Going Google across the 50 States: Kentucky window manufacturer leaves desktop software behind

Friday, February 25, 2011 | 8:40 AM

Editor's note: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Steve Stepp, IT Manager of Sun Windows, a manufacturer of high quality windows and doors serving Owensboro, Kentucky and surrounding areas. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

Sun Windows is a family-owned business that dates back to the 1930’s when V. E. Anderson, Sr. invented and built storm windows in his garage at night and sold them door-to-door during the day. Today, Sun Windows is run by his grandson, Frank Anderson, and offers an expansive product line of high quality, energy efficient windows and doors with a focus on customer service.

The window and door business is seasonal, following trends in new construction and peaking in summer. At the height, we have around 120 employees made up of about 80% production workers who manufacture the products, and 20% office staff and outside sales who use email and other office software regularly. Keeping everyone connected and communicating effectively is one of my main goals.

We originally used a local provider for web hosting and email and there was a lot of downtime when email just wouldn’t work. I’d get phone calls from individuals throughout the company and would have to contact our email provider about once a month. Adding to this, we received significantly more spam than good email. Sun Windows even got flagged as a spammer because all our emails went through the local provider. We’re a small company and everyone wears a lot of hats so these issues took up a lot of time I didn’t really have.

I used Gmail at home and had even set up Google Apps for my personal website so I knew about its robust spam-filtering and other great features. Given all the email problems we were having at work, I decided to switch the company to Google Apps and have never looked back. The amount of spam in our inboxes is almost nothing and having web-based email accessible from any Internet connection is a big plus for everyone. At the time of the switch, I hadn’t even considered the added benefits of other products like Google Calendar and Google Docs.

After setting up email, we quickly created shared calendars to keep various departments organized, track company events and schedule customer visits for the field service unit. Then we slowly started to use Google Docs. Most people in the company were familiar and comfortable with desktop office software but once they realized the power of collaborating and sharing documents online, almost everyone switched to Google Docs. Production line supervisors use a spreadsheet to track labor hours at the plant, and sales reps create and share customer presentations. We’ve also moved existing documents over to Google Docs which we use to store files of any type.

Now when new computers are purchased, I don’t renew our Microsoft® Office licences. The company saves money but even more importantly, I save time in administering licenses, installations, security patches, and training. Google Apps has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve made for Sun Windows and I continually look for new ways to take advantage of it to improve how we work.

Posted by Steve Stepp, IT Manager, Sun Windows