
We’ve embraced the cloud from the outset. We select technology that enables us to save money, increase productivity and collaboration, like Google Apps for Work. Google Docs and Sheets are particularly valuable tools for the press releases and centralised documents we edit and share across geographies. For example, we recently announced our latest funding round of $65 million and our communications team, based in the UK and US worked very closely together. Docs and Sheets allowed them to collectively craft a strong story about the announcement and share updates. We are using Google Hangouts to help our UK and US offices keep in touch. The tech team is often in Hangouts as they review our web platform and refine our code. The collaborative and inexpensive nature of Hangouts also helps us save money when it comes to travel. The immediacy you get from Hangouts connects you when it matters, where ever you are.



3. People work better when they socialise together
We set out to create a place where people want to work. We bring smart people together and offer them a place to tackle large challenges, and have fun. Our offices are equipped with gaming consoles, ping pong tables, our beloved mini-bar ‘Fundabar’, as well as breakout areas where quick meetings can happen away from your desk. Nurturing the working environment can create a fabric that connects employees even when they’re new to the team. People work better when they socialise with each other and spend their valuable time in a comfortable office environment.

4. Reflect constantly to reinvent how you grow
We’re relentlessly assessing how to reinvent the company and change things. As we grow in size it’s important to avoid being complacent. We maintain a startup culture of moving fast and trying new things. Just because we’ve done things a certain way for the last 6 months or even 4 years, doesn’t mean there isn’t suddenly a better, more efficient way of moving forward. It’s better to take cues from what doesn’t test well, such as a marketing channel or a particular part of the website, and change course rapidly, putting the company in a better position to capture better results and offer a better service. We’re committed to providing the best experience for our customers. This only happens with a constant evaluation of the service and a neverending drive for efficiency.