Think online and offline to avoid getting stuck in the clouds


The Telegraph Media Group (TMG) recently announced it is not refreshing its current Microsoft Office, Exchange and Windows XP deployment and is instead moving about 1,400 internal users to cloud-based service Google Apps.

TMG’s decision to move into cloud computing – where IT-related capabilities are provided using internet technologies – could be indicative of a sea change.

More IT managers are considering a similar transition to desktop provision through the cloud, where employees can access applications and information through internet-enabled devices. For IT managers looking to the cloud, is there any major difference between online and offline provision?

The key benefits of an off-the-shelf package are well-rehearsed. Most employees will have spent most of their working lives adapting or using standard Microsoft Office packages.

Standardisation promotes usability, with workers able to benefit from working with an accepted format for spreadsheets or written documents. Such usability has helped cement Microsoft’s desktop dominance – until now.

Where as IT managers would previously have shied away from change, most now realise that best value requires an innovative and transformative approach.

Google Apps, for example, encourages collaboration. Users are able to benefit from a broad suite of applications, sharing and creating knowledge documents attached in Google Mail.

Cost is also an important factor. The Premier Edition of Google’s desktop service offers low-cost licensing and technical support, with bugs fixed and patches updated automatically.

Problems associated to storage are also removed, as information is stored in the cloud, rather than on a firm’s own resource-hungry servers.

But such a method can bring security concerns. Storing information centrally means IT managers need to be aware of potential dangers and ensure workers are trained.

And while TMG’s move into the cloud shows a leading-edge stance, mass adoption will rely on providers – such as Google – ensuring online applications have a familiar feel and high-specification functionality.

Working in the cloud also means users will need 24/7 access to the internet. Look for a provider that can match your demands, allowing workers to use cloud-based tools offline – because a drop in service availability can have damaging effects on productivity.

While the world gets carried away with rich internet experiences through Ajax and Web 2.0, users must remember the browser also serves a meaningful life offline – as well as online.

Google’s approach shows how businesses can create applications, whether workers are connected or disconnected – which has to a useful trick in helping your firm to stay ahead of the game.

And moving from the tried-and-trusted into the clouds should be all about increasing efficiency.


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2 Responses to “Think online and offline to avoid getting stuck in the clouds”

  1. Martin McLachlan Says:

    Dharmesh

    I read your recent posting and had a passing thought.

    You say:

    “Standardisation promotes usability, with workers able to benefit from
    working with an accepted format for spreadsheets or written documents. Such
    usability has helped cement Microsoft’s desktop dominance – until now.”

    You then comment on the greater appetitie for innovation. However, there
    is one other point which I think has been significant for a while. To
    obtain an economy through usability, the user interface has to remain
    reasonably stable. However, sometimes the difference between the interface
    on versions – e.g. the Excel 2003 and 2007 – is vast. For many, some
    re-training will be necessary. The irony is that Microsoft has to ring the
    changes to justify migration to the latest versions of its products but if
    this involves varying the user interface one of the main benefits is lost.

    Regards

    Martin

  2. dharmeshmistry Says:

    I believe the issue with office was MS grew very quickly and didn’t have the foresight to align functionality between the office products. Initially each product was separate and fought separate battles:
    Word with WordPerfect, Excel with ???. Word then had an option to switch menu’s to Wordperfect menu’s so those users would feel more comfortable to switch. Eventually as they captured ground the products became a suite, and the disparities of the UI’s became much more obvious. This I can understand.

    However the switch with Vista is much less understandable but unfortunately I believe this is not the last time such a switch will occur, already previews of Windows 7 show another shift in UI, this time making windows much more closer to the Apple Mac (not a bad thing for new users) but for us another hurdle. Windows 7 will also bring about UI design to take into account Touch screen gestures, again I believe forcing a move to upgrade as using smaller screens may be quite painful.

    Aside from this if they can manage to keep consistency between desktop, touchscreen, tv and mobile (i.e. multi-channel) then I can live with some change. If they are truly visionary, they will offer their customers choice of UI (Windows 95, Windows 2000, Windows Vista and Windows 7 quite big changes between each release, but we do the same things). ;o)

    So I agree, I think a change in the UI shouldn’t be enforced to those of us that are happy with the way things are. For us, I believe the majority, we should have the option to stay as is. Following Web 2.0 principles customisations in the UI are done by user choice not enforced, with skinning options.

    Thanks for taking time to read my blog and for you feedback……kind regards Dharmesh

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