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The Virtual Office

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On today's episode, Rob and MF incurr the wrath of server administrators everywhere. We boldly go to a place that will invite hate e-mail: The Virtual Office.

In our estimation, there is no reason for any church to host any of their own services anymore. Webhosting, e-mail serving, calendars, or even documents. We do our best to defend our point of view, which has the major goal of allowing churches to focus on PEOPLE instead of IT issues and also, in these hard budget times, to save a boat load of money.

Before all this Rob derides our own conference in an attempt to make sure people's expectations are correct, while MF attempts to soften it so people still attend :) (honestly, though, it's going to be a great conference with great information...we may have gone overboard on our disclaimers) All this and more on this weeks G&G!

Max

I am pretty impressed with Max Audio Encoder. I am kind of shocked I have never heard of it.. I am usually on top of mac apps..

Thanks for sharing!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Tweaking it out

Yeah, Shrop, I love it too. It took me quite a while to tweak it out to match our iTunes settings (which is why I launched this episode early this morning, only to pull it down, reencode, and relaunch).

Great stuff once it's configured.

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Ahh..that explains it.. I

Ahh..that explains it.. I was listening to the podcast this AM..then it wasn't there when I accidently closed my browser..I figured you were working on the site or something.

Thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Naming the MP3

Have you considered naming your MP3s something a little more descriptive? If I download Episode74.MP3 and don't get around to listening to it right away, I may wonder what it is an episode of.

Just a thought.

We've had this request...

We've had this request a few times, now. Here's why we haven't implemented it:

1. We can't have spaces in our file names. We've found this to be an issue having a really compatible feed (making sure it works everywhere equally). Therefore, naming something: OnlineCommunityConcepts.mp3 is a little klunky, not to mention a long filename. Online-Community-Concepts.mp3 isn't much better.

1a. As mentioned...naming by topic makes for really long file names. Not very slick practice.

2. It's easier to organize and sort our episodes for many people with our current naming scheme. We originally named files as you suggest but we had people, not using ipods, which have devices that sort MP3s alphabetically. This means that if we named the episodes by their content, they wouldn't be in a logical order for people not using an iPod or other device that sorts by podcast date, rather than name.

So, to keep things easy to use for the most people possible, we settled on our current naming scheme. To compromise, we always say the title of the episode in the first 10 seconds to help you know which is which.

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

If You Are Using A Player...

If you are using something like iTunes, Windows Media Player, or another audio program it should read the ID3 information that will tell you about the episode.

Or, are you looking for more of a change in the ID3 information?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Windows Explorer

I'm just looking at it in Windows Explorer either in My Music on my XP box or on my memory card on my Windows Mobile phone.

I was thinking using something like GandG74.mp3, so I know it's a Geeks and God episode and won't delete it until I'm sure I've listened to it.

(e.g. when I see the filename SAP6.mp3, I know what podcast that come from. ;) )

And I do like the sequential numbering bit. Makes it easier to make sure I listen to them in order when I get behind.

I've never had much luck browsing for media files from WMP either in XP or Windows Mobile, so I launch my media from Explorer, instead.

It's not a huge deal. I always rename it to GandGxx.mp3 when I down load it, anyway.

P.S. I completely agree about spaces in file names (and directories). I'm enough of a file name Luddite, that I'll stick with 8.3 whenever I can. :0

Comments on Google Apps and other Hosted Services

As a server administrator, I say Google Apps rock. They're not going to make my job go away, but they can let me focus on other things. At my day job, we are moving towards outsourcing all student and adjunct faculty email to Google.

For docs, I started with a couple of spreadsheets tied to my personal Gmail account. One of these I share with others track our sound ministry budget. It's not the official tally maintained by the church office, but it keeps us out of trouble. I also keep a Google spreadsheet of all the Drupal sites I maintain and all of the module versions installed on each.

My wife is a church secretary/office manager who recently converted their email to Google, and has also used Google Docs to collaborate on things like bulletin items.

One word of warning: Google uses a third-party service to verify 501c3 eligibility. That service uses one form as their basis of validation. The IRS does not require churches to file this form. Therefore, churches may have to run in circles for a while to get the full non-profit features from Google. It took my wife about two weeks of paper chasing to get this done. In the meantime, they had full access to all of the features in the "standard" edition.

