January 15, 2010

How you can Store and Manage your Files in the Cloud

Cloud computing is another of those buzzwords that you often come across while surfing web sites on the Internet. I don't know who invented this term but Google is using it to promote its document storage service called Google Docs. Microsoft has its own version of cloud computing called Office Live where you can also store documents online.

Cloud computing solves the problem of having several versions of a document that several people may be working on. When computing using the cloud, there is only one copy of the document and it is accessible from the Internet. The people involved can assume different roles with respect to the document and may be given simple viewing or more powerful editing privileges.

In cloud computing, you are essentially using information servers in the Internet to store and manage your files. The Internet then becomes an extension of your computer serving as an omnipotent hard disk. I say omnipotent because you can access your files anywhere you can make an Internet connection.

Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live allow you to upload your documents and share them with your family, friends or co-workers. Not all types of files can be uploaded though. Only standard documents files like text files, document files like Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF files, presentation files, spreadsheets, and images like diagrams and photos are allowed to be stored in Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live.

You use your Gmail email address and Microsoft email account to sign up for the Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live document sharing service respectively. You can create folders and store files in them just like what you do in your hard disk. In Microsoft Office Live, you can even create what they call workspaces where you separate the files for your personal and work needs.

You can upload already created documents to start with Google Docs or Microsoft Office Live but you can also create new documents and save them on the cloud. In Google docs you may create a new document, presentation, spreadsheet or form or you may use a ready-made template to create your document. For Microsoft Office Live you can make a new note, list, task list, contacts list, event list, Word document, Excel spreadsheet and Powerpoint presentation.

You can edit the documents online using the tools that both of the two service providers offer. Google Docs uses its own online tools while Microsoft Office Live uses the copy of Microsoft software in the user's computer. Google Docs and Microsoft Live both offer the ability to download a copy of the document to the user's computer.

Both Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live are powerful Internet resources that can benefit a lot of people. In one way, people will have a way of sharing and working on documents securely. Some may use these services just to avail of an additional backup for their documents so that if their hard disk crash or if their USB pen drive is lost or if their backup CD is misplaced, there is still one more place where they can retrieve their files.

As to which of these two Internet resource to use would depend on the particular requirement and established working pattern of an individual. Those who favor non-proprietary solutions would probably choose Google Docs while those who have been used to working with Microsoft products would prefer the Office Live service. I think that both of these services offer state of the art tools for storing and managing your files in the cloud.

Google Docs is not able to handle the Microsoft Word format well so Word documents does not display well on Google Docs and images on the Word document simply get lost. On the other hand, Google Docs display Adobe PDF documents better than Microsoft Office Live. However, text documents are handled well by both of the two document sharing services.

One really good use of document sharing service like these is that it gives you the ability to show your documents to other people in their place of work. While in another office, you would normally not be permitted to connect your personal USB pen drive to another person's computer nor would they allow you to use the company's Internet connection for your laptop. Now, you can use their own computers and show them your documents by accessing them from the cloud.

I have used both Google Docs and Microsoft Office Live and my impression of them is that they are both good products. It is difficult to recommend one over the other since both have their own strengths and weaknesses. My advice would then be to try to use both of the services yourself and choose where you are more comfortable working and stick to it. Now you know how you can store and manage your files in the cloud.