Google Docs – the free and easy collaboration solution that your employees may already be using

Posted on February 13th, 2019

 

Standard office email may be one of the worst things that ever happened to collaborative authoring of a document. If you send a document to three people for editing or approval, you now have 4 distinct versions of the document, all with differing (and often contradictory) corrections, and they all probably have the exact same file name. Turning all that back into a single master document can take hours.

Many server-based collaboration tools aren’t much better. How often have you found out that you are not an authorised editor of your own document, or that a shared resource is ‘locked for editing’ because someone left it open when they went out for lunch or worse, for the weekend?

So Google Docs is the answer?

Well, maybe. Of course, there are a hundred high-end collaboration applications out there that do a wonderful job – and cost thousands of pounds a year for a site license. If you need to get a handful of people’s input on a document that will go through quite a few revisions, but needs to remain accessible, Google Docs is a pretty good option, Especially if you donlt have the spare budget for LotusNotes. Especially good for the budget-conscious SMEs out there, Google Docs is essentially free. You can pay for extra features, but you don’t need to.

OK, it’s free. But what does it do?

Specifically, google Docs stores one or more of your files online ‘on the cloud’ if you prefer, in one of several formats. Yes, all of your Microsoft Office DOCXs, spreadsheets and presentations are supported. Because it is cloud-based, anyone who you allow access to can see, edit, and comment on the document, and those changes are ‘live’ for everyone viewing the document. They can save it to their pc or other device and edit it with their own word processor or other apps, but you lose some of the benefits that way.

Here’s a video that explains it.

Drawbacks:

The only beg negative to Google Docs is security. On its most basic level, all the users need to access the document is the URL link. This makes it extremely easy to use, but also very easy to break in to. All a malicious user would need would be to find the link in an email, and they can copy, alter or destroy all of the data in that folder. It can be password protected, but that email with the link almost always has the password too.

However, most documents aren’t really all that sensitive. Don’t use it for the company accounts, or the list of your confidential clients. Don’t use it to edit your will with your lawyer.

Think of Google Docs as an open notebook that you and your employees are all working around at a table at Costa. They probably won’t, but they might get up and leave the open notebook on the table. Don’t use Google Docs for anything you wouldn’t be comfortable leaving in that notebook, and you’ll be fine.