The "standard" edition (which is also free) provides enough features for many small churches. (The biggest thing missing is phone support.) This might help for those outside the US. Check the comparison chart for details.

Several of the leading church management systems now offer hosted versions of their products. These also require broadband, and in fact many larger churches have redundant broadband to make sure they stay up, but again the savings are returned in reduced local infrastructure.

For churches that still host their own email, Google has just dropped their non-profit pricing on Postini hosted spam and virus filtering, which scans your email and then forwards it to your local email server for delivery.

After moving all of this stuff off-site, there is still plenty of work for the local network admin. They're still staying busy supporting large volume storage and backup for media ministries, providing wi-fi service, and doing workstation and backbone support.

Google

You guys are such fanboys. ;) But I agree. We're not using Google as a church yet, but we probably will within the next year or so.

Dale
Cohost, CrossFeed Religious News Podcast
http://www.crossfeednews.com

D'oh!

Although I listened to this episode twice - one on my drive home and then once while driving with my wife - I hadn't listened to the last five minutes until I finished up the podcast this morning. Sorry for the redundant mention of church management systems.

So as my penance, let me throw one more online service at you: Planning Center Online is a web-based service for planning worship services. I haven't used it, but have heard some pretty in-depth discussions of it on another podcast, and have looked around their site a bit. Their pricing is scaled based on church size - actually on the number of people involved in putting services together - and is free for really small churches. It's just one more tool out there that relieves those in ministry of the need to handle the technical side of this stuff and spend more time actually preparing for the service.

worship planning.. We are

worship planning..

We are using a Drupal site to do worship planning. It is more flexible for us, but I have also heard many good things from those who have used Planning Center Online.

Thanks for the reminder!

Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Drupal worship planning

Any chance we could get some screen shots of what you have set up for worship planning in Drupal?

screenshots - great idea!

I don't have time tthis week, but I will get some up and details how we use Drupal for worship planning in the near future. I will probaby just start a new forum topic and ilnk from this comment.

Thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

You guys are on mark with

You guys are on mark with this episode.. even though I wasn't excited about the title at first. Anyway, you have convinced me to move our email hosting to Google at some point. I just need to plan that some point! The great thing is there is much more than just email.. shared calendars would really be nice too. I need to research best ways to sync ical with Google Calendar. I have tried a few ways in the past and they aren't that great.

I also agree on outsourcing server hosting. Our church (www.rockyriverchurch.com) hosts our web site and email on a VPS at www.powervps.com. We host our podcasts on www.libsyn.com. A large part of my fulltime gig is server admin. Even though I could host servers for our church... who would back me up if I left, died, crawled under a rock..etc. Also, DSL and cable modems aren't going to cut it with todays bandwidth needs.. what about business continuity. I would rather be hosted off site in a "real" data center with backups, RAID, etc (I still make my own backups too). There is just a lot to managing a server onsite.

So.. I am thinking about keeping web and podcast hosting were it is at, but move to Google Apps for email, calendar, IM, etc.. GoogleDocs I am not sold on completely, but I need to use them more.. I know you can make online surveys and forms with them now..which may be handy..

Thanks for a great episode.. gets met thinking..

Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Misexplanations Galore...

"Misexplanations"....is that a word? (probably not)

Anyway, I listened to this episode and realized, we totally mis-represented the whole webhosting angle of this. We made it sound like you can/should host your websites with Google....or at least we never said otherwise. We don't know of any way to host your sites with google thru their services for churches/non profits. We totally neglected to say that hosting would have to be done with a different company, just as you are doing Shrop.

Sorry about that...hopefully it won't confuse people when they sign up for Google and go, "Ok, where's our free web hosting?"

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Cool.. hopefully folks will

Cool.. hopefully folks will be fine. I knew where you were coming from (keep them servers out of the church office).. and your link to Google Apps shows pretty clearly the servers Google is offering.. heck you can try the apps out for free too :)

The outsourcing of services saves technology folks time to foucus on ministry aspects and not why does mysql keep crashing...

Thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

File Servers?

