Cloud Computing and Google Docs

Why Cloud Computing?

Imagine the absence of a power grid throughout the nation, necessitating the presence of a generator in every home for producing electricity. Seems inefficient, doesn’t it? Well, if so be the case, why do we have our computers filled with software we use intermittently? Wouldn’t it be meaningful to use software the same way we use electricity – as and when we need it?

This was the defining thought behind cloud computing, which has been defined as “Internet- based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand.” The Internet is an essential ingredient of this technology, providing the medium of communication and the tools required for work (and play). In fact, Google describes the Internet as the “home” of its cloud system.
Cloud computing allows people to use software as and when required, allowing the most efficient use of resources. Not only does it allow efficient use of resources, it also works out cheaper for users as they do not need to purchase software but only get billed as a utility – pay for only what they use.

Another major advantage is collaborating on shared documents. Earlier, if someone required several people to make changes in a document, these changes were made individually and then compiled together. By sharing documents with predefined accesses over the cloud, only one copy is maintained and changes implemented whenever made by any user.

The name of cloud computing was most probably derived from the diagrams of clouds used to represent the Internet in textbooks. The concept was derived from telecommunications companies who made a radical shift from point-to-point data circuits to Virtual Private Network (VPN) services in the 1990s. By optimizing resource utilization through load balancing, they could get their work done more efficiently and inexpensively.

How Google Docs revolutionized Cloud Computing

Although online merchant Amazon was one of the pioneers of cloud computing and launched Amazon Web Service in 2006 for its customers, it was Google Docs that really popularized the concept. Even as several big players like IBM and Microsoft have entered the cloud, Google is still the most well-known name in this field. Although its functionality has a lot to do with its popularity, the fact that it is free doesn’t hurt.

Google Docs was born out of an internal Google development – Google Spreadsheets – and an acquired product – Writely. Although Google Spreadsheets was developed in-house, a lot of the technology was based on the XL2Web product, developed by New York-based 2Web Technologies and acquired by Google in 2005. Writely, on the other hand, was a web-basedword processor fully developed by Silicon Valley-based start-up Upstartle. Google acquired the
company in 2006.

Google Spreadsheets and Writely made their individual appearances as part of the Google family in June and September 2006, and finally came together as Google Docs in February 2007. Now it had two main components of an office application suite – word processor and spreadsheet; however, a presentation tool like MS Power Point was missing. However, Google soon rectified this with the release of their presentation tool (in 25 languages) in September 2007.

Over the last few years, Google has made several minor improvements to Google Docs. In fact, it has crossed the beta threshold, something the older Gmail has still not been able to do. As of today, Google Docs supports all file types and allows 1 GB of free storage. If you want more space, you will have to pay 25 cents for every additional gigabyte. For everyday editing, presenting and record-keeping tasks, Google Docs is a great option. For specialized tasks like graphics work, you may still need to purchase the right software.

By Sourya Biswas

sourya

Sourya Biswas is a former risk analyst who has worked with several financial organizations of international repute, besides being a freelance journalist with several articles published online. After 6 years of work, he has decided to pursue further studies at the University of Notre Dame, where he has completed his MBA. He holds a Bachelors in Engineering from the Indian Institute of Information Technology. He is also a member of high-IQ organizations Mensa and Triple Nine Society and has been a prolific writer to CloudTweaks over the years... http://www.cloudtweaks.com/author/sourya/
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