Search giant Google has unveiled a new service that allows businesses to quickly create their own websites from Google Apps.
The WYSIWYG website editor allows companies to create intranets, project-management websites or even a public-facing company website without any HTML or web-hosting expertise. "We are adding an edit button to the web," said Dave Armstrong, product marketing manager at Google.
Unlike most WYSIWYG web editors, Google Sites goes beyond text and pictures. Site editors can embed YouTube videos, spreadsheets or presentations from Google Docs, Google Calendars or any other type of file into their web pages.
The Google Sites can be set up by any employee who has an email account on the company domain. Armstrong claims that people have become familiar with creating their own web pages on social networking sites, but hit a brick wall when they attempt to do so in the workplace. "People say why can I do all these things so easily at home, but can't do them at work," he said. "We call this the democratisation of technology - we decide to use things, not the CIO."
But with employees potentially posting sensitive information on a Google-hosted site, is there not a security threat to corporate data? "Consumers are doing this anyway," said Armstrong, citing the example of employees emailing large work files from their webmail account when they're blocked from doing so by their corporate email server. "People use these services because they need to get their job done."
"We make it very clear and transparent to the CIOs," he added. "They can make it so that you can only share data from within your own domain."
Nevertheless, corporate intranets could now be only a hacked username and password away from prying eyes, rather than behind a firewall. "There's a balance to be struck," Armstrong admitted. "It does offer a high level of security."
Google Sites will only be available initially to organisations using the Team, Standard, Premier or Education editions of Google Apps. Administrators can enable Google Sites from the Google Apps control panel, although UK users will need to switch their language settings to US English if they want to take advantage of the service immediately, due to Google's staggered international rollout.
Google claims it won't be placing its own advertising on Google Sites, but hopes to earn revenue by encouraging organisations to sign up for the paid-for Premier version of Google Apps.
Domains hosted on Google Apps Standard and Team editions will receive 10GB of Google Sites storage. Premier and Education Edition domains receive a minimum of 10GB, plus an additional 500MB for each user account in the domain, giving businesses an incentive to upgrade.
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Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.