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Editor's note: A few weeks ago, we announced Google Drive for Work, a new premium offering for businesses that includes unlimited storage, advanced audit reporting and new security controls. To celebrate the announcement and show how Drive helps businesses around the world, we’re sharing a few stories from a handful of customers using Drive (and the rest of the Google Apps suite) in innovative ways. Today’s guest blogger is Daniel Chiha, Communications Specialist (Operations) at Dick Smith, an electronics retailer in Australia and New Zealand.

The Retail Operations team at Dick Smith moved to Google Apps just over a year ago to improve the communication and coordination between our 3,000 or so staff in 376 stores across Australia and New Zealand. Since then, we’ve seen some pretty dramatic improvements and efficiencies in the way we get information out to our staff, thanks to Google Drive and Google Sites.

Our workforce is very mobile. Not only do we have a fleet of 23 Area Managers who spend their time between multiple stores, but our 3,000 in-store staff spend most of their time on the floor with customers. Our team depends on a steady stream of updates and materials throughout the week — from new product guides, promotional activities, upcoming launches through to employee safety processes — so it’s not only important that people see the updates meant for them, but that we’re able to track the critical messages for compliance.
Before moving to Google Apps, it took up to 24 hours to get these messages out to everyone through a series of phone hook ups, faxes, emails and a document delivery system that polled nightly. This was especially challenging when dealing with issues like product callbacks or promotions, where it’s essential for the team to move fast in order to avoid potential problems and ensure that new offers are immediately available to customers.

Now, with Google Drive and Google Sites, we’re able to provide thousands of employees with a bird's-eye view of important updates and key documents across the company. That way, if we need to get an urgent message out or a new employee needs access to a how-to guidebook, there’s just one place they need to look — and we can get everything listed or posted quickly and effectively. We create a master site with sections for each team, with links to Drive folders that house everything from planograms and promotion details to instructional guidebooks and tickets. Area Managers can then access both the site and the files from their tablets or phones on the go, and our sales staff can see updates from their own devices or the store computers.

We’ve also built a new system with Forms and Sheets to streamline operational communications. Instead of relying on complex email trails and lots of phone calls, employees now submit their sign-offs in a single Form. Responses are captured in a shared Sheet that the Operations team uses to track feedback and responses in real-time.

Google Apps helped us think outside the square and create a unified and integrated communications platform that can be accessed instantly on any device. But more importantly, it ensures that our store teams have immediate access to the latest information, which in turn provides our customers with a better experience in store.

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Editor's note: A few weeks ago, we announced Google Drive for Work, a new premium offering for businesses that includes unlimited storage, advanced audit reporting and new security controls. To celebrate the announcement and show how Drive helps businesses around the world, we’re sharing a few stories from a handful of customers using Drive (and the rest of the Google Apps suite) in innovative ways. Today’s guest blogger is Arvin Reyes, Chief Information Officer for KFC Philippines, which operates 230 restaurants and six plants in that country. To learn more, read the full case study, or see what other organizations that use Google Drive have to say.

KFC has been on a steady growth path since being introduced to the Philippines in 1967. With restaurants, plants, and offices across the country, fast and easy communication and information sharing are vital to our success. This means tools like file storage, email, calendaring, and document creation need to be user-friendly for employees and relatively trouble-free for our IT team. But until recently, our mix of email and document management software caused more problems than it solved – with server over-capacity and slow response time, they just slowed down our business growth.

We decided that a single communications platform with everything from storage to email to document creation was the necessary solution, and Google Apps was our answer. Not only did Apps meet all our requirements for cost-effectiveness, reliability and ease-of-use, but in Drive we saw a way to help our increasingly mobile workforce, which needs access to documents while out of the office.

We’ve boosted our productivity on creative work by 15% by switching from snail mail to Google Drive. Before we made the move, we sent creative materials back and forth between our home office and our advertising agency through messengers and the postal service, racking up costs and taking time away from other tasks. Now, with Drive, we can share large files like high-resolution images and merchandise artwork through the cloud, so material gets to our agency (and back to us) faster and at a significantly lower cost. And with a single location to store everything we’re working on, we’ve dramatically improved our ability to collaborate on projects.

Gmail makes us better at communicating: Now that everyone has 30GB of mail storage available, they don’t need to waste time constantly cleaning out their inboxes to make room for new emails, or asking colleagues to re-send emails because they can’t find them. Our IT team loves Gmail because complaints about email services have decreased to zero since we began using it – in fact, IT’s support work for communication tools has gone down by 25% since we started using Google Apps. That gives our team more time to focus on activities that are more directly tied to the bottom line.

Google Apps makes everyday problems like scheduling meetings disappear. Our old decision making process used to require the scheduling of several meetings and calls, with various reports and documents emailed back and forth among different teams. Now we schedule meetings on Google Calendar, where we can see everyone’s availability. For these meetings, we use a single shared document in Google Docs that serves as a running update on progress. This new workflow fundamentally changed the way we work with one another. What used to take days to decide is now possible within hours.

Google Apps not only makes it easy for us to manage storage and bandwidth, it keeps our employees happy. After six months on the platform, 95% of people told us they’re satisfied with Google Apps, which means they can enjoy their work of serving and helping our customers.

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Google Drive for Work is a new premium offering for businesses that includes unlimited storage, advanced audit reporting and new security controls and features, such as encryption at rest.

If you're getting ready to move your company to Drive, one of the first things on your mind is how to migrate all your existing files with as little hassle as possible. It's easy to migrate your files by uploading them directly to Drive or using the Drive Sync client. But, what if you have files stored elsewhere that you want to consolidate? Or what if you want to migrate multiple users at once? Many independent software vendors (ISVs) have built solutions to help organizations migrate their files from different File Sync and Share (FSS) solutions, local hard drives and other data sources. Here are some of the options available for you to use:
  • Cloud Migrator, by Cloud Technology Solutions, migrates user accounts and files to Google Drive and other Google Apps services. (website, blogpost)
  • Cloudsfer, by Tzunami, transfers files from Box, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive to Google Drive. (website)
  • Migrator for Google Apps, by Backupify, migrates and consolidates personal Google Drive or other Google Apps for Business accounts into a single domain. (website, blogpost)
  • Mover migrates data from 23 cloud services providers, web services, and databases into Google Drive. (website, blogpost)
  • Nava Certus, by LinkGard, provides a migration and synchronization solution for on-premise and cloud-based storage platforms, including Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Amazon S3, as well as local file systems. (website, blogpost)
  • SkySync, by Portal Architects, integrates existing on-site storage systems as well as other cloud storage providers to Google Drive. (websiteblogpost)
These are just a few companies that offer migration solutions. Please visit the Google Apps Marketplace for a complete listing of tools and offerings that add value to the Google Apps platform.



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Editor's note: Businesses rely on email to communicate, and on Google to ensure that their email communication is secure. Today, we’re adding to our spam filtering support in Gmail to handle duplicitous “Unicode Homoglyphs.” This release strengthens our ongoing commitment to keeping our customers safe and protected from scams, phishing attacks and spammers.


Last week we announced support for non-Latin characters in Gmail — think δοκιμή.com and 测试@example.net and みんな — as a first step towards more global email. We’re really excited about these new capabilities. We also want to ensure they aren't abused by spammers or scammers trying to send misleading or harmful messages.

Scammers can exploit the fact that , , and ο look nearly identical to the letter o, and by mixing and matching them, they can hoodwink unsuspecting victims. Can you imagine the risk of clicking “ShppingSite” vs. “ShoppingSite” or “MyBank” vs. “MyBɑnk”?

To stay one step ahead of spammers, the Unicode community has identified suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading, and Gmail will now begin rejecting email with such combinations. We're using an open standard—the Unicode Consortium's “Highly Restricted” designation—which we believe strikes a healthy balance between legitimate uses of these new domains and those likely to be abused.

We’re rolling out the changes today, and hope that others across the industry will follow suit. Together, we can help ensure that international domains continue to flourish, allowing both users and businesses to have a tête-à-tête in the language of their choosing.

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When we introduced Classroom back in May, we asked educators to give it a try. The response was exciting — more than 100,000 educators from more than 45 countries signed up for a preview. Today, we’re starting to open Classroom to all Google Apps for Education users, helping teachers spend more time teaching and less time shuffling papers.

One of the first schools to use Classroom was Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn, New York. Sister Rosemarie DeLoro, who has been teaching for more than 60 years, had never used computers with her students before Classroom was introduced at her school. Classroom made it easy for her to assign digital worksheets to students in her Italian class and provide direct feedback to help them learn. In fact, after just a few weeks, Sister Rosemarie was showing the other teachers how to use it. “You can’t stay in teaching and keep going to the old ways,” she said.

Teachers and students have been instrumental in helping us build Classroom. For example, we heard during the preview that educators don’t want to wait until an assignment is turned in to collaborate with students. Now, with Classroom, teachers can view and comment on students’ work to help them along the way. We’ve also heard that educators want a simple place to post information and materials about their classes, so we added an “About” page for each course, as well.
When teachers create assignments, they can attach files from Google Drive — including Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Keynote, Google Slides, Excel, Google Sheets, and many others — then choose to automatically make a copy for each student. 
Teachers can review assignments from Classroom and provide feedback and grades to students all in one place. 
Classroom is available in 42 languages (including right-to-left ones, such as Hebrew, Arabic and Persian). It also works well on mobile devices and most popular screen readers. We’ll be rolling out to more users every day, so if you go to classroom.google.com with your Apps for Education account and don’t have access yet, please check back soon.

Hopefully Classroom will help you spend a little less time at the photocopier and a little more time doing what you love—teaching.

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Editor's note: Whether it’s taking a meeting over Hangouts from the airport before escaping to a much-deserved vacation or sending work emails from an air-conditioned neighborhood cafe, technology should help you get your work done faster so you can enjoy the summer months. To celebrate the season of sun, we’re sharing stories from customers who know all about the importance of technology when fostering a culture of mobility and flexibility. Today, we hear from Ben Darr, Product Development Manager at Thrillist Media Group, a digital media company based in New York that is responsible for men’s lifestyle brand Thrillist.com and popular online retailer JackThreads.

In the last four years, Thrillist Media Group (TMG) has gone from a small newsletter in a one-room office to a multi-propertied media group with more than 300 employees. We now operate within the realms of content, commerce, private label clothing, events, sales and proprietary tech platforms. We’ve worked hard to tie these unique industries together — a feat that requires high levels of communication between our offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio. Thrillist’s collaboration between employees would not be possible without Google Apps.

Thrillist’s employees are completely plugged into the Google ecosystem and the tools we need are mere clicks away and always available. What really sets the Google platform apart is the seamless integration and intuitive user experience. If you’ve ever used Gchat in the last few years, you know how to use Hangouts. If you can write an email, it’s a tiny skip to using a Google Doc. Being able to quickly switch between Apps without having to log in or learn how to use a new tool caters to our fast-pace environment and centralizes nearly all of our day-to-day files and communication.

Whether someone has a quick question or needs to express a more complex idea via Hangout or email, Google Apps is there to give our team what we need to finalize the designs and copy with the client. After approvals, we upload all files to Drive, which makes it easy for multiple departments across the company to refer to them throughout the campaign. On the product side, our quality assurance team can then cross reference final design specs to custom-built sales and make note of any issues or differences in Google Sheets. When the campaign is live, I review how the entire process was executed and use our product page on the Thrillist Google Site to recount best practices and we took away from the campaign.

Take, for example, this real-life scenario from a recent campaign: A client halfway across the country sponsored a custom sale on Jackthreads driving content on Thrillist and Supercompressor, two of our e-commerce properties. To start the process, our sales and design team held a kick-off meeting with the client via Google Hangouts to understand their vision and goals for the campaign. Throughout the meeting, everyone recorded ideas, guidelines and project timelines on one Google Doc. When the meeting ended, I shared the Doc with all the different TMG departments involved — other product members, photographers at our warehouse in Brooklyn, tech leads overseeing the build, sales reps communicating with the client and that lucky colleague on vacation at the beach.
As a relatively small company, our projects are largely collaborative and everyone is juggling a large workload — and the specific example above is just a single piece in the complex TMG puzzle. Google Apps is critical to the work we do everyday; while other companies offer these services separately, none offer all of them together in one seamless, easy-to-use system.

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Editor's note: Whether it’s taking a meeting over Hangouts from the airport before escaping to a much-deserved vacation or sending work e-mails from an air-conditioned neighborhood cafe, technology should help you get your work done faster so you can enjoy the summer months. To celebrate the season of sun, we’re sharing stories from customers who know all about the importance of technology when fostering a culture of mobility and flexibility. Today’s guest blogger is Amanda Bensol, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Karma, a New York-based startup building a sleek, portable pay-what-you-use WiFi hotspot.

Karma empowers people to work wherever they want with an elegantly designed personal portable hotspot. Our team spent years paying exorbitant hotspot data costs while traveling around the world and knew there had to be a better and cheaper way to get online at the many airports, hotels, cafes and trains that didn’t have public Internet access. We set out to solve the problem ourselves with an affordable mobile WiFi hotspot that allows people to work wherever, whenever they want. Karma isn’t just a hotspot — it’s a movement that lets people take back the power to use their data and technology how they want.

In order to introduce new ways of working, we hold monthly Karma Outdoors gatherings and invite people to come join us in working outside this summer. Like most people, we enjoy being able to work on our own terms. That’s why Google Apps has been part of our journey from the start. It’s not a stretch to say that Google Hangouts practically built Karma. After the company was started, visa issues caused the founders to return to Amsterdam, leaving me essentially in charge of U.S. operations. Hangouts was a lifeline that allowed us to build and grow the company, even though we were separated by an ocean.
In addition to Hangouts, Google Docs is essential to our business and our preferred way to innovate because it offers a better creative workflow than any other product. Our founders in Amsterdam exchange a lot of ideas with the company’s designers in New York as we prepare for our next-generation release of sleeker Karma models. Google Docs makes it possible for us to easily keep track of our design ideas. Docs is the place we quickly paste media to preserve of our thoughts on the fly. We refine ideas together by exchanging comments within our documents. I write down specific product specs in Docs, knowing our concepts are logged and stored for our design team to access from anywhere.

We’re only at the beginning of our journey to liberate people in their quest for mobile connectivity, and we’ve got a lot more in store for our products and company. We’re confident in our ability to achieve our goals and truly make an impact using Google Apps, which allows for mobility and flexibility in communications and productivity — values that align with our mission, too. Between Karma and Google Apps, together we’ll get people out from the confinement of cubicles and into the sun.


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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Anthony Osborne, Vice President of Marketing for The Climate Corporation, which brings the power of data and technology to the agriculture industry with the ultimate mission of combating climate change. The Climate Corporation is one of many companies outfitting conference rooms with Chromebox for meetings. To learn more, join us for a live Hangout on Air to see how companies can modernize the meeting room and reimagine collaboration.
You might not associate farmers with technology from the Bay Area, but at The Climate Corporation, we’re dedicated to providing tools for farmers that help maximize their crop yields and use natural resources efficiently. We believe that innovation plays a vital role in their mission; we also apply this belief to improve the way our employees work.

Oftentimes, a culture of perpetual innovation means our days are filled back to back with meetings. With offices in San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Kansas City, coordinating meetings and catch-ups across time zones can pose a number of challenges. The San Francisco team typically gets to work at 9am but stays late; in St. Louis, we’re at work by 7am and out by 6pm. Until recently, most people worked late at the office and often missed out on quality time at home. We flew between our offices for meetings, which cost time and money. And when we weren’t traveling, we held meetings over the phone, which were typically less engaging and productive. We considered high-end video conferencing solutions, but the cost (over $70,000) limited how many conference rooms we could equip.

Then we discovered Chromebox for meetings. At a $999 starting price, we can afford to place Chromeboxes in conference rooms across all of our offices and bring our spread-out teams together throughout the day without the travel costs or conference call grievances. Now, it’s almost like our colleagues in San Francisco are in the same room with us in St. Louis. Our IT team loved the easy setup – all they had to do was plug in the display and complete the setup wizard. And our employees love the speed and simplicity of meetings.

Not only are Chromeboxes in our conference rooms, but some of us have them at home, too. In my case, I can spend some time with my kids, then jump onto a face-to-face meeting for a half-hour if I need to, all without being forced to stay in the office.

Today, 80% of our meetings are now held on Hangouts using Chromebox for meetings. Coupling our new way of collaboration with Google Apps—which we’ve already been using for work, in and out of the office—I’m amazed at how technology transforms our work day. Now that we’re collaborating more efficiently, we can do a much better job of creating products that help our customers monitor the impact of climate on their businesses.

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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Alicia Shires, Classroom Technology Specialist at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

At Washington and Lee University, we pride ourselves on our clear communications to everyone on campus—and if we have to cancel or change classes or events, we want everyone to find out as soon as possible. Our 13 digital signage screens, positioned in key places across campus like the Commons building and several dorms, alert staff and students to the events at the University, along with updates on our sports teams and local weather. When we installed Google Chromeboxes to replace the crash-prone Windows machines running the screens, it became much easier to bring news to the campus while it’s fresh.
The personal computers we were using to run display screens had several problems, with unreliability at the top of the list. They were slow to update, and would often crash, leaving the screens completely offline. That meant a delay in delivering information to students and staff until we could reboot the machines remotely. The machines were also slow. When we uploaded information to be displayed, it could take 30 minutes before viewers saw it.

These delays could become a big deal if we wanted to deliver time-sensitive information to screens, like weather-related campus closings or emergency situations. Without fast notifications, students and professors could waste time traveling to classes or events that weren’t happening.We knew we needed better hardware to solve the problems of speed and instability.

Rise Vision, the developer of the free, open-source platform we use to create and manage our display content, suggested we replace the PCs with managed Chromeboxes. We discovered that because Chromeboxes run Chrome OS, they update automatically, so updates don’t interfere with the displays. We can operate Chromeboxes in Kiosk mode so we can run the digital signage software at full-screen, which makes our displays look better. Management is largely hands off. I don’t have to touch the boxes and the reboots are fast and automatic.

Each Chromebox is several hundred dollars less than one of the PCs we were using before, so that’s a big plus for us. They’re extremely reliable and super-fast—when I upload new content from my office, it appears almost immediately on the campus display screens. It’s hard to believe I’m not working directly on the Chromeboxes themselves. They’re also powerful enough to run rich media like HD 1080P videos without choppy playback.

Perhaps the best thing about using Chromeboxes for our screens is that we’ve finally been able to kick our emergency notification system into high gear. If we go through another difficult winter, we can quickly push out emergency notices about schools closings, weather delays, and event cancellations. Operating our screens with fast, reliable Chromeboxes is helping us keep everyone on campus not just well-informed, but safe and sound.

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Japanese companies are facing major challenges for long-term success. The rapid graying of society is shrinking the workforce, leaving only 62% of the population in the working age. Inflexible workplace practices prevent many women from returning to their careers after childbirth. The Japan Productivity Center ranks Japan lowest of the Group of Seven most advanced nations in productivity, despite some of the world’s longest work hours.
As pressure mounts on Japanese businesses to find new ways to be productive and to attract and retain top talent, we asked Deloitte to take a look at how mobile and digital tools might be able to help. According to their new report, Japan’s Mobile Potential, access to mobile devices for work and more flexible IT policies could help unlock almost 2 trillion yen for the Japanese economy and keep some of Japan’s most skilled people in the workforce. There are a number of additional findings from the report which may be useful for businesses including:

Japanese businesses are missing out on a massive mobile opportunity
Deloitte found that despite having one highest rates of smartphone use in the world — 75% of people between 18 and 49 own a personal smartphone — less than 9% use their smartphone for work. Of the same group, 20% of people own a tablet computer at home, but only 3% of these people have access to a tablet for their work tasks.

People want to work more flexibly with digital and mobile tools
71% of people said that they would be more productive if they had access to digital tools like smartphones, laptops and tablets for work, as it would enable them to work from home or while commuting.

Workplace IT has some catching up to do
Many people say that their home IT is better than what they’re given at work. They rate their home technology as more user friendly (51%), more up to date (45%) and said that their internet was faster (43%). Almost half of the respondents said that they are frustrated with their workplace IT, as their computers and internet speeds are too slow and their devices are outdated.

Employees with flexible workplace IT policies are more productive
Businesses that allow their employees to work from home or work remotely with digital tools said they are more productive. And none of the respondents with flexible workplace IT policies said they work overtime, while 31% of those without this approach said they regularly work overtime.

Mobile devices and flexible IT policies could unlock two trillion yen for the Japanese economy
Deloitte found that the Japanese economy could generate 2 trillion yen if businesses provided digital tools like smartphones, laptops and tablets to people who want to work, but don't have direct access to the tools they need to work from home or remotely. When you consider that they did not calculate the economic impact of giving people who are working access to digital tools and flexible workplace policies, this figure could be much higher.

You can learn more about Japan’s mobile potential from Deloitte’s report, and to find out how Google can help your company work flexibly with mobile tools visit the Google Enterprise website.