What did I do today? I spent most of my day off doing what I like to do best, mucking about with internet domain configurations.
A couple of months ago we realized that as the Cathedral was growing in membership, we needed to start being proactive to get the right tools in place so that the existing staff could work more efficiently with the increasing workload. One of the major pinch-points for us was managing our increasingly complicated calendar. We host numerous cathedral events, diocesan events, community events and arts organizations. Keeping all those balls in the air and making sure we didn’t double book a room or resource was becoming more and more difficult. When we looked into event and resource management tools, most of them were *way* out of our price range. Except for the paid version of Google Calendar… (Which allows you to set up schedules for rooms and tools as well as for the staff members. And then publish them!)
Once we switched to Google Apps to have access to the calendar we began to discover all the wonderful things we could do with the rest of the tool suite. We’re now publishing documents internally to the staff in a way that makes it easy for us to update documents and schedules and then publish them to the web. We’re using gTalk to keep in touch with each other and even leave voice mail for one another.
So today was the day I decided was the day to move our email from our existing solution to Gmail for our domain. It was for the most part uneventful. Though I did have a couple of moments where I found myself struggling to understand the instructions, it looks like everything is working just like we’d expect it to work.
The huge advantage for us now is that we no longer have to worry about losing access to our data if our internal server crashes or if one of local computers break. All we need to do to keep on working is go find another machine, get on the internet and we’re up and running. We can even use our cellphones in a pinch or when we’re on the road.
The total cost to us is significantly less than we used to have to pay to keep our Microsoft Exchange server up and running, and I no longer have to worry about someone forgetting to make regular backups, or dealing with spam, or figuring out how to get people access to their data while offsite.
And, if you don’t really need to worry too much about managing rooms and resources, you can have pretty much the same thing for free – by using the ad supported version of the product.
If you’re running email, calendars and trying to share schedules and data in a small church office, cathedral or even a diocese, this is definitely worth looking into…