I completely agree with you on using hosted email and website. The google apps for your domain looks great especially with IMAP. I just can't wait until they get google gears to work with gmail.

In this episode you touched on File Servers, but didn't go into any detail. Do you think there is a practical hosted alternative to a local file server?

file servers

Good point kswan..

I think for now, I will have to continue running file shares local. There are many options from NAS devices to full servers. Our staff often work from home, but we do have a church office and bandwidth (especialy upload) is expensive to allow you to host a lot of big files off site. 100MB photoshop file ~ 20 miutes or so to upload.. not good.

I do think the bandwidth limitation will change. Cable modem makers are testing units in Korea now that can go up to 160Mbps in theory. Once DSL and Cable providers catch up with our current needs, they should provide about as much upstream as they do downstrem.. If that is licked, there are already solutions that will work.. Either full dedicated hosted/managed server or a simpler file sharing system..

Thanks!
Shrop

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Yes and No

I think this depends on your needs. If you are a very mobile group (I know a few churches like this) you may want to setup a hosted file server. But, your typical church still has offices where most people work. In those cases having a local file server is what you need. Bandwidth, as shrop points our, is really the issue here.

On an interesting note, the US is well behind the pack on bandwidth for high speed connections. Even Canada has a faster, on average, connection. Current cable technology can go much faster than it does now. The cable providers are just not providing it.

The bottleneck is quickly becoming bandwidth. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in world markets. Especially as we look at how to spread the Gospel. In the US we might have to start thinking outside our connection speeds.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

There's a reason...

Hey kswan....You read our minds :)

When we did this episode....we discussed this before recording: "Is there a practical way to host files offsite too?" We asked the question because for many churches this will be the last hurdle in totally ditching a server of any kind in their building, thereby only needing an IT to upkeep individual machines (sure there's proxy servers and stuff, but we were conveniently ignoring those... :) )

The answer we came to was either "no" or "not yet"....but also "in theory, yes." So, until that theory plays out, we figured we'd mention it in passing, but not offer any real solutions...basically as a brainstorm starter for you guys.

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

-Rob Feature
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.mustardseedmedia.com

Exactly my thoughts

Exactly my thoughts, serving files over DSL would be too slow to be workable.

Does anyone have experience with FreeNAS (http://www.freenas.org/). It looks pretty good to me, but I haven't had time to set it up. It is basically a browser-based configuration interface for a Network Attached Storage server running on FreeBSD.

A hosted service that I use(that you didn't mention) is online backups. Our church uses IDrive (http://www.idrive.com/) and it works well. Also Jungle Disk (http://www.jungledisk.com/) uses Amazon S3 and is getting great reviews.

kswan

Server based upkeep of individual machines

Keeping many individual machines updated without a local server to assist is a nightmare. Running around regularly to a half dozen or several dozen machines for maintenance is a big pain and big cost. The alternative of waiting until individual machines are totally messed up and then trying to clean them on an emergency basis is also a real pain. I was so glad to centralize this stuff and relax.

So at this point ....
Centralized management and updates might be as hard or harder to give up than local file server service.

I suppose this could be virtualized over the internet as well, but doing so poses serious bandwidth and security challenges. I haven't seen any options which are well suited for small offices. You'd probably need a dedicated high bandwidth connection with a secure LAN tunnel to a remote server farm.... which could easily overwhelm any other cost savings.

Mark

Mark

Virtual reality is making

Virtual reality is making its move from gaming and social sites into the business world.

Another idea for collaborative publishing: Newsletter

Our group has a weekly email newsletter which is now edited collaboratively using Google Docs. Here's the work flow:

1. Set up the basic framework using a template from Mail Chimp.

2. Invite others to edit it.

3. Send out by either using the built in email feature for Google Docs or preview it and then use the "Mail Contents of the Page" function within Safari (perhaps other browsers have a similar function?). (We use Google Groups to deliver the email newsletter to everyone.)

In addition to the collaborative ability, using Google Docs is nice because you can publish the newsletter each week and hence provide a web version.

Just an idea ...

Zoho

Any thoughts on Zoho?

