Google is releasing a new edition of its hosted applications suite that end-users can bring into the workplace without the involvement of their IT department.
It means a further headache for IT managers who worry about employees using unauthorised software at work, particularly in industries where information management is heavily regulated, like health care and finance.
The new release, called Google Apps Team Edition, is due to be available today for free. It is aimed at employees who are interested in using Google Apps but whose employers haven't signed up for it, said Rajen Sheth, Google Apps senior product manager.
Team Edition contains the core communication and collaboration services and applications from other editions, like the word processor, spreadsheet, Start page, Talk instant messaging and calendar, but not Gmail, which requires IT participation to re-route the company's e-mail flow.
So far, more than 500,000 mostly small organisations have signed up for Google Apps, but the other versions -- Standard, Education, Partner and Premier -- require IT to implement the suite because its services are linked to an organisation's Internet domain.
That changes with the Team Edition, which will let employees set up Google Apps workgroups as long as they have valid e-mail addresses with their organisations' domains, Sheth said.
"Google Apps has been, by definition, an IT project, and now we want to let people use it without IT involvement," Sheth said.
Once signed up with Team Edition, people can see who else in their organisation's Internet domain is also a user, and invite those who aren't, Sheth said.
"It provides a quick way for workgroups to start collaborating," he said.
IT managers should not fear Team Edition, according to Sheth, because, unlike other software that employees use without IT approval, it provides an upgrade path to IT-manageable versions.
"The IT department always has the option to sign up for the Standard Edition for free if they want to provide control over this," Sheth said. "This is a solid, happy medium."
Team Edition can also be upgraded to the other editions, like Education, which is free, and Premier, which costs $50 per user per year. Although Gmail isn't part of Team Edition, Google is exploring ways to make it a part, Sheth said.