Google Apps: Mastering Integration and Customization

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Each one includes a few customization options including smart home devices, travel info, and audio playback. You can also modify the trigger phrase at the top of the Routine settings page. Instead, hit the plus button down at the bottom to make a custom routine. Being able to input text means you can have your routine do anything you could do manually in Assistant. Remember to add a custom response to your routine so you know it triggered correctly, too. You can also have Assistant play media like podcasts, music, and sleep sounds at the end of a routine. Assistant launched with a single-tasking approach.

You can give this a shot right now by stringing two commands together. In addition, this feature is only live on the Google Home version of Assistant. More recently, Google expanded reminder functionality to understand location. When you add a reminder via Assistant on Home or your phone, consider adding a location. Wondering what that vaguely familiar song playing in the background is? Google Assistant is probably the fastest way to find out.

Assistant listens for a few seconds, and then returns a match. You can give it a kickstart. Make sure to add them to rooms in Assistant for full functionality. Assistant is great for calling up little tidbits like the weather, stock quotes, or even jokes. You can have Assistant proactively send you certain bits of information as a daily update.

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To configure a daily update, start by asking your question normally—ask it for the weather, a dad joke, whatever. Your squishy human brain is fallible, but Google Assistant can remember things without fail. All you have to do is ask it. As a handy bonus, Assistant also saves maps when you tell it where you parked. Later, you can ask Google to recall the information in various ways.

Google Photos is a fantastic backup solution for all your snapshots.

All you have to do is ask. Assistant plugs into the amazing search capabilities of Google Photos, so you can ask to see almost anything. You can ask Assistant to pull up pictures of specific people, locations, and even objects. Tap the image results to scroll through them immediately, or open Google Photos via the shortcut under your pics. You can capture screenshots on Android phones by holding the power and volume buttons, but Assistant can do it, too. In fact, it might be faster if you intend to share the screenshot right away.

Assistant then immediately brings up the sharing interface so you can send the screen to a message or upload it someplace. Google has built a basic podcast interface into the Google app, and the easiest way to access it is via Assistant.

2. Identify any playing song

If you were in the middle of an episode, Assistant picks up where you left off. Your progress is not device-specific, either. You can start listening to a podcast on your phone, then tell Assistant on Google Home you want to listen to the same podcast. Rather than start, over, it starts where you last listened on your phone.

To access this menu, open Assistant and tap the blue drawer icon in the upper right corner. Each tile links to a full info page where you can see sample commands and if necessary link your account. Bottom line: Checking out the Explore menu is the easiest way to keep track of newly added apps and services.

There are also some general Assistant command suggestion at the top. But the more powerful baked-in phone version of Assistant began its life with only voice input. The costs related with producing those services and maintaining or expanding the associated hardware and software architecture to meet the demand, are now entirely on the side of the service supplier. In summary, we can say that Cloud Computing is a new mode for delivering and consuming computing resources. The outsourcing of computing resources to specialized providers is, by itself, not a novel idea.

But looking more closely, you realize that ASP and Cloud Computing are really two very different approaches to outsourcing. Now we'll look at why. The nature of the players and billing ASP providers were historically hosting providers that offered an alternative to in-house hosting to their customer. This new separation of responsibilities between the software designer on one hand, and the company in charge of the production on the other, necessarily induces complications such as upgrading to the latest version, providing patches, and resolution of incidents.

It also weakens the autonomy of the customer. Moreover, when a vendor claims to provide a cloud version of an existing solution, you should be extremely cautious. Most of the time, such claims are not much more than a "cosmetic operation" cooked up by the marketing service to boost sales of existing software.

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In ASP mode, the customer usually pays for a package and later adds options when the demand for storage capacity increases. Cloud providers are pure players that offer their services in a hosted mode. In general, there is no such concept as a version of the deployed software. Moreover, adding features happens seamlessly and continuously for the customer, unlike traditional software, which evolves stepwise. Billing is on a pay per use basis and it is therefore quite easy to change those resources and hence costs without the hassle of renegotiating a contract. Internal solution architecture and access to hardware resources The most common use of ASP is the deployment of a standard edition of some software on hardware dedicated to a single client.

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In this approach, each client has its own dedicated servers hosted by its ASP provider. At first glance, it might seem reassuring to keep separate resources for different customers. However, this automatically leads to poor equipment usage, significant additional costs, and low flexibility when the traffic load and the need for processing power suddenly increase. Moreover, some applications are not compatible with cluster deployment and don't take full advantage of such a topology.

This limits their processing capacity. In Cloud mode, there is a thorough separation between an application and the hardware on which it runs. Customers now buy a certain amount of processing power, a number of accounts, or some storage space rather than dedicated servers.

