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Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office

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Microsoft Office is the office suite of choice for millions of users; Google Docs is a web-based office suite that offers superior sharing and collaboration options. Should you switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs? In this article, Cloud Computing author Michael Miller presents the pros and cons of both suites — and helps you decide whether it's time to jump into the world of web-based applications.

The latest computing trend is something called cloud computing, which has led to the introduction of numerous web-based applications that you can access from any web browser. The most popular of these web apps is Google Docs, an online competitor to the Microsoft Office software suite. Is Google Docs a viable option for long-time Office users? Read on to find out.

Understanding Cloud Computing and Web-Based Applications

With traditional desktop computing, you run a copy of a software program on each computer you own. The documents you create are stored on the computer on which they were created. While documents can be accessed from other computers on the network, they can't truly be shared—that is, they can't be worked on by multiple users in real time.

With cloud computing, the software programs you use aren't run from your personal computer, but are rather stored on servers accessed via the Internet, typically within a web browser. The browser accesses the web-based application and an instance of the application is opened within the browser window. Once launched, the web-based application operates and behaves like a standard desktop application; the only difference is that the application and the working documents remain on the host's cloud servers.

There are many advantages to web-based applications. If the user's PC crashes, it doesn't affect either the host application or the open document; both remain unaffected in the cloud. In addition, an individual user can access his applications and documents from any location on any PC; he doesn't have to a copy of every app and file with him when he moves from office to home to remote location. Finally, because documents are hosted in the cloud, multiple users can collaborate on the same document in real time, using any available Internet connection. Documents are no longer machine-centric; they're always available to any authorized user.

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