the ValleyApps Blog -

Summer School @ ValleyApps

By: Andrew Royer, Vice President, ValleyApps

Sep. 14, 2011

Yesterday Google announced that 14 million students were using Google Apps Education Edition. They also announced that 61 of the Top 100 Universities rated by US News & World Report were using Google Apps. Over the summer ValleyApps worked with Mathews County Public Schools in Eastern Virginia to move away from the Legacy Microsoft Exchange email server and into the cloud. Mathews County IT team, a staff of one, needed guidance and advice on this transition and we were proud to serve Virginia's schools by providing solutions. At first the plan was to migrate data to Google Apps and continue to work with Outlook using Google Apps Sync. We strongly urged MCPS to reconsider this plan and move to the web. After much thought they made the decision to use Google Apps the way it was meant to be used, on the web. ValleyApps worked with Bill Vrooman at MCPS to setup dual-delivery for users that remained over the summer and migrate their email, contacts, and calendars so they could continue to work during the summer change-over. We then focused on teachers and staff that would be returning at summer's end. After migrating data for over 200 users and introducing them to their new accounts we went live during the first week of school. We continue to provide consulting and are planning to deploy accounts for hundreds of students in the coming weeks. MCPS is also planning on integrating Moodle with Google Apps as well. We think that after this school year MCPS will fully realize the power of Google Apps and be more collaborative and productive in 2012. Schools all over the nation are realizing that Google Apps is the premier product for communication, collaboration, and curriculum transparency. It is also the most economical way for schools to provide this learning environment since licensing is free and administrative cost is so much lower. Google introduced Chromebooks to us over the summer as well. ValleyApps sees these as the premier tool for todayís classroom. If your school has gone Google the decision to deploy Chromebooks in classrooms should be without thought. Every price point of this device is better than a PC or Mac, from up-front cost to administrative expenses, you could deploy 3 Chromebooks w/ admin support for the price of one deployed PC. If your child attends a school that has "Gone Google", as a parent, you should seriously consider a Chromebook as a Christmas gift this year. If you are an educational institution please contact ValleyApps to learn more about Google Apps for schools and Chromebooks for schools. Our team is ready and willing to go that extra mile to make sure your students and teachers realize the benefits and advantages of Google Apps for schools. We provide a wide range of services that cover every aspect of the transition to the cloud. Do it today, Google is improving and developing new features every minute of every day.

Cloud Potato

Dec. 27, 2010

Google TV Logo While grinding away at the office last week I was alerted to a new email. What a nice surprise at the end of the day. After spending the last year hyping Google Enterprise products I read that I was receiving an entertainment product from them for free. Just in time for Christmas my Logitech Revue arrived. Being a techie I donít read directions and in this case I didnít need to. After hooking up my Revue to our DirecTV tuner I turned it on and within seconds I was setting it up. The initial setup took about 45 minutes because of an update download. At first glance the keyboard controller might seem complex to the average user and if you're not familiar with Android there could be a bit of a learning curve. After the setup and update I was surfing and watching TV at the same time.

The home screen is pretty straightforward. Obviously search is a big part of what Google had in mind when they envisioned this concept. The keyboard has a dedicated search key that brings up the Chrome Omnibox which will search the web, your program guide, and any connected media servers. Google TV brings the cloud into your living room with seamless integration. Logitech has hit a home run in my book with the ability to enter model numbers of your A/V components and centralize control through the Revue keyboard. Using HDMI's network capabilities, the Revue is able to control your TV, Receiver, Satellite, and Google TV using the keyboard or even your Android phone. The Android app takes this control many steps further. Once setup you have control of your whole A/V system on your phone through your Wi-Fi router. You can even move the pointer using your touchscreen as the keyboard touchpad. The mobile app also gives you nearly the whole remote layout for each componentís control. I was blown away by the level of development present in the Logitech Harmony Android app. Google has just released their own Google TV Android app to the marketplace as well. Sharing from your phone is in itís early stages but one day I imagine pushing any media from your phone to the Revue will be possible. I was able to share YouTube videos and websites nearly instantly. Logitech pre-installed a media player that will connect with your media server for streaming video, music, and photos. I was able to stream all my divx movies, mp3's, and photos.