To implement this, the inner architecture of the solution must have been designed properly. This implies that an application should be able to leverage any additional processing capacity. Moreover, the application should also be designed from the start to allow managing all customers on a single platform. This is often referred to as a "multi-tenant" architecture. As already mentioned, this explains why only new players, who have developed applications specifically for this model, will be competitive in this market. Databases, application servers, and EAI belong to this category.

Most often, these applications reside on a platform that includes one or more middleware components. All common operations on a product platform such as deployment, upgrading, backup, and restoration belong here. Now let's look at the four main hosting modes that we need to distinguish. Traditional In-House hosting In this mode, which is often referred to as "on-premise", a company manages all the components of its applications directly. It owns its server premises where all equipment running the middleware and the applications is installed. Local teams are in charge of daily operations and deployment.

It allows renting processing units and storage capacity on demand. IaaS implies that the middleware and IT operations remain under the responsibility of the company that uses the IaaS. Namely, it includes middleware elements such as databases and application servers. PaaS can be used for instance by a traditional software vendor who would like to propose its products in SaaS mode. PaaS can also be used to run internal applications, by which we mean developed in-house. Unlike IaaS, the middleware is now under the responsibility of the service provider. Software and IT operations both remain under the control of the company that buys the services.

It offers software packages as services rather than as traditional executable software. There is a profound difference between SaaS and classical software. SaaS is nothing less than a set of ready to use services that requires no installation and no maintenance whatsoever for the company that uses them. This constitutes a radical change in the way a company operates its IT resources. Conclusion A wide range of hosting modes for enterprise applications is currently available. The general trend, however, is towards outsourcing of computing resources and it is fair to say that Cloud Computing largely contributes to this movement.

The following figure recaps the various hosting modes and areas of responsibilities that follow: Servers Middleware Software Operations On-premise laaS PaaS SaaS Internal Cloud SaaS and software architectures Before we go any further in our study of SaaS solutions, let's recall some basic facts concerning enterprise software architecture.

The SaaS model is actually not suited for all architectures and you should be aware of the limits that apply when SaaS is used jointly with older architectures. They are based on the simple principle of a passive terminal connected to a central system through the network. The latter manages absolutely everything, the session, the user interface, the business processing, and the storage of data. Two types of centralized architectures can currently be found in companies.

On the other, there are virtualization systems for the desktop, like Citrix or VNC. The following figure illustrates this kind of architecture: LAN Connected protocol Passive terminal Centralized architecture Mainframe Centralized architectures are definitely not compatible with the SaaS approach for several reasons. First, they don't rely on modern and open standards. Next, they require permanent connections. Finally, they are not built on the server side using flexible, multi-tenant architectures.

The client-server architecture Client-server architectures were massively deployed during the 90s, when relational databases and desktop computers became available. They are all based on client software called the thick client installed on the user's desktop and permanently connected to a database through a local network.

These protocols have many advantages, including standardization. They allow a better use of networks and server-side resources when compared to connected and proprietary protocols used by client-server architectures. The disconnected nature of the HTTP protocol implies less resource consumption than that required for maintaining a permanent connection in the case of client-server architecture. A single server can thus handle the requests from a large number of users. WAN Web Web architecture Diconnected protocol Server Web Web architectures are well-adapted to SaaS constraints and nearly all SaaS applications rely on this kind of architecture, whose flexibility and openness allow quick deployments with low coupling to the desktop system.

Standalone architectures By standalone architectures, we mean applications that were designed specifically for the desktop, running Windows most of the time and sometimes Mac OS. They don't use any network connections. These applications run autonomously on the desktop. They indeed require a level of usability that HTML pages have had a hard time matching.

These had actually changed very little over the preceding years. The historical dominance of Microsoft's Office suite is now likely to be challenged in the near future. Google has the means to offer very low costs and unique collaborative features. Private or public cloud? A "private cloud" refers to the application of some cloud computing technologies within a given company.

The wording first appeared when some companies decided to reuse internally the methods and the tools of cloud computing. In fact, many IT specialists consider that, strictly speaking, this wording is misleading or even meaningless. The delocalization of computing resources is what really makes the essence of Cloud Computing.

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In such conditions, referring to a private cloud is simply an oxymoron. Moreover, a central idea of the cloud is that each customer pays only for the resources that were really consumed which, here again, loses its relevance in the case where the services are hosted on-premise. One last point: it should be clear that the robustness of the datacenters, like those of Google, largely stems from their size and their geographical spread.

Few organizations, whether public or private, can rely on such large-scale deployments. But these scale effects are precisely the primary reason for the benefits of Cloud Computing and they also favor optimal energy consumption. Current solutions are most often based on expensive implementations of clustering.

