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Google Adds Groups to Apps Premier Suite

Google continues to push the scope of its Google Apps Premier suite, hopping on the growing interest in collaboration, to add group sharing for enterprise users. Google Groups is not a new application, but to date it's only been available as a free consumer app. While the new Apps Premier version adds more IT controls, the aim is the same -- to let users set up online groups, discussion forums and the like quickly and easily.

The addition of Groups doesn't change Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Apps Premier suite's pricing, which remains $50 per user/per year. A free version is available for the education market.

"This is a big step in consumerizing IT," Shimrit Ben-yair, product manager for Google Groups, told InternetNews.com. "It makes Google Groups more relevant in an enterprise context. IT administrators spend a lot of time managing groups, adding and deleting people and having to a do a lot of hand-holding for users."

Ben-yair said the enterprise version of Groups lets users set up a group tied to a company's domain in as little as 30 seconds.

The release comes at a time when all the big enterprise firms – IBM, Cisco, Microsoft and others – are pushing collaboration solutions. Google, a relative newcomer in the enterprise space, has been making steady progress with Apps Premier, winning over a number of blue chip clients the past few years that have made at least partial deployments of the cloud computing applications.

Groups lets employees create groups for their departments, teams or projects, while IT departments can preset and adjust who has access rights. Employees can use these groups as mailing lists but also instantly share documents, spreadsheets, presentations, calendars videos and Web sites with group members instead of sending out to individual recipients. Also, all the information in the groups archive can be retrieved by group members without IT involvement.

Delta Hotels and Resorts, an early Google Groups user, is enthusiastic about the new release.

"Our brand strategy involves creating communities for both our guests and, within our organization, our employees," said Michael Rodger, director of digital innovation, in a statement.

"In hotel locations from the Pacific to the Atlantic, Google Groups enables our employee community to pose questions, share information and distribute best practices across the company," Rodger continued.

"Colleagues can post to a single email address knowing that their message will be delivered to mailboxes across the whole organization. Furthermore, Google Groups ensures that all historical conversations are searchable, enabling Delta Hotels and Resorts to capture valuable insight for future reference."