Google Dec. 9 began allowing its Google Apps Premier and Education Edition to use Google Groups, the company's consumer application for creating discussion forums and mailing lists.
Employees of companies using those Google Apps editions can create groups for their departments or team members without the help of an IT administrator.
Once a group is set up, employees and students can share a Google Apps document, spreadsheet, presentation, shared folder, site, calendar, or video with group users through group e-mail alias. Shared files will only be accessible by the appropriate people even as group members come and go.
Users can opt to receive communications directly to their Gmail inbox in a digest format, or in the Groups forum view, and can access all the information in the groups archive, Google Apps Senior Product Manager Rajen Sheth wrote in a blog post.
The app joins the Google Sites wiki as another way to let users in the 2 million-plus businesses using Google Apps to collaborate and share content online. However, Groups is a easier and quicker to use than Sites, allowing users to create and launch a Group in 30 seconds or less. This eases the pains of overworked IT staffs, and makes it a snap for small mom-and-pop shops that don't have IT staffs.
Google explains how Groups for Google Apps works in this demo video. Group creators name a group, add a group e-mail address and choose whether to make it public or private. Then group creators add the names and e-mail addresses of those in the group, and send them invites via e-mail. Group users can also search and review past group messages and activities, which are archived.
Google Apps Premier and Education Edition admins can now enable the new groups functionality from the control panel by enabling the "user-managed groups" service.
"After enabling the new service from the administrative control panel, users can start managing their own groups without burdening administrators for support," Sheth explained. "Administrators can still set group policies and manage other group settings."
Google Apps isn't the only collaboration entity at Google leveraging Google Groups. Users of the Google Wave collaboration platform, which lets users share files and share them with each other in real-time, can now add Groups to waves.
The Google Wave team provided step-by-step instructions for how Wave users can add Google Groups to a wave, set permissions and then view and edit waves with that group.
Group waves will only show up in Google Wave, not in the Google Groups interface, so Google has drawn some separation lines between the two apps.
Eventually, the Wave team will add a groups option in the Navigation panel to make finding groups easier.
Even as Google Wave has been hailed for being an incredible technological achievement by collaboration experts such as Gina Trapani, it has endured a flurry of criticism from users who find it to noisy, distracting and inefficient to complete tasks.
The Wave team has taken these suggestions in stride and has begun addressing them. Last month the team added a follow feature to give users more control over the waves they care about.
The team also began rolling Wave out to 1 million users this week, addressing the concern that there aren't enough users with which to wave.