Google TV Specs

I can't wait to see what developers come up with for streaming media apps. I am already impatient about an App marketplace so ValleyApps and Vision Studios can develop some of our ideas and bring them to your living room. The ability to search for content whether itís online or in your program guide gives this product a special niche. Web browsing is just like you were using Chrome on your PC. Being a Google Apps for Business user I am able to open my inbox, chat, check my calendar, and even produce documents such as this blog. Yes, I typed this article using my Logitech Revue, with picture-in-picture itís the epitome of multi-tasking on the couch. It uses a form of tabbed browsing that allows you to switch between Live TV, Chrome tabs, and other applications or utilities. It could use some refinement but makes switching around pretty easy.

Overall I am excited about Google TV, the groundwork has been laid and now it's up to developers to harness the power of Android for your living room. Once content providers get on board and make pricing reasonable it could become a standard component in every entertainment system. If you are a subscriber to HDTV services and have at least 4mbps Internet service, Google TV is a must have. Trust me, you will agree once you are surfing from your easy chair watching whatever your mind can imagine and heart desires.

ValleyApps and Vision Studios would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. Enjoy your time with family and friends, Merry Christmas!

Speak of the Cloud, Youíre Already There!

Dec. 21, 2010

Enterprise relies on messaging today more than it ever has. Workers spend twice as much time every day working through their email inbox than they do on the telephone. More and more organizations are realizing that any downtime is a major loss for their business. With legacy messaging systems becoming less and less reliable and needing endless updates and security patches off-site providers are being called on at an alarming rate. Postini has offered spam filtering, anti-virus, and message archiving services to legacy users for years now. These services are very popular to organizations using legacy systems such as Microsoft Exchange. Now a new service has entered the fray, message continuity.

Google Server Graphic

Postini is leveraging Google's vast network of datacenters to provide a messaging backup for Exchange users. It provides redundancy by syncing with the Exchange server and backing up email in Gmail. When the Exchange service is interrupted users are able to login through their browser to Gmail and continue messaging without a hitch. Postini has made email reliable for Exchange systems and in the next few months calendar and contacts will be continuously synced as well. Mecklenburg County in North Carolina leveraged this service in a major move to different datacenters and experienced a trouble-free transition over Labor Day weekend. Other organizations can use it to move data into Google Apps over time and end up totally in the cloud. As a Google partner, ValleyApps has noticed that some Enterprise takes much longer to adopt the change to Google Apps and need this period of time to manage that change. This service can help wean them off the Exchange system and into the cloud. There are 80k businesses that Postini helps provide add-on services to legacy systems. I wonder why they don't all just move their data into the cloud. They are using it anyway. Our goal at ValleyApps is to educate Enterprise about what Google offers and how they are probably already using Google.

The Google Cloud Revolution

Dec. 08, 2010

Chrome OS Graphic
Image by: Search Engine Land

Yesterday the Google Chrome team held an event in San Francisco to introduce Chrome OS to the world. New features of Chrome were released as well including a Web Store for Chrome applications. Chrome has become more of a platform than a browser much like how Google Apps is a platform for Enterprise to develop internal collaboration and productivity applications. Similar to the Apps Marketplace the Chrome Web Store is open with hundreds of applications already available to install. Companies like Amazon and Ebay have developed Chrome applications to enhance your digital shopping experience and NPR plays itís radio news stories right in your browser. The ability to develop cloud-based or web applications that enhance our Internet experience is what Google introduced yesterday. Many other partners such as Citrix and the New York Times have developed web applications for Chrome as well. The goal is to simplify your web experience and interaction with their products. The most powerful of these is Citrix Receiver which was demonstrated to show how easy it is to utilize your proprietary Enterprise cloud-based applications on a Chrome notebook. Since Chrome OS is based on the same principals as the browser, travelling with your Chrome notebook will never be more secure, simple, and speedy.

