According to Accredited Supplier (a B2B research firm), more than 1 in 10 small businesses in the UK intend to stop using Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Outlook. They’re looking to make the switch to ‘cloud computing’ versions such as Google Docs and Gmail.
Accredited Supplier polled 1,400 Microsoft customers and found that 13% plan to swap to Google Apps within the next 12 months, and another 22% are undecided. Just 36% say that they are definitely staying with Microsoft.
Following Google’s recent ‘Go Google’ campaign that targeted small business, Google say that around 1.75m businesses are using its applications. That of course is just a drop in the ocean compared to the tens of millions using Microsoft Office.
The main difference between traditional Microsoft office and Google Docs are that whilst you need to install MS Office onto every PC in your company, Google Docs can be accessed by any computer connected to the Internet.
Why Cloud Computing and Google Docs are good
It brings lots of benefits. To start with there is the cost. Whilst Office can cost up to £200 per PC, Google Docs are free.
Second, Google Docs allow more than one user to work on a document at any one time – no more emailing a single version backwards and forwards between you and a colleague.
The third main benefit is safety and security. Since all your documents are stored in Google’s DataCentre, you don’t need to worry about your PC crashing before you can save vital files. Google automatically backs up and stores any Google doc you have.
Why Cloud Computing and Google Docs ain’t perfect
Cloud computing isn’t all good news. To start with, it means that you can only access your documents when you are connected to the Internet. That’s fine if you work in an office, but if you ever take a laptop out and about, reliance on wireless hotspots and 3G dongles mean your connection is at best patchy.
Second, whilst Google Docs are good, there’s no doubt that you do lose some of the functionality of an excel spreadsheet. They’re just not quite as good.
And the third thing is in the nature of the system. Even the mighty Google has downtime occasionally, and this means that there will be occasions that you can’t get at and work on your files.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to Google docs is that they require you and your team to learn a whole new way of doing things. No more storing documents on your PC or local server. And when people are learning, they often make mistakes.
But the in the end Microsoft may well win this battle. The next version of office out next year is rumoured to be ‘cloud compatible’, which may well mean that users get all the benefits of a collaborative, secure online solution, with the ease of use of having the software on a local machine. It sounds similar to Microsoft’s email system ‘Hosted Exchange’ where your local emails are mirrored in the cloud.
Have any of you made the switch from Microsoft to Google Docs or another ‘cloud computing’ solution? Would you prefer to stick with the tried and tested Office software? Leave us a comment below.