Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gmail Offline! Online Document Management to the Rescue?

Yesterday another Gmail outage was reported to last somewhere between two and half to four hours. That’s disappointing. I really like Gmail. It’s usually responsive, gives me all the storage I want and I can access it from any of my devices – when it’s available. I even use Google Gears to get offline access to Gmail - for when I’m disconnected, not Google.

So was yesterday’s outage a problem? Not really for me. Gmail is a secondary service in my workday where I must still survive in an Entourage/Outlook/Exchange environment. However, if I were operating my own small business or was employed at one of Google’s larger enterprise customers that might not have been the case.

I’m not really going to complain about Google’s quality of service. Every organization’s email, whether hosted or on premise has its challenging days. I’ll tip my hat to Google for providing Gears as a free work-around for when either one of us is “off-line”. However, I’m still worried about the rest of my stuff. Without Gears for Google Docs, and other Google Apps, I might be unable to share contracts, invoices or other important documents. At least if I had a local copy, I could use other online services to collaborate during Google downtime.

Google Gears is a good first step towards online data synchronization and will probably help plenty more organizations get comfortable with the idea of trusting web services to manage growing parts of their business. However, until we can all be certain that 24x7x365 web access is, in fact guaranteed, we’re going to need Gears-like functionality for lots of other data too.

This is not a trivial challenge, particularly if you consider that a lot of business is still conducted using desktop applications not yet ready to migrate to the cloud, including Google’s version of it. For now, we live in the early transition stage of cloud computing where some basic and generally appealing apps like Gmail or Salesforce have migrated up, while many others still linger on the desktop.

Both application categories will need synchronization assistance to ensure anytime data access. Desktop applications can benefit from having their data backed up and protected in the cloud while cloud based services will occasionally require offline access. An online storage synchronization client may be a useful compliment to Google Gears for caching non-Google data managed by other web services. This can allow users to continue to use desktop applications, store and share their files in the cloud, and replicate them on the desktop – just in case.

If you’re not familiar with these kinds of tools, I recommend checking out South River Technologies WebDrive and our own Xythos Drive. Both of these web clients can help automate the synchronization of files between a web service, like those provided by Xythos EDMS and the desktop. The key benefit here is that the user’s relationship to their data is reversed. The cloud-based application becomes the primary data store while the client system becomes the secondary data cache – particularly useful if that system is a vulnerable laptop.

If you don’t already have access to an enterprise content management (ECM) application why not try Xythos on Demand? It’s an easy and free (for 30 days anyway) way to experience what its like to safely store and share your documents online. When you use the service in combination with Xythos Drive I think you’ll immediately appreciate what it means to have someone (or in this case something) else doing all the busy work of synchronizing your files for you. Best of all, if Gmail sputters again you’ll have disaster recovery plan already in place!

As always, please let me know what you think about it. Jim

1 comment:

Rekhna said...

Your post clearly explains the role of new technologies in growing a business.Thanks for sharing

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