They are often complicated to deploy and far from satisfactory. Henceforth, the new platforms use virtualization on a scale that was unknown until recently. This opens new horizons to IT management and it is therefore easy to understand that companies now try to master these technologies for in-house use. The IT departments that position themselves as internal service providers have adopted the "private cloud" wording. It should be clear though, that this is really just another form of the traditional virtualization, rather than genuine Cloud Computing.

In the end, the private cloud is best understood as a marketing concept, rather than a technology or a real IT concept. Except for larger companies, it is unlikely for a "private cloud" to reach the same consolidation level as the public clouds. However, the "private cloud" can be a real opportunity for IT departments who wish to virtualize business applications for which no public offer is currently available. To illustrate this evolution, let's examine the present situation for most IS.

This foundation includes at least the networking equipment, the servers, and shared elements such as directories, proxies, or firewalls. These are most often organized into autonomous silos and communicate little with each other. This has changed very little over the past 20 years and is still based on a classical PS running Windows. Google's vision is based on generalizing web technologies to business applications, to the usual office productivity tools spreadsheets, word processing , fueled by a massive adoption of mobile technologies.

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Once most applications are web apps, it becomes legitimate to question the Windows-based PC desktop that we have been accustomed to for over 20 years now. This old paradigm is indeed challenged by an emerging model: a lightweight desktop built around a single application, namely: the browser. The economic stakes here are enormous because the desktop is a major expenditure for many IT departments. The following figure illustrates Google's vision for the s IS. Some application silos are simply outsourced in the cloud, especially for commodities such as email, calendaring, collaborative portals, and office tools.

For the time being, the more specialized business applications still remain in-house. The decline of the PC is for the benefit of a lighter weight desktop on one hand and of course for the newer generation of smart phones and mobile terminals Google's Android and of course Apple's iPhone and iPad. Chapter 10 is devoted to the Google desktop and will discuss these issues in more depth.

Integration within enterprise portal solution: To unify application access. Integration with processes and data using indexation mechanisms and two-way exchanges that go beyond those offered by classical silos. For this reason, the platform offers many options to integrate the Google Apps services with other existing components. The Google Apps Marketplace, just like the Apple Store, provides easy access to solutions from partners that offer products and services that supplement the basic offer. The economic impact of Cloud Computing A new economic approach to computing The Cloud model deeply changes the economic model of computing.

The previous evolution of computing had already favored immaterial investments in software rather than in hardware. Now, the economic model of the cloud goes one step further by suppressing the investment altogether for the consumer of computing power. The on-demand principle will impact companies, namely by reducing the weight of their assets on the balance sheet and reducing the amount of capital frozen to that end.

The pooling of services will provide an additional economy of scale. Reduced cash requirements This benefit is magnified by the fact that the immediate availability reduces cash requirements. Inception phases, tests, and evaluation are most often done without acquisition, as Cloud providers offer their readily available environments. Eventually, the project life cycle is made shorter and simpler. Its financing becomes less onerous.

Consumption of seed capital is reduced and, moreover, it is risk-resistant because the resources can be adjusted progressively when the need arises. Improving cost visibility Besides the benefits regarding the immobilization of capital and the savings on the costs of operation, the Cloud also helps improve the visibility of service costs. An increasing number of companies create a catalogue of services whose costs are measured and monitored. Contract management allows companies to precisely follow costs and to compare them with other solutions on the market.

One corollary is the readability of the contract negotiated with the service provider involved; we can only hope that the present simplicity of this emerging economic model will not get lost in labyrinthine pricing policies. Should the Cloud and Google be adopted now? The questions that are often asked by IT departments, when discussing Cloud Computing, is: "What is the maturity of the concepts and of the solution?

Today however, there is no longer any doubt. Many studies show that the cost and new application benefits are so high that the companies that fail to adopt it will risk constant or even growing costs whereas their competitors will see them decrease significantly. The loss of business opportunities at a time when collaborative teamwork is becoming a necessity to guarantee employee productivity should also be taken into account. What is sure at present, is that smaller- to middle-sized organizations 5, to 10, users will take advantage of the Cloud very quickly.

Google's numerous references in this market demonstrate it quite clearly. The larger companies, whose ISs are much more complex, will first need to assess the impact of the Cloud on the governance and the organization these points shall be dealt with in Chapter 3. But even for this market segment, the Google Apps have proved their effectiveness. Finally, the move towards the cloud announced recently by Microsoft, a historic player in the desktop business, testifies the maturity of the concepts. Cloud Computing has with no doubt entered the phase of mass deployment.

Summary This first chapter presented Google and the origins of the Google Apps solution. Next, the compatibility of the various software architectures with Cloud Computing was discussed. The chapter concluded with general remarks regarding the impact of adopting the cloud in an enterprise IS. The SaaS model described in the previous chapter raises a number of security and data protection issues.

