The Google applications are a core component of my online life and thus are mentioned a lot in my blogposts. Here I will explain why exactly so that you don't think that I am bought by Google!Most of you have used Google search and very likely Gmail but not everyone is aware that those two are just a small part of the bigger Google application suite, a plethora of powerful online tools for productivity and creativity. If Google Apps is new to you, I highly recommend this short introduction to this toolset which can seriously boost your productivity.
You might also be interested in my rant about choosing the right technology platforms.
You might also be interested in my rant about choosing the right technology platforms.
AlternativesIt is but fair to tell you that there are alternatives to Google Apps, indeed there are thousands of them but none that I know of that has the broad spectrum of application types as Google has. For Google Docs I could mention Zoho and Office 365, commonly compared to Google Docs. Remember The Milk is a nice todo-list application. To read about the others you could check this article.
Why Google apps?Google Apps is a prime example of web-applications - they run from the browser and use the data-cloud, providing you with easy access to your data wherever you are and a fully automated backup. They are therefor the core component of my online, mobile office - as long as I have a decent web-browser running my office is up and running, ready to untap my productivity. I have previously written a post about web-applications and the data cloud and why you should seriously consider converting to these, here I will rationalize why Google Apps are my first choice.
Single login to all apps, all data in one placeSitting in the cockpit of a 747 is very much how I feel when I have logged into Google - I have all controls within the reach of my fingertips. With a single login account I have about 30 different applications before me and only one password to take care of. Even with only a few different web-apps, it would be a hazzle to login to every single one and major treshold to start working and getting things done.
Not only are the apps interconnected but so is their data. On the surface you will not notice it but under the hood all your data within the Google apps is pooled in a single database, just showing up differently within the different applications. This means that each and every application can access your different data pools, for example Blogger and Google Docs can easily grab photos from your Picasa account, your Gmail contacts are accessed with Google+ and vice versa. Seeing is believing - from Google's dashboard you can see how your data is stacked within the different apps.
All eggs in one basket?!Now some will feel violated by privacy issues - the fact that a private company stores so much of your personal data and there are tons of articles and discussions wiggling this issue back and forwards. This is of course a double sided coin; there are indeed companies that will use your data to personalize your ads and some might even abuse your data but if you trust your company there is so much to gain. Consider for a moment how big Google is and that their existence relies on public opinion - they simply cannot afford violating your data in evil ways, one false move and they could go down the drain over a night. Besides, whether you like it or not, in Google's huge data-cloud, you are just an ID number and your data is handled by robots who don't give a damn about what you do or don't do, like or don't like, for them you're just a bunch of binary 1s and 0s! Some think that Google's employees have fun reading emails in the Gmail database, wake up - that's just as silly as claiming that doctors sit and read patient journals for fun. If you still feel insecure, I think you should consider leaving the Internet altogether and start using paper and pen again. This is the era of Web 2.0 tools where storing personal data online is the prerequisite for them to work. That is not unique for Google, it's just the way it is today. Google is well aware of these issues and provides you with an easy way to take out all your data if you should want to close down your account - Google takeout (also an excellent tool if you want to have an extra backup of your data on a local hard drive).
If you want a 3rd party solution there is Backupify. No need to worry!
Actually it makes me sleep better in the night to know that a corporation with pockets full of money and enormous muscle power is keeping my data safe. Should Google go bankrupt or be hijacked, your personal data is the least problem of all since that scenario would be a major event touching not only individuals but corporations, countries and even the whole world. You can be sure someone with greater interests will already be working on this before you even have had time to say "ouch"!
Google is also offlineSince the start of the Internet, downtimes have occured in all major services and Google is no exception but it is so rare and short that in effect you would barely have time to have a cup of coffee while it is being fixed.
A more likely scenario is that you are without Internet connection e.g. while flying or sitting on the train. This is yet another reason to choose Google Apps as they are very well aware of the possibility and have been eager to implement offline options to most of their applications. Their current technique is based on HTML5, an universal standard not likely to disappear over one night and since HTML5 support is growing even on smartphones, you will not have a problem with this on your Android or iPhone. Google Docs for example allows you to mark which documents should be available offline and they will be downloaded and synced automatically without you having to do anything but just enjoy.
Simplicity is powerEver since Google's search page appeared, simplicity has been Google's style. Wether it's Google Docs, Picasa or Blogger - everything is easy to setup and work with, yet providing the most important features needed. Thus the Google Apps are easy to learn and use, you can start working in minutes.
Constantly updatedGoogle is eager to provide you with the best tools and state of art technology. I have used Google Apps for almost five years now and the features have grown enormously. Almost every month something new is being added and I feel that Google is listening to their users, adding the features most requested. As web-browsers become better every year we can expect even better features in the future. On the Google OS blog you can follow all additions as they are being implemented.
Android integretationIt should not come to a surprise that the Android operating system has great support for the Google applications, they are after all the brains behind this great OS. With the Google Docs app for instance, it's easy to search, read and even edit your documents and recently offline support was added - this literally means that your online office is available whenever and wherever you go. A technology most would have though to be impossible only several years ago.
Totally freeLast but not least - the Google Apps are totally free, for up to 1gb of storage. Despite having every single document of mine and 10 years of emails there, I've still only used 25% of my quota. In time, I will upload my 50gb or so of photoalbums to Google's services for an online backup and I have no problems with paying $20/year for their 80gb additional storage, if you ask me - the price is ridiculously low, it's just a fraction of the price of a hard drive.
A success story for meA few years ago I uploaded every single document from my hard drive to Google Docs. My laptop now has no hard-drive installed (runs much faster off a 4gb SD memory card with Linux installed), backup and working with different versions of the same document are a things of the past. With Google's Chrome installed on a USB chip I can start my office up from any computer in the hospital in just seconds and the IT department won't have anything to say about it since I'm not opening any security threats to their in-house network. With my Android I can easily access all my online data and I use it every day for better patient care and to steepen my learning curve in emergency medicine. I am a happy Googler.
Please check out my post about the online, mobile office if you wan't to know the details!
Finally - the disclosureAnd now you should understand that my choice of Google for almost everything in my online life is not just a sentimental one, it is truly the one tool that helps me the most for my productivity and creativity. I have nothing to disclose; I have no affiliation in any way with Google or related services and my choice to use their tools tools is utterly my own and solely based on years of "trial and error" with various solutions. There was even an era in my life where I had almost grown roots into the flagships of Microsoft, Windows and Office - but I woke up one day and found out there were better ways to achieve my goals.
- I've been Googled
A blogger describes how Google grew on him from being a search engine only to his complete online Swiss army knife and why Google's applications are growing fast in the small/medium sized business world.
Google Privacy: 5 Things the Tech Giant Does With Your Data
Mashable e-magazine explains in a user-friendly way what the Google privacy issues are really about. As it turns out, a lot of fuzz out of nothing...