Cloud computing, which is accessing software applications from the internet versus the hard-drive on your computer, is becoming more popular and available. People are becoming more aware of internet based applications like Google Docs. Why? You can login to Google and start using a word processor right away. Without downloading, installing, configuring an application or worrying about minimum system requirements or feeling guilty about ‘pirating’ a copy of software someone else purchased. If your computer breaks you just login to your Google account from another computer and get back to work. It doesn’t matter what type of computer either – Windows, Mac or Linux. You just need a web browser and an internet connection. Not only is your application living on the web and is easily accessible, so is your document. While your computer is in for repair you can continue working. From any computer, public or private. Anywhere in the world where you can access the internet. How much does Google Docs cost? For the consumer it’s free. For business use there’s a version for only $50.US per year which includes an enterprise email account and calendar application. Other enterprise versions are also available.
Google Docs is not nearly as fully featured as say MS Word but when was the last time you used all of those features that you paid for? If Google Docs doesn’t have enough for you there are other feature rich cloud computing applications to choose from. We use Zoho.com for a lot of the ‘internal’ documents we don’t need to send to other people. The odd thing is – when we need to send a doc to someone we import it into MS Word since it is still a standard and popular word processing package. Occasionally I try sending a document in PDF format – universal but not editable – but I almost always get asked to resubmit in MS Word format. Why? Enterprises have bought so far into the Microsoft product lineup that they have no room for ‘non-standard’ (aka non-MS) document formats.
Google Docs and other cloud computing apps do have their downside though. When your internet connection stops working you won’t have access to your Google Docs. Google is working on an ‘off-line’ version but it’s currently not available. Zoho.com on the other hand has an off-line word processor version available which will sync your local computer docs in the cloud the next time you connect to the internet. Another concern from enterprises is that data lives on a computer not directly under their control. Is your data secure, confidential and easily accessible in the cloud? Maybe more so than the average business computer which can be easily accessed by unauthorized people. If your laptop gets stolen and every file you own is on it and you don’t have a backup – how secure and safe is that? Many large corporations are considering ‘private/internal cloud computing‘ which is were the host computers live within the corporate data centre but are accessed via the web. A good compromise.
Cloud computing is a new way of accessing software applications and another example of disruptive technology changes the way we work and is shaking the foundations of traditional business models. Hello cloud computing and goodbye shrink-wrap software!