Their apps seem quite robust, but their name recognition seems lower--so perhaps not as many would want to create an account there (as opposed to Google where many already have an account.)

Cost and Rumors

Zoho looks great. Their functionality is supposed to be better than Google Apps. Zoho has even gotten integration with google gears before google did. It's quite amazing.

If you are not in the US I'd recommend anyone really check them out. But, they cost. And free with Google is better, in most cases, than costs with Zoho. At least that's my current stance.

I've, also, recently herd some rumors that make me wonder how stable the company is. All that being said their product rocks and they are worth looking into.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Zoho Costs?

Projects and CRM can cost if you have multiple users, but the rest of Zoho apps are free--unless I'm missing something...

Thanks!

Thanks for mentioning Zoho!

All of Zoho's services are free for personal use. Zoho Projects offers unlimited users & one project free. And Zoho CRM is free for first 3 users ($12 per user per month from the fourth user onwards).

Zoho is from AdventNet, a privately owned, very profitable company of 12 years.

Collaboration

A big part of it is the collaboration. That said, I'll give Zoho another look before we record the next episode.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Well, Zoho do have some good

Well, Zoho do have some good apps. Their problem though is that they still need a lot of time to be developed into mature tools. For example, Zoho Projects is still full of nasty bugs. I prefer tools, that work with off-line applications, tools like Wrike. It had nifty email integration feature and a very cool-looking Gantt chart.

Going Virtual may leave you no better off

I agree the virtual office route is quite "probably" the future. It might even be the best approach for a tiny startup church operating with little or no funds... But IMHO this episode is packed solid with unrealistic hyperbole for Google Office and against local apps and local hosting.

Right now most churches probably still need a local file server (as Matt and Rob concede in comments). Until my church has something equivalent to redundant T3 connections and the web apps approach is better established... I'll make that server reliable, and make use of it for a few other things.

My experience has been, the cost and reliability arguments made against a local server are not accurate. It's not that I doubt Matt and Rob were seeing huge problems at their church, but there is no way problems of the magnitude they described were "primarily" due to having and using a server located at the church. Abandoning local services and moving stuff to Google may have simply been far easier for them than solving some other problems. Google services offers its own set of advantages, disadvantages, and concerns. I very much doubt it's best for all or even most churches at this time.

A local server can still be more reliable than most internet based services and the costs to maintain and operate it can be kept quite low. With mail we actually switched away from internet based service after years of reliability and performance problems. It's been such a big improvement, I don't think I could convince anyone to switch back soon.

One thing I will give you.....
The Gmail spam filtering is astoundingly good. Almost, but not quite good enough to make me want to switch for that reason alone.

I find it astounding that organizations manage things in a manner where they have these huge reliability and cost problems. I suspect it has to do with some real deficiencies in planning and support. Of course dealing with that kind of thing often gets personal and hard to deal with. So while going in a totally different direction provides one approach, just getting your house in order can often provide similar or greater improvement. I think the biggest benefit of going in a totally different direction is it usually forces abandonment of other bad practices. ....That doesn't mean similar problems won't soon appear in a slightly different forms.

BTW:
I'll concede that a couple or few years down the road, things may have evolved and stabilized enough that I'd flip on which approach has the most merits, but right now I don't think going Virtual works out as a net benefit for most offices.

Mark

Did you calculate cost difference?

Working where I do, when ever I want to make a change that involves anyone besides me or impacts a project I have to make a business case. Cost, schedule, quality, and scope have been the big things we have looked since I was learning about the business side of engineering in college. I'm wondering if you have a cost benefit analysis of the on site servers vs. the off site servers. I'd be curios to see the differences between the rough one I did. It showed an impact for us financially. There was a definite benefit to switching to off site email hosting.

I've, also, work in the hosting world. I used to work for a large ISP/telecom. While I was there and afterwards I managed my own servers including web and email hosting (it wasn't unit we were running G&G that I went to a hosted solution because of our bandwidth needs). In my experience the hosted solutions were typically more reliable. The reason being was the setup of their network. They racks full of mail servers. If one goes down you shouldn't notice it. There is redundancy built in. I realize that not all service providers have great service. There are some that just plain stink. Especially, if you go with a $7 a month plan to do this. You get what you pay for and you aren't paying for good service with this.