At the same time, however, it offers new opportunities and new guarantees in those precise areas. This chapter presents Google's response to four important security-related issues: security against data theft, non-disclosure of data to third parties, guarantees as far as data availability is concerned, and finally, the existing solutions for retrieving data hosted by Google. SaaS and data security The distributed world that is emerging with the advent of SaaS raises new questions related to data protection and data security. However, existing solutions to those problems are often largely ignored and this contributes to anchoring doubt in the minds of many people.

Too often, this doubt prevents the adoption of these new tools and ways of working. This is especially true in the business world, where such security issues are a particularly sensitive subject. Of course, it is perfectly legitimate for potential customers of Google to ask these kinds of questions. This chapter thus presents Google's response to these concerns, within the specific context of Google Apps, both on a technical and an organizational level.

The list of potential ill intentions is a long one. They could for instance stem from hackers looking for money or just for fame, from rogue states, or from companies that practice electronic market intelligence. This covers the existing guarantees against non-disclosure of data by Google employees who could access it. This covers, in particular, the conservation of data over time. By this, we mean the possibility that should exist for each customer to quickly withdraw all data hosted in Google's datacenters.

Due to lack of space, we won't address in detail here each and every technical or legal aspect related to data security or data protection. But, when appropriate, we provide references to Google material for those readers who would like to go into more detail on these matters. SaaS opportunities The questions related to the aforementioned four security issues are obviously legitimate ones.

However, they should not obscure the important fact that the SaaS model, on the contrary, in many respects contributes to improving the security of information exchanges. As itinerant lifestyles become more widespread, the occasions for losing data stored on thumb drives or portable disks obviously increase. The multiplication of computers on which this same data is used makes the problem even worse by increasing the likelihood that the files eventually get infected by a virus. Finally, the multiplication of downloads from one computer to another and the repeated use of mail attachments favors virus propagation.

The situation just described should be contrasted with using a collaborative tool like Google Docs, for instance, where all documents are stored online, in Google's ultra-secure datacenters. No more worries about losing any documents! Moreover, each time a document is uploaded or downloaded from Google, it will undergo a set of extreme defense measures administered by Google mechanisms.

Thus, no more worries anymore about virus spread either! Similarly, when a security hole is detected in an application, the SaaS model demonstrates significant advantages, especially when compared to the traditional procedure that involves installing software patches. Studies have shown that three to six months are often necessary before a patch is first made available by a software vendor and then actually deployed on all computers within a company.

This extends the IS's period of vulnerability to attacks by the same duration. Conversely, fixing a security flaw in a SaaS services usually occurs much more quickly. Discovery, to begin with, occurs much sooner for simple statistical reasons: a much larger number of users are likely to detect it. The fix itself is faster too, because it happens directly on Google's infrastructure, without any user intervention.

Let's conclude this introduction by noting that, for Google, establishing a genuine trust relationship with its customer, regarding security and confidentiality is of utmost importance. It is nothing less than the viability and the sustainability of its economic model which is at stake. The fact that stakes are so high for Google remains perhaps as one of its best guarantees of credibility and reliability on these matters.

The multi-layer security strategy Google corporate security policies Google's security policies cover account data, corporate services, networks, change management, incident response, and data centers. All procedures are systematically challenged and updated. All persons employed by Google must comply with these policies. They are also given advice on security policies such as the safe use of the Internet and how to act when working from remote locations. Guidance is also provided on how to handle sensitive data. Special attention is given to emerging technologies such as the safe use of mobile devices and peer-to-peer software.

All these documents are written with simplicity in mind, knowing that advice is only effective when the documents are actually read. Organizational security The Information Security Team is a full-time team comprised of world's best experts in information application and network security. The team is part of the Google Software Engineering and Operation organizations.

It is in charge of maintaining Google's perimeter defense systems. They develop security processes and build security infrastructure. They play a key role in elaborating the company's security and standards. Still another team is dedicated to physical security. Physical security of datacenters relies both on the strict confidentiality of their exact location and on the complex biometric tests that qualified personnel must undergo.

Buildings are all unmarked to protect them from prying eyes. People who are not Google employees have only very limited access to datacenters. Intrusion tests are performed routinely to detect any possible failures in the procedures. It is more thorough than the type I. Google Apps run in a multi-tenant and distributed environment. Customer data is distributed across a large number of computers using clustered databases.

Google uses a distributed file system GFS that was developed in house. The data is replicated on many systems for reliability. Files are given names that are generated randomly. They are thus not interpretable by humans. Requests from one service to another service are systematically authenticated and authorized. Administrative access to production applications by operations engineers is similarly controlled.

Role and group management for engineers is performed in a centralized way. Access to production services or accounts is provided on an as-needed basis only. When a Google Apps user or an administrator erases a message or account, this data is deleted from all active servers and all replication servers. Pointers to the data are removed and the dereferenced data will eventually be overwritten by new data over time.

