Google used its Cloud Next conference to reveal big upgrades to its collaboration products.
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Google Splits Hangouts, Adds New Features to Drive to Lure Enterprise Users

3 minute read
David Roe avatar

Google is boosting its collaboration play with two new enterprise-focused services — Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat — as well as new enterprise-grade features for Google Drive.

It's also acquiring AppBridge, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based company that helps businesses move their files and data into the Google Cloud platform.

The announcements were made yesterday Google Cloud Next, a conference that brings together executives, customers, partners, developers, IT decision makers and Google engineers around the future of the cloud. It wraps up today at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Enterprise-Friendly Hangouts

Google is revamping Hangouts to give it an enterprise twist. It's splitting Hangouts, its video and chatting service, into two products and integrating both into Google’s G Suite portfolio of workplace software that includes the Gmail and Calendar apps, according to Scott Johnston, director of product management for Google Hangouts.

In a blog post, Johnson explained the idea was to make connecting over video and chat more collaborative. He added that Hangouts Meet makes "joining meetings effortless so that people can be as productive as they are when they’re face-to-face" and described Hangouts Chat as "an intelligent communication app for teams."

Hangouts Chat includes dedicated, virtual rooms that "create a lasting home for each project." Threaded conversations make comments easy to follow and integration with G Suite enables shared content from Drive and Docs, or photos and videos to be viewed directly in conversations.

Chat also integrates with third-party applications; Johnson said Google is working with companies including Asana, Box, Prosperworks and Zendesk.

Hangouts Meet is now generally available. G Suite customers can apply to try Hangouts Chat through the Early Adopter Program.

Learning Opportunities

'Enterprise Ready Tools'

Google is also repositioning Google Drive to make it more attractive to enterprise users.

While Google has always had a strong grip on the small-to-medium enterprise space, the problems of managing storage and collaboration are becoming more complex as more large enterprises move to the cloud.

“There's more to think about — like the risk of data breaches, bumpy migrations, and compatibility with legacy tools,” Alex Vogenthaler, Group Product Manager for Google Drive wrote in a blog post.

Google's additions include:

  1. Team Drives, which aims to make drive better for companies with large teams. It offers features that make it easy to add new members, stay on top of files as members leave, and simplify sharing permissions and admin controls, Vogenthaler noted.
  2. Google Vault for Drive makes it easier for administrators to manage and export Google Drive data as well as adding better discovery and compliance capabilities.
  3. Drive File Stream, which allows teams to stream files directly from the cloud to their computer. That enables a user to access all of her company data directly from her laptop, for instance, even if she has limited space on her hard drive.
  4. Quick Access, powered by Google's machine intelligence to predict and surface relevant files.

Alex Vogenthaler said Google's acquisition of AppBridge would make switching to Google Drive easier than ever. "Your organization can migrate files effortlessly to G Suite from your existing file servers or content management systems like SharePoint, or from many other cloud platforms you might be using," he wrote.

Cloud-fueled collaboration is heating up: Stay tuned for Microsoft's response when it announces the general availability of Teams next week.

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