A New Generation
Living in a time of furious technological change means that eventually, and probably sooner than you think, the way you are used to working becomes outdated. It’s not hard to find people who spent most of their careers in an age before computers were widely available to businesses — and now most businesses can’t function without computers.
Once computers moved into offices they became a sort of all purpose appliance — machines that could transform from typewriter to calculator to chess set depending on the software. It was during that period of computer as stand-alone appliance that most of today’s business tools were first developed. You bought software for word processing, accounting, spreadsheets and anything else you needed, and it sat on your desktop until you were ready to use.
With the widespread adoption of the internet as a tool for communication and business, that appliance model of use is increasingly being challenged. Microsoft Office still reigns supreme in most workplaces, but more and more businesses are looking for productivity solutions from a new breed of applications that live and work on-line. Some of the most popular and accessible of those are produced by Google.
Google has been steadily branching out from being simply a search engine to being a service hub. Now, they offer an integrated suite of free applications that include:
Alerts — automatic updates on user-selected search terms
Analytics — tracking and analysis of web traffic
Blogger — web-log publishing
Calendar — sharable schedule with automatic notification
Docs and Spreadsheets — web-based word processor and spreadsheet applications
Is it Worth it?
To decide whether making the switch to web based applications, you have to know what you want from your software. In general, web-based solutions are not as sophisticated as their more traditional counterparts. For example, though Google Docs and Spreadsheets has a user interface quite similar to Microsoft’s corresponding products, it lacks much of their high-end functionality. You won’t be able to use macros, track changes or any of the even more sophisticated tools embedded in MS Word.
On the other hand, if all you’re looking for is simple usability then the Google Aps deliver. Not only can they manage all of your basic needs, but because they are on-line you can use them from any computer. What’s more, they allow people to work on them collaboratively and even simultaneously.
The solution is to look around and try on-line applications. Most of them are free, so there is very little risk. Traditional software is expensive and powerful — but if you’re not using the power they’re charging you for, you may be better off with on-line solutions that offer many of the basic advantages of with a minimal investment. If you’re a small business looking for convenience, collaboration and functionality, the new generation of on-line applications might be for you.