LA City Council Choose Google Docs Over Microsoft Office

By Craig Buckler
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LA Google ApplicationsLos Angeles City Council has approved a $7.2 million deal to use Google’s applications for its 30,000 personnel. The council voted unanimously to replace several of their current IT systems with Google Apps and GMail instead of competing offers over a dozen other IT suppliers.

The deal is a massive boost for Google as it attempts to compete with Microsoft, IBM and HP in the business arena. Perhaps it’s the first sign that cloud computing is being considered as a serious proposition by major corporations.

Google’s ambition is to lure companies away from their dependency on Microsoft Office. Their success to date has been modest:

  • MS Office is one of the most entrenched business applications. For many companies, it is the primary reason for purchasing a PC.
  • Feature-for-feature, MS Office beats Google Docs by a wide margin. Critics argue that Office users only utilize 10% those features, but that 10% differs from person to person.
  • Many users develop their IT skills on MS Office. Google Docs may be simpler, but an element of re-training is likely to be necessary. For example, sharing a document with another user no longer involves emailing an attachment.
  • Cloud computing is a relatively new concept compared to the files and folders model. Corporations will be concerned about service availability and security.

However, cloud computing can offer significant business advantages:

  • Users can work from any web-connected machine at any time.
  • Groups of authorized users can work on the same documents at the same time. There will be fewer issues with multiple versions of the same file being shared between personnel.
  • Losing a PC, whether by breakdown or negligence, has less of an impact: the data is securely stored online and backed up automatically.
  • Staff activity and access can be logged and monitored more effectively.
  • There is less need for fast PCs or OS upgrades. Users could keep Windows XP, switch to Macs, or a use a humble machine with a lightweight Linux distribution and retain the same office applications.

The LA contract offers Google a chance to demonstrate their ability to cope with large scale data handling, storage, and security. Computer Sciences, the third-party contractor implementing the system, has agreed to pay a preset penalty payment should a breach occur. With 30,000 users, even 1 minute of downtime represents a work time loss of 2 man-months (although this assumes the unlikely situation that every user is accessing the system during the same minute!)

Business analysts will be watching the project closely.

Would you consider switching to Google Apps within your company? Is cloud computing reliable and secure enough? Are Google’s applications really a viable alternative to Microsoft Office and other fat-client alternatives?

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  • I think this is a fantastic step forward. I use Google docs a lot already, we used to share client site details on an excel spreadsheet and we were always trying to find out who had the document open, so we could update the file. Google Docs has taken that away as we can all edit and view at the same time.

    I do think Google Docs haas a way to go to catch up with Office in Terms of features. I am waiting for a cloud computing alternative to photoshop and then I will be installing Ubuntu and waving goodbye and good ridance to Microsoft.

  • just_passing_by

    I would not trust google with anything business. They’re just too greedy collectors of information. Even though they claim to be good – I don’t trust them.

  • Interesting. I have been reluctant to put too much out in the cloud, I guess I need the control. I’ve been thinking about trying out GDocs, but haven’t yet.

  • StevenHu

    Can you be more specific as to what someone’s greed has to do with the features offered?

  • AlexClifford

    Does Google offer a content “export” or “download” from there Google Apps services? I would definitely see some businesses not liking the idea of not having full access to their data if they ever wanted to remove it and move to another system.

  • I’d almost rather chisel away on stone tablets than use MS Word. I don’t even have Word on my home computer (I do have the Reader software), every doc I write is either in text or HTML-formatted. Kudos to the LA City Council for taking a step into the future and away from the evil :) Microsoft present.

  • USPatriot

    Wow, another pro-Google – anti-microsoft article from Craig, didn’t see that coming. It’s funny how the PHP/Open-Source fanboys support Google, when they are also becoming a monopoly in certain areas. Hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  • @USPatriot
    How exactly is it anti-Microsoft? Or pro-Google for that matter? It’s reporting what’s happened and the pros/cons of cloud computing. My last point even questions whether Google Docs is a viable alternative.

    I’m more than willing to accept criticisms, but please read the article first!

  • USPatriot

    Please Craig, stop the Propaganda, and spinninng the truth.

    Firstly, how many Microsoft articles have you done? And of those articles, we’re any positve? On the flip side how many articles have you done on Google? And of those, how many we’re positive?

    Case in point, Windows 7 just came out, and is possibly MS best offering on their OS’s. Out-sold XP and Vista in the same amount of time. Where is an indepth article on the positives of the new OS? What are some of the new features of the OS?

