Google's Latest: A Challenger to Microsoft Office

In an effort to lure more small-business users, Google this week launched a free suite of Web-based communications applications, including e-mail, calendar, instant messaging, Internet phone service, and website design.

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Google Apps for Your Domain provides e-mail through Google's popular Gmail service, collaborative scheduling with Google Calendar, instant messaging and voice calling through Google Talk, and website creation and hosting with Google Page Creator. Gmail is advertising-based, while the other programs are not.

Although all of these individual services have been available to consumers for some time, Google Apps — an expansion of Gmail for Your Domain — allows organizations to provide the services to every user within their domain without installing any software or hardware, unlike Microsoft Office, which requires installation. Domain administrators can manage user accounts and distribution lists using a online control panel. In addition, organizations can customize the user interface with their own branding.

Like most Google products, the release of Google Apps is a beta product. However, Google plans to offer help to domain administrators via e-mail or an online help center.

The standard edition of Google Apps is currently free to domain administrators and end users. A premium, paid version of the product is in the works for organizations with more advanced needs, although Google has not released any pricing information.

Iomega Drive Doubles Storage Space

Iomega recently released a new alternative for high-capacity removable data storage, the REV 70 GB Backup Drive.

Iomega's new drive writes data to removable 2.5-inch disks that offer roughly twice the storage space of both first-generation REV disks and the competing DAT 72 format tapes. However, the drive will still be able to read and write to the earlier 35 GB REV disks.

The REV 70 GB Backup Drive retails for just under $600. One 70 GB disk is included with purchase of the drive, and additional disks are available for $69 each or in four-packs for $250.
The external version of the drive connects to computers via USB 2.0. An internal ATAPI model is also available for $579.

Free Server Software?

Collax Business Server, a new Linux-based server operating system, may threaten Microsoft's dominance of the small-business market, particularly on the heels of Microsoft's recent postponement of an upgrade to its own server software.

While a five-user version of the 2003 Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) retails for $699, the recently released Collax Business Server (CBS) makes its five-user version available as a free download. However, when user count moves up to 10, the two operating systems have a similar price. Microsoft's version costs $1,190. The CBS costs $450, however, CBS users need to add the Open Exchange Groupware product, which costs an additional $610.

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