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5 Things I learned while Going Google

From July 15 to August 15 2013 I carried out my Google Experiment: I wanted to see if I could move completely to the cloud. At the end of my trial period, I have come to the conclusion that it worked out better than I thought. Some days I was able to accomplish everything in the cloud. But I also found out that it is too early to switch completely to the cloud. If you want to be productive at all times, you must have locally stored software, such as Microsoft Office.

So the Google One Today fund receives a donation of $40, $5 for each day I had to break the experiment. That’s not a bad score.

To finish the Google Experiment, here are the 5 things I learned:

1. Broadband is not yet ubiquitous: especially when traveling, you need locally stored software to work. Some locations don’t offer (free) wifi, or when they do the connection is spotty at best. In some countries access costs a fortune, which you want to spend on reading your email, not to work on documents or spreadsheets.

2. When moving to Google (or any other cloud offering) go cold turkey and start fresh. You’ll be amazed at how much you store out of habit instead of because you need it. I did not migrate my (years of) Outlook mail but kept it in archive on my local drive. I think I’ve had to check it maybe 5 times. I also did not move any files to Google Drive – I’ve checked my local documents folder more often, but it still very acceptable.

3. If you are Going Google, the Chrome browser offers you the best experience. Safari, IE, Firefox etc work fine, but Chrome has better integration features and extensions that enhance your Google experience. Interestingly enough, the best mail experience is delivered by the Gmail App on iPad.

4. You’ll quickly become device independent. During the experiment, I used my HP office laptop, MacBook Air, iPhone and iPad and because everything is stored in the cloud, I always accessed the most recent version. It was also easy to “borrow” other devices in one of our offices. No awkward copying or moving files between devices and finding out that you just updated an older version. The option to share files and work on them jointly with your coworkers vastly improves productivity.

5. Business is not yet ready for the cloud: Office is the defacto standard when sharing information. We frequently participate in RFIs and RFPs – all files used are Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations and customers expect those to be returned in the prescribed format. I am anxiously waiting for the day when a customer shares some cloud files asking us to update them.

My Google experiment paid off: I was able to complete more tasks in the cloud than I originally assumed. The remaining questions I am still coming to grips with are privacy and security – that’s part of the trade off when moving completely to the cloud. But that’s for a future post.