    You seem intelligent, although misguided, you see where I am going with this. The MS fans know you receive paychecks from Google and Adobe. Hey, it’s business, I understand. Just broaden your horizon, and give credit where credit is due. Don’t question my intellect.

  • @USPatriot
    Ahh, I see. You’re a conspiracy theorist!

    Well, since you’re not going to believe any facts or figures I state, why not check for yourself. So far, I’ve praised Windows 7, Security Essentials, XP Mode, Bing, IE8, SuperPreview, and MS’s charity donations. I’ve been critical of their complaints against Google Chrome and dubious Firefox extensions.

    You think Google and Adobe pay me/SitePoint for favorable posts? Why wouldn’t Microsoft too? They’ve got far more money!

  • beattikashi

    I am an IS analyst, and yes I love PHP, MySQL and the web based content management system they have produced, and all the web 2.0 luxuries, I do not hoever support google docs, here’s why:

    – Google does not take responsibility for preservation or protection of your data
    – It allows an organizations sensitive FOIP data to be put online by any user, who may not know the risk they may be bringing too:
    A. A students personal data
    B. A patients personal data
    C. Anyone’s personal data

    – The data could be shared or cross-linked with the wrong data, or the wrong user
    – If something foes wrong with your account, you could loose access to your data, or loos your data forever
    – Rights are based on what the user chooses, vs the organization (Bad news if a FOIP investigation on a users behalf is ever launched)
    – There are many other ways to secure and share data with web 2.0 tools, securly and safely and to the proper induviduals who are apart of the organiztion
    – Your data is protected when you choose the proper tools, and is also available anywhere on the web, yet it is secure and backed up daily
    – Google could charge you for storage at any time
    – Google controls your data, and you don’t

    Look at any system that employs these techniques, and you’ll shudder at the day you lost control of your intellectual material…

  • whyulil

    I work at a college and all i see is money wasted.

    we have a site license for the Adobe Design premium

    out of 2000 people, i think im the only person who knows how to take advantage of the features that are more advanced than what you find in paint.

    nobody will ever get their head round illustrator in the time they get in class

    if all the lessons were taught with a suite like aviary or sumo paint the students could work in college or at home or a library and we would save 10s of thousands of uk pounds

    google docs will let the kids work remotely and will survive pwer outages and back up/ hard drive failures better than the auto save in office.

    collaborative working would be far better on google docs too compared to shareopint as only one person can work on a document at once with the MS solution (why office 2k7 / sharepoint 2007 didnt solve that is anybodies guess) MS should have taken advantage of the improvements of IE8 to make something useful to business rather than same shit different interface.

    slide rocket would be amazing and it hooks into flikr or facebook which everybody uses already. half the problems i come across are from people not knowing how to put a youtube video into a slide. something that works seamlessly in the web based software.

    we have all these reallly amazing features that nobody uses so i wonder why anybody forks out the money for the software.

    we only need maybe 10 computers with office for mail merging/stubborn users. instead we have a site licence costing thousands for various pieces of software and nobody ever learns to use it properly.

    Im getting lost in my points, but you get the idea. teachers can use free software and do the same things sometimes more easily. the students can use the software anywhere they like and they dont need to use pirated software like thay all do. and they get the same experience whether they are at home college or have moved on to a job.

    I never thought id say it butfor education at least, it makes sense to move to SaaS / cloud computing.

  • @whyulil
    I think you make some great points. Cloud computing is ideal for students and schools – collaboration is easy and even marking/corrections could be achieved online. There’d be no excuses for not doing homework either (Word BSOD’d on me! The dog ate my keyboard!)

    The cost savings would be huge. Microsoft and the rest don’t charge as much to schools, but they still make money. However, it’s often the support contracts that tempts schools and colleges; few understand what they’re buying, but know they can call someone if they have a problem.

    Unfortunately, the teachers I’ve spoken with are absolutely insistent about using MS Office. Several don’t know about alternatives, but many use it because everyone else does. Their MS Office skills are also useful if they ever leave the teaching profession.

  • hairybob

    Google apps is fantastic, but there might exist an additional incentive for them choosing the cheaper alternative…….. they’re broke!!!

  • Michael

    With 30,000 users, even 1 minute of downtime represents a work time loss of 2 man-months

    You would make up for the lost time in the time you save not having to attach documents to emails or find your document. Search in Google Docs kicks Windows search any day.