Should You Try Cloud Computing?
We are all used to using programs that are installed on our computers. Word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation managers are among the most commonly used tools. In the last few years a new method to deliver these services has become common.
In cloud computing software you access programs from a server through a web browser. The browser serves as your window to create and edit documents. All the documents are then stored in your account on the server.
I have been using Google Docs for several years with no problems. Here are some advantages I have found with cloud computing:
- Edit the files on any computer.
- Post the documents as web pages for anyone to see. For example, I post instructions for course labs on the web. Documents can also be embedded in web pages. The instructor list on the CEFTS web site is an embedded spreadsheet.
- Collaborate almost simultaneously with other editors. This I haven’t tried yet, but the reviews have been good.
- Download the files to use on a local computer with any office application.
- Both Google Docs and Microsoft’s Office Live are free to use after registration. They both have generous storage available. (Microsoft offers an astounding 25 megabytes free.)
There are some cautions and caveats:
- Are the files secure? Google Docs has increased security recently. They ask for passwords more often. Yet, I wouldn’t put my gradebook (a spreadsheet) in the clouds quite yet.
- There aren’t as many tools available in the cloud versions as you get on a desktop application. Yet, I have found 99% of the commonly used tools and functions I need. In addition, Google Docs have a number Gadgets, many user developed, that you can access.
- Without internet access you are high and dry. I also wouldn’t try these tools over a modem.
I would recommend Google Docs without reservation. Microsoft has just started its cloud computing service. I will be experimenting with it in the next few months. The new Office 2010 is supposed to be better integrated with the cloud service. You can sign in to Office Live here: http://office.live.com
Here are examples of files I have made with Google Docs: