Google Groups, Google’s answer to discussion forums, has been around helping users discuss about various topics of interests. Even though it was available for users of Gmail, it was not part of the Google Apps offerings. Many users, including myself, have long felt the need for having Google Groups as a part of Google Apps because it will come handy for discussions among businesses and, even, family members. One could use a custom domain and, also, have fine grained control over the email users in the domain using Google Groups. The long wait is finally over.
Today, Google announced that Google Groups will be available to Google Apps Premier and Educational users.
Today, we’re happy to announce the launch of Google Groups to Google Apps Premier and Education Edition users. Google Groups is one of our most widely used applications, enabling everyone from the local hiking club to the family next door to create mailing lists and discussion forums. Now employees within a company can create groups for their departments, their teams or their projects. Employees can use these groups as mailing lists, but they can also share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendars, videos and sites with groups, instead of many individual recipients. They can choose to receive communications directly to their email inbox, in a digest format, or in the Groups forum view, and can access all the information in the groups archive, without the intervention of an IT administrator.
This Google Apps offering is pretty powerful. Not only the administrators can set up the groups for discussions inside the company, even users can manage their own groups. Such a fine grained control will help big companies with many different departments handle the discussions easily without burdening the administrator.
Google groups inside Google Apps are useful not only for internal discussions, it can be used as a customer facing support helpdesk. I would have preferred that Google had offered it for free standards editions too. It will come handy for families, non profits and small businesses to use it without paying $50 per user per year. Since it is available for free for Gmail users, it only makes sense to offer it as a part of the standard edition. Even though Google’s integration of groups inside Google Apps is interesting, it should be noted that Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the sole sponsor of this blog), also, recently announced their own Google Groups like offering called Zoho Discussions with some really powerful features. Like Google, their fully featured version also is not free. Since their plans are not tied to the number of users, it might come out to be cheaper for smaller level businesses with tighter budgets.