If you host it yourself you don't have that level of redundancy in your servers or internet connection. You don't have someone staffing your servers 24/7. You may even have to pay some pretty hefty Microsoft licensing fees (unless you are like me and ran something like the mail toaster).

If you have a crappy hosting situation than you might find an internally hosted solution to be better. But, what about a decent hosted solution. And, I'd still like to see a cost benefit analysis.

btw, I don't think technology will ever evolve. It may be designed, architected, and strategically implemented but I don't see it evolving. :)

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

So many variables I could justify either choice

I could honestly cost justify either the virtual or local hosting option by toying a bit with assumptions and requirements. However, my experience thus far has been that it is easier to provide the level of service desired by a small office through a combination of local hosting and remote hosting. From a purely cost angle free is obviously cheaper, but we've decided, for now at least, the benefits of local hosting are exceeding the costs.

(Please note that I've never advocating local web hosting.)

My main disagreement is with the argument that there is no reason for a church to have any local servers or networked applications. Local service for files, printing, applications, workstation management, etc. all seem quite reasonable and justifiable.

Having a local server for file storage and network management and making it reliable seems undeniably valuable. Loading a few applications on that server adds very little to that cost.

One of the reasons a local server can approach and exceed the reliability of an internet based solution is there are fewer points of failure between the host and the user. So even if your internet host's servers are very reliable, you still are reliant on a half dozen or so other links that will all fail or degrade enough to be nonfunctional from time to time. The cumulative effects of that can easily result in far more down time than that associated with a single well configured and well maintained server. Normally such a server will operate for an entire 5 year lifetime without any failure downtime.

You presented, what seems to me, a "straw man argument"; describing a room full of servers with frequent failures and a lots of upkeep, lots of staff hours. Why have such a strange, unreliable, high maintenance setup for a simple church? I've worked both with and for LAN support vendors and know some occasionally push their smaller clients towards over purchasing and bad decisions on hardware, software and services. Perhaps the problem is more common than I'm aware.

Several times you've emphasized hefty Microsoft licensing fees, but for nonprofits the licenses are quite inexpensive. Microsoft isn't giving it away like Google, but the costs are tiny compared to those for regular business customers. It seems unfair to assume the higher costs. Why pay for expensive licensing when huge discounts are offered?

The virtual route does have many pluses which you've highlighted well and I mostly agree with. I believe for many small startup operations it may already be the smartest choice. But it's only recently become a viable option, and it is relying on a bunch of Google's unproven business assumptions; assumptions which though promising, are far from certain to develop into something sustainable.

Finally....

Perhaps I made a poor choice of words. I meant to indicate that application and services technology implementations could "progressively develop" (through human effort) to where they became a more universally applicable and clearly superior choice.... but now that seems way to lengthy ;)

Mark

My only issue is with email

For a file server, print server, workstation management and even a server hosting some network applications a local file server makes perfect sense. I especially like the workstation management part of this. Having a central method to push out updates is great. I, also, really like having network storage. If everyone saves their work to a shared drive (even if they have private areas) and that server is backed up regularly (Nightly would be ideal) you add a lot of redundancy to possible data loss.

But, when it comes to email we have a different animal. I'd recommend email being off site. Personally, my biggest reason wasn't even cost when I moved away from hosting email myself. It was the speed of getting attachments when i wasn't at the location where the mail server was. There is something to be said for having highly accessible mail anywhere.

Though, on the email issue we may have to agree to disagree.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Google + Dreamhost

Last summer, when I took over our church website, there was no budget of any kind. I had just created my own website with Dreamhost and found out that they offered free hosting for nonprofits. The only problem I had was that their webmail (SquirrelMail) is terrible and the secretary insisted on webmail. Trying to solve that is what lead me to Google's solution. The secretary was ecstatic about the calendar and email, but preferred to edit documents on her desktop. (I had already set up a file server she could access from home via sftp.) Since we had already gone virtual months ago, it was humorous to hear you two suggesting the solutions I had already chosen.

By the way, Dreamhost's free hosting is worth every penny, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, it suits our needs perfectly and I doubt I will ever use a host that doesn't offer ssh and sftp access. I'm a Linux guy, after all.