At ValleyApps and Vision Studios we use Google Apps for collaboration on projects, creating documents, and simple communication no matter where we are. As avid Chrome users we are excited for the opportunity to not only utilize some of these web applications but to develop them also. We think Chrome OS is a very powerful tool for Enterprise of all kinds, especially those who have adopted Google Apps. A Chrome notebook boots in about 10 seconds and resumes from sleep instantly. All your Chrome applications, settings, and preferences are synced with your notebook through the cloud making you less dependant on hardware. All Chrome notebooks are connected to Verizon 3G/4G service for free on a limited basis with data plans on a prepaid structure. Chrome notebooks use advanced technology to help prevent malware and viruses from accessing your data. And you never have to lift a finger. The web evolves rapidly. Your Chrome notebook evolves with it. Every time you turn it on, it upgrades itself with the latest features and fixes. Annoying update prompts not included. This notebook exudes the truest form of cloud computing. We see Chrome OS easily being the #3 used operating system in the world. Look out Microsoft! Bill, you should not have waited 3 years to start spending billions on cloud development and research. The technology has been available and Google is pioneering something that will be the standard in less than a decade.

The New Mobility

Nov. 24, 2010

Mobile Image
Image by: Dru Bloomfield

I subscribe to the technology site Engadget as do most techno-geeks. I am in awe of how much we have integrated technology into our daily lives. Nothing has proliferated this advance as much as the phone or handheld device. Thatís really what itís become. I remember when my Dad gave me his Sprint phone at the beginning of the decade. In those days I hadnít even thought of text messaging much less email and Internet access. The new technology then was caller ID on your handheld device. Now mobile technology dominates Engadgetís headlines along with other tech sites and blogs. Technology giants like Google, Apple, and Microsoft have all staked their platforms to carry us into the clouds. Imagine the serenity of flying into the clouds holding our phone. It sounds like a great way to relieve the stress of our daily lives, doesnít it? In fact thatís the goal of the cloud computing model whether itís freedom from your daily grind at the office or just ensuring that you donít lose contact with friends or family. At the office it sounds great to the CFO, CEO, and chairman that they can outsource a large chunk of their IT budget to some other large technology firm and reduce their companyís overhead and payroll. Itís a much more complex decision to them but for the average person it pretty simple. No matter which smart handheld device you choose you are moving to the cloud. All are modeled on using the Internet to navigate you through your life, literally and figuratively. After all, the cloud is the Internet really and if everything is stored in ďthe cloudĒ then we arenít dependant on hardware or installed software. At ValleyApps our philosophy is, developing your business in the cloud. I have always felt that nothing epitomizes this more than mobile business application development. Every time we discover information from a potential client we notice a need for mobile application development. The main reason we use Googleís SaaS as our flagship product is scalability and ease of development. No technology firm has promoted open-source technology like Google and Android has become so easy to develop that small business has been entered into the race to deploy mobile applications.

Vision Studios along with ValleyApps have developed a simple, mobile application for a local restaurant that boasts a large selection of micro-brewed and small-batch beer. You can search by beer type or name and even hit a button to see a random selection. This restaurant, Jack Browns, has created an inexpensive marketing tool that can not only improve the guestís experience but promote itís product along with otherís. This is a basic example of Enterprise using mobile applications to market their brand and develop business. I see infinite uses for mobile development in all organizations, municipalities and even Federal agencies. The mobile carriers are selling enough smart handsets and have covered more than enough geographic area. Now tablets are proliferating the mobile market as well as TV applications based on platforms such as iOS and Android. The race to develop mobile or home applications has just started and the Vision Studios Group is positioned to take the lead.