What’s up, Docs?

The future of computing may be in the clouds – at least partially. What I’m talking about is the idea of “cloud computing”. Cloud computing is a term that can mean many things to many people. But for the intent of this article, I’ll define it as the idea of running software from and storing data on servers that reside somewhere on the Internet, i.e. “the cloud”. Probably the most visible example of a cloud computing service is something called Google Docs. It’s been available for a few years now, but I feel it is just now worth investigating. In fact, I think for a lot of situations, Google Docs may be – excuse the pun – just what the doctor ordered.

Google Docs is an office suite that can be run entirely in a web browser. Imagine being able to run a program like Microsoft Word without the need to install any software. You just open a web browser like Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, go to http://docs.google.com, log in, and start a new document. On top of that, any documents you have previously saved are available no matter which computer you log in from. On top of that, the service is free for the standard service. If nothing else, that should make it worth checking out.

One of the more common needs I hear is the ability to access company data remotely. With a service like Google Docs, all data saved on Google Docs is by definition remotely available since it is already on the Internet. I think that with the increasingly mobile nature of workers today, a service like Google Docs starts to make a lot of sense.

Usually the first question asked about Google Docs is along the lines of, “is it secure?”. Certainly the service appears to be very secure and data can be encrypted in transmission. Without going into the gory technical details, I know that Google Docs has many government clients and obviously security is high on their priority lists. It is probable suffice to say that if Google can satisfy the bureaucratic security requirements of government entities, then it probably qualifies as secure for most needs.

Obviously, this article only scratches the surface of Google Docs and cloud computing. However, I felt it was worth mentioning as the applications can be very beneficial in the right situations. I’ve successfully deployed some Google services including Google Docs to many of my clients lately. If you have any interest at all in what cloud computing could do for you or your business, please contact me and we can discuss what options may be right for you.