Vitual Office is a great topic

Vitual Office is a great topic ... even though I thought your premise was quite overhyped.

The podcast intro mentioned the prospect of hate mail from server admins. I was surprised I didn't notice any server advocates even offering an argument. Though I'm not one, I know there remain fans and practitioners of the room full of local servers approach. Maybe those folks are too busy with server maintenance to post a comment. ;)

I've seen a real drive by network support vendors to "sell solutions". Their solutions predictably seem driven by a desire to maximize their sale of hardware, software and services. Perhaps that is a trap just too difficult for most churches or small businesses to avoid. They treat you nice, are charming, bail you out of trouble, etc. but the costs for an office can really add up. There's often a big information gap between the vendor and small business customers that works to the benefit of the vendor. I suspect if my church had bit on all of the bait dangled in front of us, we'd by now have another two or three server boxes.

I do look forward to a day when the Virtual Office would work as well for my church as you are convinced it will for yours. Maybe you can even report back in another 12 months with a follow-up report and convince me.

Mark

We Will Report Back

We have had some decent on the email issue, specifically. One place you can see it is at http://geeksandgod.com/episode74#comment-3581.

As we go on with this experiment at my church we will definitely talk more about it. That may be something we even talk with Dion about when he guest hosts in an upcoming episode.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Virtual Office Experience

Thanks for the great episode. It got me thinking on whether or not I am effectively budgeting next year, and trying out Google Docs to evaluate what you talked about.

I am an IT Director for a church in Canada. We would have to pay the $50 fee for Google, but the cost for Google could be around the same as maintenance fees for some Spam solutions, and server maintenance and upkeep costs.

As I use Google Docs a couple things I notice are; I find that I am waiting for Google Docs to respond sometimes, and I have to refresh it sometimes after I save a new document. I am not sure if I am as productive as I am when I work in Office or OpenOffice.

Thanks,

LRS

What browser are you using?

I've noticed the response time issue, too. I typically only have it in safari. Though, I'm not sure safari support is complete.

Google for email and calendars is a big bonus. When it comes to document management I'm not sure a church can completely move to something like google docs, yet. Where google docs has excelled in my personal experience is with collaboration. I work on a number of documents that are collaboratively written or I have a number of people review. The collaboration features in google docs have been much faster to use than sharing docs with others via email. The response times issues I've had still don't take up all the time I've gained in my collaboration practices.

This is just me. I'd love to read about the perspectives of others who've tried doing this.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

More User Experience with Google Docs and GMail

Again thanks for a great episode. My browser has been Firefox, and I am currently at version 2.0.0.14. I am still seriously thinking about using GMail for email, and spam and email virus protection. And I am in a lot of testing. I do not think I would recommend Google Docs as an alternative to Desktop-based Office applications.

After using GMail for a couple of months, my overall user experience was good. My main issues were labels and label management. I had over 100 imported labels and had to cut them to 20 in order to feel like I was working more efficiently. My opinion is that GMail needs better label management and that could affect my choice of GMail as a email client replacement, but I would still recommend GMail as a email server replacement after my testing.

Google Docs is great when you really want to do basic documents and spreadsheets. However, I always get aggravated and feel like I lost precious time when I wrestle with tables in Docs, and formatting in Spreadsheets. I do not think I would recommend Google Docs as an alternative for office applications. I would leave it as an added service to our current environment.

Another issue with GMail is their policies on privacy, data storage, and public perception of Google. Staff I talk with do not bat an eye when I say I could switch my mail over to Google. Some members of our church have gotten really heated about it and suggest they would not send us private email on life problems if we were on email.

I use GMail all the time for personal use. I think there is a strong case on switching a church to Gmail. I think Google Apps is a good example of the promise of internet hosted applications. I'll try to keep you posted on whether we switch to GMail or not.

What Issues?

What are their issues with the google license? What are their specific privacy issues? Is it just hearsay and feelings or do they have specific points in the privacy policy as it applies to gmail they are concerned with?

I'm really curious about this.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

e-mail security

"Some members of our church have gotten really heated about it
and suggest they would not send us private email on life problems if we were on email."

