Cloud Office Suites

Almost everybody is familiar with Cloud Office Suites. Anybody who has an account on Google's Drive, or Microsoft's SkyDrive, or Apple's iCloud, or... you get the idea... anybody who's using one of those services is using a Cloud Office Suite. The files that you create or save there are not stored on your computer; they're stored on the Internet (or, if you prefer, In The Cloud). And there are some very good reasons to do that these days.

Let's take, for example, Google Drive (SkyDrive and iCloud - and, indeed, several others - work very much the same way, but using just one as an example should help keep things clearer; please don't write me angry emails, I'm not slighting your favorite online system).

Standard Office Suite Fare, Online

Drive offers a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program (and many other things as well). When you create a document or a spreadsheet or a presentation, you are not saving it on your computer; you're actually saving it in Google's Cloud. This has several advantages, and a couple of disadvantages.

Advantages

No matter where you are, no matter what computer you're using, you can always get at your documents. Well, as long as you have an Internet connection. But, seriously, where do you not have an Internet connection these days? You may be one of those people who can use your smartphone as an Internet hotspot, routing all your data through it (watch out for data caps and data limits, though - you're phone's not as useful as you think as an Internet connectivity tool!). Many devices like Chromebooks and tablets come with cellular connections in them, so you don't even need to tether your phone (although you still need to worry about data caps with your carrier).

Offline, Too

If you do find yourself in desperate need to create a document and you have absolutely no Internet connection, you're still in luck. Most computers (yes, including Chromebooks!) can create documents offline. Then, when you get connected again (whew!), you can upload the documents you had created offline. Then they're stored in the Cloud for you, and you can get at them any time from anywhere. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you can get at - and edit - your documents whether you're using your desktop, laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or phone.

Device Freedom

Let's expand on that last thought. You can use just about any device (depending on whose Cloud Office Suite you're using) to get at your files. Had your Chromebook stolen? Broke your iPad? Your files are still safe on the Internet. Buy a new device, and everything is right where you left it! The ability to take a $200 Chromebook on a business trip and absolutely not worry about it being lost or stolen (because all your files are online, and the Chromebook is inexpensive) is a truly calming experience. Not just for you, but especially for your IT people back in the office!

Disadvantages

The first big disadvantage we're already dealt with: you have to be online at some point. As we see, that's not a big disadvantage, but it something to be aware of.

The second big disadvantage is that the office suites online are not exactly like the office suite you're used to on your desktop. For some people, that can be a deal breaker, but I'm not sure why. Look, you were smart enough to learn one office suite; I'm confident that you're smart enough to learn a second. These office suites all do the same things; the big (and often only) difference is in where stuff is in the menus. It's like buying a new car - you still know how to drive; you just have to figure out how the radio and the wipers work. A week after buying that new car, you'll have forgotten that you didn't know how everything worked!


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