When disks are being replaced, they are first erased, then this erasure is checked by two independent individuals. Each disk that was erased is tracked by its serial number. Personnel security The hiring process at Google takes security into account. Whenever possible, Google conducts criminal, credit, immigration, and security checks on people being hired. All employees are provided with security training.

More in-depth security training is provided depending on the employee's role or position. There are confidential reporting mechanisms to ensure that employees may report any kind of security violation when they witness them. Physical and environmental security Mechanisms used to protect Google's data centers vary depending on their geographic location, because risks are obviously not the same everywhere.

Security measures follow well-accepted best practices, among which: access cards designed by Google, cameras, alarm systems, and security guards. The data center buildings where systems are installed are physically separated from areas to which the public has access. Cameras monitor suspicious activity and facilities are systematically patrolled by security guards. Activity is monitored by HR cameras and is kept for later viewing, should it become necessary.

Access to data centers is restricted according to the role of visitors, not on their hierarchical position. As a consequence, even the most senior executives at Google are not granted access to the data centers. Data centers are designed for resiliency and redundancy to minimize single points of failure.

Electrical systems are redundant, too. Operational security Google's strategy against malware relies on both manual and automated scanners that browse websites that could be a threat by propagating malware or organizing phishing. The blacklist of sites produced by this process has been integrated by most recent browsers. Multiple anti-virus engines are used to protect Gmail. This aspect of security will be discussed in detail in Chapter 5, Security Tools of this book.

Internal traffic is analyzed for suspicious behavior that could be generated by botnet connections. Any kind of unusual behavior is traced by a proprietary correlation system. When a vulnerability requiring a fix has been discovered by the Security Team, it is logged, prioritized, and assigned to an individual who will be responsible for its resolution. The Google Security Team is available 24x7 to all employees, to help solve any security issue that may occur. Events that could impact customers are given highest priority. Access control Each employee is given a unique ID and account by the HR department upon hiring, with a predefined set of privileges.

This unique account is used for all systems at Google. Systems require strong authentication wherever a password is needed. This mechanism uses one-time password generators.

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Each employee is granted a minimal set of privileges that can be augmented only by following a formal process that requires approval from the system owner, manager or other managers. These approvals are managed by dedicated workflow tools that record all changes that were made. It assumes that people and services may be unavailable for up to 30 days.

Regulatory compliance Regarding third-party requests for user information, Google follows the standard legal processes. If the request is considered valid by Google's Legal team reviews, the user or the organization whose information is required is notified unless prohibited by law. Security at the user level In September , Google also introduced a strong authentication mechanism, which further increases end-user security by requiring users to enter a 6-digit code every time they log in. This 6-digit code is generated on the fly. Strong authentication requires moreover possession of a unique object, like a cell-phone with a specific number.

We discuss this strong authentication mechanism in more detail in section 8. Data privacy Google adheres to the U. Safe Harbor principles on the protection of privacy. Use private information only to improve user experience and to design new useful services. Comply with all applicable laws regarding the protection of privacy.

Develop tools that allow users to access and manage their personal information knowingly. The details of the privacy rules that apply are summarized on the same page. Notify a user explicitly when data is collected and explain what kind of use is made of that data. Never take personal data hostage and allow users to adjust the level of privacy according to their needs. Manage data in a responsible way by consulting the user and developer communities and by consulting external experts.

What data is collected? When Google intends to use personal data for purposes other than those specified in this document, it will seek explicit permission from the user. The user may then choose to refuse such use. Let's look at the key elements of the Privacy Rules. Use of personal information Data such as the username, the password, mail address, or credit card number in encrypted form, obviously is collected for the sole purpose of improving the quality of service. Cookies Cookies are small files, stored locally on a desktop computer, which contain strings of characters, transmitted by a web server.

They are used, for instance, to uniquely identify a user session. Google's goal, here as well, is to improve quality of service by storing for each user his or her preferences or search habits. Connection data Each time a user connects to one of Google's services, data such as the IP address, the type of browser, the language, and the time of day is collected for similar reasons as those previously mentioned. Note however that, if for one reason or another, a user does not want this geographic data to be sent to Google, he or she can simply disable it on the device itself.

Technical means To ensure strict privacy, data is both encrypted and stored on servers in a noncontiguous manner. For even greater security, file names are randomized. For instance, it is totally impossible to reconstruct all files belonging to one user. To prevent hacking, the Google security team works in close collaboration with companies specializing in security to continuously optimize its infrastructures.

Most of Google's software infrastructure is not standard but was developed specifically by Google for its own purposes. On the software side, each server is equipped with the strict minimum that is necessary to perform the tasks to which it is dedicated. Availability of data and services When facing a natural catastrophe or a failure of a local system, Google's basic principle to ensure constant availability of its services is always the same: redundancy.

