Now that Tunnel Visionary is a global virtual company, we’ve adopted some new communications infrastructure to help keep the flexibility of use and accessibility up, and keep the cost of managing our systems down. In fact we’ve managed to reduce the cost to free! – well ok, free except for the effort involved in setting things up.
The first and most important change has been that we’ve started using Gmail for domains. If you haven’t heard of it, that is Gmail’s new capability to host email for domains other than gmail.com. If you’re interested you can register to get your own email domain hosted at Gmail.
This has given us the great Gmail functionality that many webmail users will already be familiar with, and also allows us to keep our XXX@tunnelvisionary.com addresses! This is cool. One of the best outcomes of this for me has been that Gmail’s spam filtering works better than any other I’ve previously used, and of course I can now easily access my mail from any connected device anywhere in the world, and from my various computers and operating systems without needing to do anything at all to keep my inbox and contacts lists unified. Hurray!
My only gripe with Gmail is that I’m yet to find a good PGP encryption solution. I’m hopeful that Freenigma might prove to be be the missing piece here.
As well as the Gmail functionality, we also get the Google Calendar which is fully iCal compliant and pretty much delivers all the functionality I ever really used in Outlook or Evolution.
The iCal-ability of Google Calendar has already proven to be a great enabler for us because we can now link in calendar feeds such as public holidays, and also project-based feeds of tasks and milestones generated from our BaseCamp project management system – which is another of the best web 2.0 services I’ve used.
And lastly, on one project we’ve started using a couple of new Google collaboration tools – the web word processor Writely and Google spreadsheets. These are underkill compared to the functionality of Microsoft Word or Excel or OpenOffice, but if you’re a 90%er like me (ie one of the 90% of users who actually use only 10% of the features) you’ll probably find these tools will do the job, and you can always export to a more fully featured tool for a final prettying-up of your document.
These show great promise as a way to eliminate much of the confusion and tedium of managing document version control among a collaborative work group. At time of writing these are accessible by invitation only, but I can invite you if you email a request to me. We’re still testing things out with these tools, but if they really work as well as they seem to, there’s every chance we’ll use them across other projects as well.
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