Home Surprise, Surprise: Google Docs Isn’t Ready for the Enterprise

Surprise, Surprise: Google Docs Isn’t Ready for the Enterprise

File this one under “D” for “Duh.” A new report by the Burton Group says that Google Apps Premier Edition isn’t quite ready for enterprise applications. The report, according to Infoworld, says using Google Apps could be a “career-limiting move for enterprise architects.”

At $50 user the Google product may be an attractive, inexpensive option for companies, says Burton. “However, the seductive price can spell trouble for enterprise architects and their companies if they don’t do their homework: the solution’s rudimentary feature set means that enterprises need to pick carefully and implement slowly.”

The report compares Google Docs and Spreadsheets to Microsoft Office and finds it well behind the Microsoft flagship in terms of features. Burton also says that limited support and hazy license terms that absolve Google from fault if loss of data, profits, or revenue occurs (even though your files — and the app itself — reside on their servers) makes Google Apps risky for enterprise users. The report concludes, however, that Google’s web office suite is perfectly suited for deployment over college or university networks.

I’m not an enterprise user, but I still won’t use web office suites for my day-to-day work. This has a lot to do with features that are missing from many of the online offerings, such as automatic footnoting, headers and footers, formatting options like drop case, margin notes, etc. It also has to do with other reasons, including security and control — I simply feel more comfortable being in complete control of my sensitive documents, rather than having them on the web servers of a third-party.

There are a couple of areas where Google blows Microsoft Office away, though: collaboration, and access anywhere. Below are my thoughts for how Microsoft should address those things:

  • Access anywhere – Stripped down versions of Office‚Äôs core apps accessible online would be a welcome addition to the Office family. Being able to automatically sync files from my computer to an online account — and vice versa (giving me control over which apps I put online) would be great. That would allow me to make quick edits to my files from anywhere, even on a computer without Office. This requires two things to work properly: 1. don’t make me use ActiveX and IE, and 2. Fix the confusing Office Live branding so the online tool called Office actually resembles the offline one.
  • Collaboration – I would love to see Office integrate with MSN Messenger, so that I can chat live about a specific document and mark it up in real time with contacts. This would, by a large margin, trump the collaboration options available in current generation online office applications. Traditional changes tracking should of course be integrated into any online Office suite, as well.

Google, on the other hand, could beat Microsoft to the punch by releasing tools that let Office users automatically sync documents with Google Docs and Spreadsheets from within Office. It’s important to note that for many, this isn’t an either-or proposition. I use Microsoft Office for my serious writing, but when I need to share a document with collaborators — especially if they need to do quick markups on it — I share it through Google Apps.

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