Data is systematically replicated in multiple data centers located in different areas. Moreover, robust failover software mechanisms ensure service continuity, whatever happens. Another important architecture principle at Google, which helps ensure optimal availability, is a thorough decoupling of software from hardware. For example, no process depends on the availability of a particular piece of hardware for its execution. It also indicates the actions undertaken by Google teams to fix them and it gives an estimate for the time necessary to restore the situation to normal.

How difficult is it to leave Google? It is almost second nature, for some actors in the computer industry, to try and create populations of captive customers by making migration to a competitor's solution as difficult as possible. Most often they do so by all technical, financial, and legal means imaginable. Google, on the contrary, is betting on retaining its customer in the long run.

It therefore tries to earn their trust by letting each of them leave Google solutions for solutions of its competitors when they wish. As far as Google services are concerned, and more specifically for the Google Apps that we shall discuss extensively in this book, the Data Liberation Front proposes practical information for the best way to retrieve data or to enter them. On the Data Liberation Front site: the menu on the left allows selection of a Google service; the central part provides explanation of how to retrieve data from the application.

The "revolutionary iconography" suggests the unusual or even subversive aspect of the approach. The mission that the Data Liberation Front has set for itself is an ongoing process. According to the team, the process is currently about two thirds complete. It is obviously perfectly legal to use Google Apps, both for public and private organization whether in the U. Google respects the strict EU regulations on data protection and adheres to the principles of the U.

Safe Harbor regarding privacy protection. Summary This chapter discussed four issues related to securing data in the cloud and the answers provided by Google. The main points were security of data against theft, privacy of customer data within Google, and data availability in case of a disaster. We also discussed the means provided by Google for a user to retrieve data from any Google application.

This last point is of utmost importance and was the subject of special attention from Google's Data Liberation Front, whose aim is to make leaving Google services as easy as possible. The communication tools category comprises Gmail, an email system that is currently the state of the art in its category. In the same category, Google Calendar is an online agenda with advanced sharing and publication features. Finally, Google Talk is an instant messaging system combined with audio and video communication. The Google Groups tool allows, among other things, managing mailing lists and can also be put in this first category.

Chapter 3, Communication Tools will be dedicated to these tools and will also touch on the availability of these tools on mobile terminals. The collaboration tools make up the second category of services. Google Sites and Google Docs are the most important among them. Google Sites is a tool for quickly creating simple websites and publishing them.

In some aspects, Google Sites is closer to a wiki than a traditional web content management system. Google Docs is an online office suite that includes, as you would expect, a word processor Google Documents , a spreadsheet Google Spreadsheet , and a presentation tool Google Presentation. Google Video also belongs to this category of sharing tools. These topics will be addressed in Chapter 4, Collaboration Tools. All these use the same address book, and this contributes largely to the integration of the various tools. This very high level of integration is what distinguishes the Google Apps from competing offers.

For this reason, we will emphasize using these tools jointly when one application benefits from the services of another. For example, you can easily include a Google document or an agenda in a website created with Google Sites. Finally, the last category of tools comprises the security tools. These are the Postini services. Postini is a specialized company that designed these services, and was subsequently acquired by Google.

Here, we'll distinguish protection tools such as antivirus and anti-spam tools from the archiving and search tools. These tools are intended for domain administrators. Chapter 5, Security Tools introduces the primary features that are available in the Postini administration console which, as we shall see, is rather complex! A console linked to this domain name groups all administrative tasks related to a deployment.

These are described succinctly at the end of Chapter 3, Communication Tools and Chapter 4, Collaboration Tools for the application themselves and in Chapter 5, Security Tools for the security services. The following figure schematically represents the interconnection between the Google Apps and the IS. It also shows the tasks implied by a migration to the Google Apps starting from a classical architecture. The migration issues will be the subject of Part 3. It is free. Beyond the online tools that come with the Google Apps, Google offers Google Apps Engine, a platform for deploying and hosting web applications and Google Apps Marketplace, a platform for purchasing services.

These two topics will be addressed in Chapter 6, Extending the Platform. It includes search tools and offers offline access. It also integrates instant messaging and video. Google Calendar Calendar and planning tools. Google Talk Instant messaging. It also exists as a standalone application and integrates with Gmail. Collaboration Tools Google Docs An online office suite, which includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation tool. Google Sites A collaborative web content management tool that borrows from the wiki philosophy.

Google Video A video sharing tool. Postini Services A set of security anti-spam, anti-virus, various filters and mail archiving services Security Tools Extensions of the Platform Google Apps Market Place A website for purchasing applications to enhance the Google Apps platform. Google Apps Engine A solution for designing and hosting web applications on Google's high-availability infrastructure. Communication Tools This chapter presents the two applications that are at the heart of the Google Apps suite: namely Gmail and Google Calendar.

