Web App Lets Businesses Set Security, Sharing for Google Apps Users

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A new security tool lets enterprise IT groups set access and share policies for employees, including mobile users, who are working with the online Google Apps suite.

Using the Web-based DomainWatch, from New York City-based startup BetterCloud, an administrator can see an overview of the enterprise's full suite of Google Apps assets -- documents, presentations, calendars, and wikis and Web pages created with Google Sites. The policy editor lets you create and apply sharing and access rules for individuals or groups of users and assets.

[TECH ARGUMENT: Microsoft Office 365 vs. Google Apps for Business]

DomainWatch is targeted at a burgeoning array of enterprises, of all sizes, that are adopting Google Apps, sometimes replacing Microsoft's longstanding Microsoft Office suite, according to BetterCloud founder and CEO David Politis. He previously launched the SMB unit for Cloud Sherpas, a Google Apps consultancy and reseller.

Microsoft's rival online offering is Office 365. Both companies stress a range of collaborative scenarios, where multiple users can work on a document at the same time, for example, and up-to-date information can be shared easily via Web access with customers or business partners.

DomainWatch is a Web-based application, built atop the online Google App Engine, a framework that lets developers build and run Web apps on the Google infrastructure. IT or business managers access it via a Web browser. Once configured, DomainWatch uses the Google Apps APIs to launch a scan of all of the documents, calendars and other assets in the enterprise's Google Apps Domain. It collects information about these assets: name, their sharing settings, authors, and so on, and then stores just this information, indexes it, and makes it available administrative dashboard. It takes about an hour to do a full scan for a large enterprise domain, according to the vendor.

The DomainWatch Policy Editor lets you specify who can share what and how. These rules can be applied to individuals, groups, or across an organization. The policies let DomainWatch monitor the assets, and identify violations of sharing policies.

The Dashboard creates a single view for the enterprise domain of all Google Apps Calendars, Docs, and Sites. All of these assets can be searched and filtered based on nine criteria. DomainWatch lets you create or change rules, and apply them at once, such as changing the ownership of a Docs collection, or "unsharing" with a group of contract employees whose contract has expired: Again, it uses the Google Apps API and the attendant access control lists to apply such changes.

DomainWatch has no access to the enterprise documents themselves, according to Politis, and stores only the results of its scan.

The program is intended to give enterprises adopting Google Apps domain wide control over their assets, for hundreds or thousands of end users. "As they roll these out, and their users engage with Google Apps, there are opportunities for user error," Politis says. Users might not realize what "public" means in Google Apps, and expose a sensitive document to people outside the enterprise. DomainWatch can both catch that problem and, through the Policy Editor, prevent it from happening.

BetterCloud began beta testing the application last November. It's now available via the Google Apps Marketplace. The price is $8 per year for each user. Discounts are available for education customers.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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This story, "Web App Lets Businesses Set Security, Sharing for Google Apps Users" was originally published by Network World.

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