[This is part 7 of a 10 part series titled: “So You’re An IT Noob“]
Your team has computers. You have an internet connection. Everybody in the office is connected. Now what do they do besides being on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube (or Vimeo for your worship guy)?
Productivity software is going to be critical. Email, calendars, word processing, presentations, etc. It’s all going to be needed. As a noob, you’re going to want to make it an easy process. You’re also going to want to keep the expenses down. There are four options (there are probably more) that we’ll focus on. There are probably more, but these are the easiest and quickest options and will get you and your team up and running quickly.
I am a big fan of Google Apps. I use it for almost all the domains I own and I recently converted my own church over to it. It’s free, easy to set up and has a ton of features. Email, calendaring, word processing, spreadsheets, forms, presentations, etc. It’s all there. Granted some of the features in the productivity apps aren’t as full featured as some others, but again, it is free and for most people, it does what is needed. It’s also compatible with Microsoft office products.
On the downside, Google recently made changes. While Google Apps Standard used to be free for up to 50 users, that limit is now 10. After that, you’ll need to upgrade to the business version which is $5 per user per month or $60 a year per user.
Churches (and other non-profits) however, can upgrade to the education version for free if they are a registered 501(c)(3) organization. Please note this will only work if your church is registered with that status. Churches by default are 501(c)(3) status, but that won’t be good enough.
Yes, I know some Apple fans cringe reading that, but people do use this product. As somebody that is Switzerland-neutral on the whole Mac vs PC debate, I can say that starting with Office 2007, Microsoft finally did it right in both design and in functionality. The interface is much cleaner and the apps work very well. Say what you want about Microsoft, the one area they excel (no pun intended) is in their educational and non-profit pricing. They offer steep discounts for both. The downside is, without an Exchange server, you’re limited to keeping emails local using POP. However, there are companies that provide hosted Exchange solutions. For the noob, this may be the way to go at first.
Open Office is an open source suite of applications including word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and even a vector graphics editor. Open Office is free (via download) but there are organizations that sell it on DVD at a low price while also offering tech support. I’ve used Open Office before. It’s a great suite of apps for free and they are all compatible with Microsoft Office. The only downside (and I haven’t used it in awhile so it may have changed) is that since it runs largely on Java, it runs slower than other apps. Still, this is an excellent alternative if your team does not want to go with a web based solution (Google Apps) and are on a really tight budget.
Apple has put together their own suite of productivity apps on their platform. Pages (word processing), Numbers (Spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentations) make up iWork. The cost is pretty inexpensive. You can purchase the CD version at Apple’s website for $80 (or less from Amazon) or you can download each app separately for $20 from the App Store. The latter option might be good if you have people that will only be using one of the products. The only downside is these apps will only run on Mac computers.
There you have it. As always, provide some feedback on anything else you’d suggest (keep in mind this is for the noob).
Next up: Mobile solutions!