We do not provide a tutorial for these two applications but rather we give a critical description of these tools and compare them with the more traditional desktop applications. The emphasis is on the high level of integration of these tools, which is precisely one of the main strengths of the Google Apps solution. A brief history of Gmail Gmail was designed in the early s under the leadership of Paul Buchheit, the developer who also designed AdSense, Google's contextual ads mechanism. Gmail was made publicly available on April 1st, in a limited number of countries including Germany, Austria and the UK.

Jonathan Rosenberg, the vice president of Google products himself, had to clarify the situation and attest that Gmail was actually not a joke but indeed a fully functional product! During a preliminary phase, Google used an invitation mechanism that allowed only a few lucky owners of a Gmail account to invite a limited number of other people. This allowed Google to control the growth of the new system. As soon as the number of invitations was raised, the price automatically dropped and Google soon decided to change its policy and banned the sale of Gmail accounts.

Gmail was then made publicly available without invitation, starting Feb. Communication Tools Since June 5th, , the Gmail Labs service allows users to test new, experimental features for Gmail on a volunteer basis. This allows Google engineers to gather feedback from the most motivated users and continuously improve the service. For example, the Google Gears plug-in that enables offline access to Gmail, was first proposed within the Google Labs.

It has now been available since January 28th, The size of storage space went up from 1 GB in to 7. Gmail in detail How is Gmail different from traditional messaging tools? Nothing to set up on the client machine Gmail is an online messaging tool. From a user perspective, it requires strictly no setup whatsoever on the client machine. Everything just happens in the browser which should, however, be a recent version. In any case, the browser should be kept up-to-date to take advantage of the latest improvements in JavaScript parsing and in HTML 5 implementation. Version 6 of Internet Explorer and even Google's own Chrome 3.

Constant improvements The Gmail service is steadily improving, partly thanks to feedback from users who test its newest experimental features through Gmail Labs. We stress the opt-in character of this approach: these functions must be explicitly activated by the user, as by default they are not. Gmail Labs features may be turned on one by one. Moreover, you can be quite confident that Google's engineers will design tools that take advantage of the new HTML 5 standard by the time it is eventually finalized No more mail servers!

As all data is being hosted in Google's datacenters, mail servers are no longer needed, thus saving users the cost of maintaining the associated hardware and software infrastructure. More importantly, the complex and delicate tasks of maintaining a constant quality of service, by appropriately scaling the infrastructure proportionally to the user load, are now completely Google's responsibility. Without a doubt, Google can be recognized as one of the most competent companies in terms of proving the scalability of its services.

Account management and security service monitoring are both performed through an administrative web console. These questions will be addressed shortly in the paragraph devoted to administration and more broadly in Chapter 7. State-of-the-art security tools Since its inception, Gmail has had particularly effective anti-spam tools.

Currently, the features related to email security anti-spam, anti-virus, anti-phishing , archiving indexing messages, search, privacy policy , and web security filtering, anti-virus, anti-spyware are all supplied by the Postini services. Postini is actually a leader in this market and it deals with billions of emails daily. Managing Postini services however, is a rather complex task. It definitely requires that Google Apps domain administrators be properly trained in order to configure these services optimally.

More detail on this topic will be given in Chapter 5. In particular, Ajax avoids reloading an entire page when only parts of it need to be refreshed. The key figure is In the event that this level is not reached, Google will offer free days of service as compensation, proportionate to the outage time.

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On the left of the screen is a set of links that allows you to select various types of messages such as: starred messages, sent messages, drafts, and so on. At the top of the screen you find a particularly powerful search tool, especially when the advanced version is used. We shall come back to this shortly. This is quite a useful feature, but some users who not familiar with this type of classification might first need to get acquainted with it.

Spell-checking and formatting Just as any other text-processing system, Gmail offers an online spell checker. For the moment, spell checking does not occur in real time but must be explicitly requested. Even though the tool is rather rudimentary at the moment, it honestly does the job you'd expect. The formatting toolbar and the spell checker in action Without pretending to be a substitute for a word processor like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages or even like Google Docs from the Google Apps suite see Chapter 4, Collaboration Tools , Gmail offers some rudimentary formatting as shown in the previous screenshot.

Each import is limited to users. As far as importing the messages themselves into Gmail, the actual procedure will depend a great deal on the mail platform from which you are starting. Provided you have registered for a Google Apps account, there is Google Apps Sync for MS Outlook, which is a free tool that allows you to import at once a whole set of messages retrieved from either a.

