The next generation of Google Docs

by Volker Weber

Today we are hosting nearly 400 CIOs and IT professionals from around the world at Atmosphere, our inaugural event at the Googleplex dedicated to cloud computing. The discussion is centered on how companies can focus their technology expertise on projects that truly improve their businesses instead of managing complex applications, technology platforms and devices. We are also sharing details about improvements to Google Docs, made possible by a new codebase that will allow us to deliver richer functionality more quickly.

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I have read lots of blogs and articles and opinions etc that say Cloud will be the next big thing but I must admit I'm still struggling to see it. At the end of the day (in this particular case) it's just an Office-style bunch of apps albeit with some collaboration built in. But does anyone really collaborate in the way shown here, other than a couple of times a week / month / year?

Does this really "truly improve their businesses instead of managing complex applications, technology platforms and devices."? I don't see any real complex applications here, no complex technology platforms, nor devices.

Of course as a non-IT person I could be wrong but IT doesn't have to be complicated and it can be a differentiator for your business, but not by outsourcing to the cloud, other than perhaps for a back up / disaster recovery.

Smoke and mirrors guys, smoke and mirrors.

John Lindsay, 2010-04-12

@John to your first question: yes, we do! And we are not alone. And the applications are not "complex" as such. Just the sheer number of technologies and variants of versions that each team member would use if we hadn't Google Apps makes a collaboration complex with traditional technologies. With traditional ICT each additional team member with different ICT components exponentially increases a) the risk of some screw-up and b) the cost of admin and c) the risk of project failure and frustrations within the team.

Because the ICT infrastructure within big companies is homogeneous to some degree, I guess that most of the organisations and individuals using cloud-based apps work in small and decentralised team-focussed groups with no (or small) corporate IT departments and small budgets: joint-venture projects, small companies, associations, charities, informal teamwork, startups... Often on an ad-hoc basis. In big orgs teams possibly use cloud apps when working across divisions or organisations or when trying to avoid the coporate (IT) bureaucracy :-)

Since cloud-based collaboration have become mainstream a couple of years ago, the worst collaboration experiences I have had, were with teams from different corporations, each with their own classic ICT infrastructure and unwilling to use web-based apps. Even dropbox & co doesn't work, because frequently some participants have only have access to the Internet via secure (restricted) connections.

And as always, when the deadline is close, people start sending out these meeting minutes docs and presentation/spreadsheet files attached to an email. That message is then sent to 3 people or more and I want to scream NNOOOO SSTTOOOOOPPP please.

By then 2 scenarios develop, either the response communication avalanche is already underway... or not, because people intuitively know, that they may waste their time if others respond as well and nobody knows what the source doc and the latest version really is. In that second scenario, most of the participants simply wait, watch and... use the phone. They spend time on in-transparent one-to-one communications, especially when the pressure is rising with fast approaching deadlines. Either way, everybody is unhappy. Only solution, cloud-based apps, independently hosted from any involved organisation.

And BTW, it is sooo much cheaper...

Moritz Schroeder, 2010-04-13

@Moritz: But what about Data Security?
I wouldn't like to know the development data of our company on a 3rd Party Server.
Also accessing data just over a username and password sounds not really safe to me.
Thinking of that I don't even want to mention german Data Privacy(Datenschutz) regulations, if you work with Customer Data.

The Functions of Working in nearly every environment and collaborating easily are very usefull, though.

Patrick Bohr, 2010-04-13

When people talk about the cloud and iffy security, I think they’re overstating how good typical on-premises set-ups are.

We regularly see organisations use obfuscation in place of proper security, organisations who have their developers send sensitive data over open lines. Or organisations flouting software licensing and data protection rules, operating dysfunctional security policies with regards server and application access—heck, even leaving whole DVDs full of sensitive data in public places.

So, you know, in-house isn’t all that :-)

Ben Poole, 2010-04-13

Cloud apps certainly sound good and I think you are right Ben in that internal IT is not always whiter than white.

One of the main issues that I find people worrying over is the loss of control of your data. Some of the big moves to google, such as the Guardian News and Media Group, I believe, run on separate private servers separate from the rest of googles farm.

Anybody run google apps and had cause to ring them up to sort their issues out? How did you rate their response?

It would be nice to be able to take on-site backups of you google sites/docs etc - that possible? Maybe I am missing the point!

Garry Lees, 2010-04-13

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