Google Workspace goes free, updates encryption features

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Collaboration apps have become part of with working life. At this point, it’s just a fact. Google Workspace is, unsurprisingly, one of the most well-known and widely used of these collaboration tools, but a decent chunk of its premium content and features was locked behind a paywall. Now, Google is making all aspects of its collaboration tool free for anyone with a Google account.

“Google Workspace for everyone”

This means that everyone with a Google account will have unfettered access to Gmail, Google Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Meet, etc. and all of their trimmings. Plus, the search-engine titan is bringing in a healthy spread of useful new updates to these services.

To start, Google’s transforming Rooms (Google Workspace’s “central place to connect, create and collaborate with others”) into Spaces. They’re not hugely different, but Spaces will have a couple of new features, like topic-threading, custom statuses, expressive reactions, moderation tools, and more. It’s effectively Google’s take on Slack and Discord combined.

Google’s also introducing a new (still paid) tier of Workspace called “Workspace Individual”, which should already give you some idea of what’s going on there. It gives users all the tricks and tools they need to run their personal businesses, without having to set up a business domain. According to Google, it should “…help individual business owners get more done, show up more professionally, and better serve their customers.” Workspace Individual is rolling out to the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and Japan first, and should arrive across the rest of the world later.

Google’s also adding in some privacy and protection features for companies and corporations. They’ll soon be able to use “client-side” encryption to protect data stored across Google Workspaces. This means that not even Google will know how to unscramble encrypted data on its collaboration platform, adding another level to data security.

Businesses opting in to this encryption method will have to store their keys with one of four service partners: Flowcrypt, Futurex, Thales, or Virtru. This updated encryption method is aimed at businesses that handle sensitive information. Its beta will roll out in the coming weeks.

Users will also soon control how data is shared over Drive using ‘Trust Rules’. These let users set specific rules and restrictions on internal and external sharing of Drive files and documents. The beta for this feature will arrive some time in the next few months.

These are a few more significant upgrades to Google Workspaces, most probably spurred on by business’ increasing reliance on collaboration platforms thanks to the pandemic. We’re certain to see similar updates as the year goes on.

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