These migration issues will be discussed in more detail in Part 4 of this book. The main features Labels One of the most useful and innovative features in Gmail is probably the use of labels as a mechanism for message classification. They are actually meant to replace the more conventional use of a hierarchy of folders. An example of using labels to classify messages in Gmail. Several labels can be associated to a single message. Perhaps the main advantage of using labels instead of folders is that several labels can be associated to a single message whereas obviously each message can only be contained in a single folder.

A few carefully chosen labels, which typically correspond to habitual tasks, can create a very efficient classification scheme. This way, searching is made particularly fast and easy. At first, using labels might be puzzling for those users who are accustomed to putting things in folders, then subfolders, and so on.

But after a short period of acquaintance, labels will prove much more practical than folders. The message should then be classified with generic label replacing the former one. There are essentially three ways to perform searches. Not surprisingly, the first one uses a number of search criteria: Entering search criteria in Gmail The second search method is best suited to performing simple searches for a string within any part of the messages body, subject, address : Searching message for a particular string within the body or the subject of the messages Finally, you can use a combination of keywords such as "has:attachement", "is: unread", and so on to perform more sophisticated searches: Searching for messages, which contain two specific labels and which have been read It is worth mentioning that searches include the contents of chat messages as well.

Filters Defining a set of filters can help to automate a number of recurring tasks such as: sorting, archiving, labeling, deletion, or forwarding. Filters are defined in two steps. First, we have a set of filtering criteria: [ 52 ] Chapter 3 Entering filtering criteria. Secondly, there are the actions to take on filtered messages: Defining which action should be taken on filtered messages Contact management Contact management is an integral part of Gmail.

These contacts can be reused in many other Google Apps applications and services, namely for document sharing and collaboration see, for instance, Chapter 4, Collaboration Tools on Google Docs and Google Sites and to send invitations through Google Calendar. Groups can be user-defined.

In a way, they are quite similar to the labels we discussed above. The same user may simultaneously belong to several groups. This data can be synchronized online with the address books of most smartphones see Chapter 5, Managing a Google Apps Domain. Anti-spam and Antivirus From a user perspective, the operation of anti-spam and anti-virus tools is completely transparent. The user needs to do nothing! It is the administrator who is entirely in charge of configuring Postini security tools through the so-called Content Manager see Chapter 5.

One of the administrator's tasks is to define filter settings that enforce company regulations regarding the content of outgoing or incoming mail messages as well as the type of mail attachments. Postini anti-virus thus adds one security layer to the basic security services already provided by Gmail. Any message that is deemed suspicious by one of these filters will be automatically routed to the quarantine.

After examination, by the user or the administrator, it may be routed to the inbox or deleted permanently. Quarantine Blocked message Internet Message security anti-spam filter anti-virus filter regulatory filter Gmail Copied message Searching for messages Message archives Private archives Schematic workings of the anti-spam, anti-virus, and content filters for incoming mail. Rules should be set at an enterprise level to block illegitimate mail using criteria such as the source of the mail, the nature of its attachments, or the occurrence of some keywords in its content.

A similar pattern applies to outgoing mail and to messaging within the company. It can provide an online archive for a preset period ranging from 1 to 10 years and even for several decades without any limit on storage space! This can prove particularly useful for legal archiving, for human resources, and so on. Once it has been archived, a message can't be modified anymore and therefore possesses a legal value. A global, centralized archive maintains a copy of all messages of all users of a Google Apps domain. Moreover, users have individual access to their own personal archive provided the administrator has granted them the appropriate right.

Access is via a web application called the "Message Center". The Message Center is a web application that allows users to access their personal archive and to view their quarantine Lost messages can thus be recovered and suspect messages can be analyzed safely. Translation tools The goal of Google, in the long run, is to remove any language barrier on the Web.

Among the concrete steps taken in this direction, let's mention an automatic translation tool that has been available in Gmail Labs since May, Enabling or disabling the automatic translation service in Gmail Labs [ 55 ] Communication Tools It is therefore possible to use Gmail to have a conversation where each writer uses his or her own mother tongue. Considering the present quality of translation, this vision remains somewhat theoretical but the feature may still be quite useful and the accuracy of translation is only improving with time. The translation tool integrated in Gmail.

This protocol thus operates in a unidirectional mode. Once it has been transferred from the server to the client, a message will generally be deleted from that server. Moreover, it does not imply the deletion of the original message from the server. Thus, it is clearly more appropriate for wireless, multi-channel messaging. Today, it is the de facto standard for mobile access. Moving a message from one folder to another or deleting a message on the local client will automatically be reflected on the Gmail web client and vice versa.

It is important to be aware though that, due to the nature of the IMAP protocol, a message with multiple labels will be downloaded as many times as there are different labels. Generally, this is not an issue, given the small size of most messages and provided you take care not to download large attachments redundantly.