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Many schools abandon Microsoft Office for Google Apps to save money; Google Docs added 100 new features in 2011

Google Apps is a Google service that features several Web applications similar to traditional office suites. The services vary per edition but generally include Docs, Gmail, Calendar, Talk, Sites, Groups, Video, and Marketplace. Its popularity among students and educational institutions is rapidly increasing due to enhanced sharing features, accessibility and cost.

Google Apps for Education is just one edition that offers 25 GB of storage space per user for free through K-12 schools, colleges, and universities with up to 30,000 users. Forty-million active users currently use Google Apps, and according to US News & World Report, 61 of the Top 100 schools have switched to the educational service.

“Google Apps offers simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools for educational institutions of any size – all hosted by Google to minimize maintenance and reduce IT costs,” said Google Apps for Education on its website. “Google Apps is provided to educational institutions at no charge, and is hosted on the same enterprise-class infrastructure used by corporate and government customers.”

UC Berkeley announced Dec. 21 that they planned to make Google Apps for Education their new campus calendar and email system. “Operation Excellence” is a cost cutting initiative designed by the university to save $75 million annually. UC Berkeley currently offers their campus faculty, students and staff access to Microsoft software and Adobe Creative Suite free of charge. However, campus officials agreed to convert to Google Apps for Education in January 2012.