Businesses using Google Apps can finally join the Google+ party. Google+, the Google social network, now lets users join using Gmail addresses associated with Google Apps accounts, and Google has added some features that add value for these business users as well.
One of the first things that sets Google+ for Google Apps apart from the standard Google+ is that the service must be manually enabled from within the Google Apps administrator control panel by the IT admin. It can be enabled for specific users or groups, or for the organization as a whole--giving the IT admin some control over how and where Google+ is used within the organization.
Once it is enabled, though, users with Google Apps accounts can join Google+. Google Apps users have access to all of the same features and functions as normal Google+ users, plus a few bonus features, and a caveat.
In addition to the default Circles of Google+, you can unique Circles to communicate with specific groups like departments or project teams. Google Apps accounts will also be able to share Google+ posts with their entire organization without having to create a Circle the hard way. Google says the Google Apps domain is available as its own Circle.
Hangouts with Extras
The Hangouts feature of Google+ lets a group of users jump into an impromptu video chat. Google+ Hangouts has a number of potential benefits for businesses and project teams, and Google Apps users can also take advantage of Hangouts with Extras to share screens, or collaborate in real-time in Google Docs.
Fear not! If you already invested time and effort joining Google+ with your personal Gmail account rather than waiting for Google to let Google Apps join the party, you don't have to start over from scratch. Google is developing a migration tool to merge your existing Google+ account into your Google Apps account. A Google blog post explains, "With this tool, you won’t have to rebuild your circles, and people who’ve already added you to their circles will automatically be connected to your new profile."
Limitations and Privacy
You might want to think twice about merging your personal Google+ account with your Google Apps Google+ account, though. Your employer, and the IT admin who manages your Google Apps domain have control over your Google+ access from Google Apps. Google points out that the Google Apps administrator has access to any data stored in the Google Apps account--including your email, and that the Google Apps administrator has the ability to turn off certain Google services and restrict your ability to move data to or from the account.
It might be wise to keep your personal Google+ profile separate from your Google Apps Google+ profile even if having two separate logins is a pain in the ass.