I'm a little out of my element and can't speak with certainty, but my suspicion is that a gmail server is significantly more secure than the one running in the typical church.

-NP

Google Calendar

On your podcast, you said that you can't import a calendar. Thats not true. It is a little bit tricky, but it is doable as long as you can create an ICal or CSV file.

Once you have your ICal or CSV file, click on "Add" on the left hand side (right above where your calendar names are) and click on "Import Calendar".

Then upload the file and tell it which calendar to import it to. Pretty simple.

Off-site Web hosting

Rob and MF:

Thanks very much for this episode--I have been running a Fedora Linux box on-site for our church for several years, and volunteering my services for system administration, so it's not costing the church much right now, but since I'm the only one who knows what's going on with the server, that is a serious vulnerability for us right now. (I should point out that I'm not really a Linux server guru, either--I'm self-taught, and I'm sure there are lots of things I'm doing wrong or not doing that I should be doing.) Lately I've had to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with DNS-related issues, and it's just becoming too much to deal with.

Our server serves as our Web server (Apache) and e-mail server (sendmail/Squirrelmail), primarily, but all of our church staff use either Gmail or Yahoo (maybe a couple of Hotmail accounts, too) for their e-mail accounts--I just set up .forward files on their church e-mail accounts so people can send e-mail to a church e-mail address. So there is really no good reason for us not to move to the Google solution you mentioned for e-mail, and I'll be looking into this right away. (I frankly doubt that I'll be able to convince the staff to embrace the other Google apps any time soon, but one can hope.)

I'm a little nervous about moving the Web site to a commercial hosting company, but only because I have no experience with such companies--every Web site I've ever had anything to do with was hosted in-house by the organizations I've done this sort of work for in the past. But your argument that no one should be hosting their Web site in-house makes sense to me, I think.

I've noted that some people have referred to Dreamhost for free hosting--I think I can convince the administration at our church that it's time to start paying for hosting, but I'm not sure where to go for reliable hosting at a reasonable cost, where we'll still be able to host our Drupal-based site and have the flexibility we like to have. I know there are hundreds of hosting companies out there--but how do I choose a good one? I'm hoping your or other listeners might have some suggestions. I'd also be interested in hearing about your experiences, positive or negative, with migrating from an in-house Web server to a commercially-hosted service.

Thanks for an excellent show, as always.

--Doug

My Experience

In my experience you get what you pay for with hosting.

Hosts will show off their bandwidth and disk space numbers. While these are important it doesn't tell you how much ram and processing cycles you get or how many other sites are on the same server as you.

When you start talking about low end hosting that costs less than $10 a month you are talking about a shared host situation. They will pile hundreds of sites on the same server as you so don't expect great performance. If you go this route make sure to setup drupal for performance in the settings. It will make a big difference.

Dreamhosts package is above the normal shared hosting environment. I've read some people work ok with it. I've read others complain about it. I imagine it depends on what you plan to do with the host.

My church does a number of extensive things. We have blogs, a community website, our sermon and bible studies are online, and our pastor has his own podcast for the congregation. I wouldn't host this on shared hosting. We have it running on a media temple dv account.

It really comes down to how you are going to use the site. If you plan on keeping it small, like what you have linked to, than dreamhost should work fine. If you want to go beyond that you might consider more.

Dreamhost is free for non-profits in the US so I would start there.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

5pm - latest development in web-based project management

I would recommend checking 5pm (http://www.5pmweb.com) for your virtual office. It has an unique customizable interface. Everything is on one screen and it also has email, RSS and iCalendar integration. Plus an interactive Timeline view.

Best interface ever

I agree with Tom. 5pm has the best interface out there.

I'm using their free trial and plan to switch to a paid plan. I like it so far and the service was quick and helpful.

I definitely recommend checking it. The easier way is just to check the demo on their website. I also checked the videos - those are pretty short.

Funny

Both Tom and Joan link back to the 5pm website. Can anyone say shameless self promotion?!?!?!

I'm not sure whether to laugh at this or call it spam!

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Co-Host
www.innovatingtomorrow.net
www.mattfarina.com

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com