So what did you do on your Monday?


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…

Google Apps.

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The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. The whole notion of webapps instead of their desktop equivalents is wonderful and smart in terms of cost of running it.
    My only concern is the recent rating of Google as poor in terms of privacy. Im sure they use the massive petabytes of gmail to perfect their adsense and spam filters, but Im not wild about potentially very private information of clergy and parishioners being mirrorred on a service not bound by any privacy.
    Personally I use gmail as a filter and backup to my client email. But I also assume its not particularly private, and tailor what I use it for accordingly.
    In practice, do clergy see very sensitive stuff in email?

  2. I spent the morning at a second-round job interview and giving the town engineer a tour of our driveway, which his road-widening project has made difficult to get in and out of. The interview went well, and the engineer offered to pave our front yard.
    I spent the evening at the chiropractor, where I got the good news that I really am feeling better after three long months with a pinched nerve in my neck. I’ve had rounds of “feeling better” that went away quickly, so the fact that this one may actually stick is very welcome news indeed!
    In other news, I have become so dependent on Google that they should start paying me for all the referrals. Sounds like you’re getting there too. 😀 I haven’t used apps for anything yet, but been toying with using it for one of my (too many) domains that aren’t up at the moment.

  3. Hi Pete!
    To answer your question, no. We really rarely see things that are incredibly sensitive via email. But one leaking out is enough to be bothersome.
    We’re using the premium version of Apps, which means we have a financial relationship with Google, a number to call for support and the expectation of privacy. There are no ads on our service so in principle they’re not sorting through our email looking for keywords to use for adsense.
    However, you know as well as I do that the really isn’t any true privacy on email – it’s the equivalent of sending a postcard through the mail. It’s difficult but not impossible to put a sniffer on a router and just grab all the packets headed into or out of a domain and *wham* you’ve got all the emails. I’ve tried to get staff and friends to encrypt the emails we send each other, but in a church setting that just doesn’t happen. In a place like a major drug company (for instance) you might be able to set that as a work-place policy.
    The study you mention was pretty flawed from my reading. And I notice they went after Google be google might leak data, but ignored the fact that AOL (which was higher rated) did in fact leak 100,000’s of users data to the web. The discussion on Slashdot re: the study was pretty insightful I thought.

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