This is the third of four online training webinars that I am working on at work. We are starting this new emphasis on empowering our clergy using the Google+ Hangout system. We suffered a glitch in the webinar today where it didn’t seem to be recording the first few minutes to the archive. I noticed that it had glitched during the presentation and started it up at somewhere around the 12-14 minute mark. The archive missed the introduction as well as a description of the major browsers. The main part of the discussion was preserved.
In case you are wondering, you should use Google Chrome for everything. Period.
We are experimenting at work with technology webinars delivered over the Google+ Hangout system. This was the first of four that I am working on this week. It’s a very basic discussion of the history of technology, where are are now and a brief overview of social networks and hardware options. The class is designed for our clergy that want more of an overview of various technology topics. It was well received when I went on a recent training trip so I thought I would repackage it here for online viewing. You can find out more about the webinar schedule here: http://nccumc.org/it/webinars/.
My latest article is up on the Faith & Technology Blog. I discuss the recent Priority Inbox and Conversation View changes in Google Apps and Gmail. Now it’s time to start thinking about the next topic!
We have officially shut down our Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 e-mail server. All of our staff e-mail accounts have been successfully migrated to the Google Apps collaboration system. We still have over 1,000 accounts on a few other servers but this is a significant milestone in the overall migration project. Here’s to progress!
We have been working over the last few months to set up and deploy Google Apps to all of our various e-mail users at work. In case you have never heard it before Google has bundled many of their online offerings (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Sites) into a company branded version that can be aliased with a custom domain name. Since we are a non-profit organization Google has given us 3,000 accounts for free!
Gmail interface - Work e-mail address!
Who could say no to an offer like that? We are looking at the collaborative possibilities of having over 2,000 active accounts in one Google Apps system. Our current e-mail infrastructure is a mixture of Microsoft and open source products. We started off with a small Windows e-mail server and have grown over the years to support over 2,000 mailboxes. We decided to go with a few different solutions for different segments of this user base over time as needed. In the end we have five servers all working together to run and manage our communications infrastructure. It’s a mess. It’s also rather burdensome to administer. Enter Google Apps with its unified management system, familiar end user facing interface, compelling and easy to use overall setup and the choice to switch is fairly easy. We started off with about 10 beta users and then migrated the entire Communications and Information Technology offices. Once we were convinced that the system was working well we began the roll out process to internal staff. We are up to about 150 active accounts now but we have a long way to go.
What are some of the major benefits of switching to this system?
- We reduce our support surface from five different servers, operating systems and mailbox formats down to one integrated interface.
- We will have access to an whole host of collaborative tools that was not previously possible.
- Our end users will have reduced confusion. Many times they call us and have forgotten which server they are hosted on (so do we!).
- We don’t have to write documentation anymore. We just link from Google’s support website!
- We no longer have to constantly maintain our e-mail gateway anti-virus and anti-spam scanners.
- Microsoft Outlook integrates into the Google Apps system. We have a good number of users that wish to continue using Microsoft Outlook instead of the web interface.
Google Apps allows a custom logo for each organization.
What kind of things can we do with this new system? Here’s a few ideas:
- Easily share user calendars so that co-workers may know when they are available for meetings.
- Set up shared documents, spreadsheets and presentations for collaborative work within offices. These documents can also be shared with the entire Conference or with all visitors to our website.
- Set up Google Sites for project based collaboration (rather than just individual documents).
- Easily manage e-mail and make use of the labeling system for filing away old messages for later retrieval.
- Easily set up a system group that I can use to communicate with all of my end users simultaneously.
What other ways can we use this? We are concentrating on the migration from our existing systems now and will move on to feature implementation later. I’m curious to hear other ideas as to what we can actually do with this system once we have everything in place. I’ll post updates as we move along in the implementation process. We are very excited about all that we can do with this new system!
Have you ever wondered how much data Google stores in your account? Check out the Google Dashboard, a new tool that shows you a list of every service that you use and provides links for managing your preferences. This tool will be tremendously helpful in figuring out exactly where your data is. Check it out!
Derek Leek & Douglas Ward Leading A Technology Workshop
Derek Leek (Conference Webmaster) and I were able to lead a technology workshop last week during annual conference. The title of the workshop was “Web Prescense, Web Schmesence. What the heck is a website and why do I need it?” We had a very interesting discussion with approximately 75 clergy, laity and a few conference staff people.
The discussion centered mainly on the latest blogging/website platforms. We showed the audience how easy it is to create a professional looking website using tools such as Blogger and WordPress. E-mail, document collaboration and shared calendaring was discussed via Google Apps. All of these solutions are free and relatively easy to set up and use.
Derek unveiled our new web hosting plan also. We can now host WordPress blogs for our local churches on our new WordPress-MU installation. Full domain names can be mapped to the subdomain on our server. Blogs can be set up at http://www.nccumc.net.
We are very excited about this new ministry opportunity. It is critically important that our local churches start reaching out to their community where they live. If we do not adopt the language of the people we will lose them. Hopefully we can start taking this presentation on the road and start meeting people. Overall it was a great workshop and we received excellent feedback. I hope we can do it again soon!