Do you really need Office? Really? If the Feds don't, do we?

Do you really need Office? Really? If the Feds don't, do we?

Summary: For 95% of what we do, though, Apps does the trick quite nicely and allows people to work together in really nice ways. For a wide swath of users, however, getting them to jump into the cloud and leave their biases in favor of Office behind is remarkably difficult.


Many of the users in my district have jumped on the Google Docs bandwagon with surprising enthusiasm. They've been uploading their PowerPoint libraries to easily share the documents with students, syllabi are up online as soon as they are created, and teachers and administrators are collaborating quite naturally on shared documents.

That's the rosy side of our Google Apps rollout. The less rosy side comes from the folks who are either 1) just uncomfortable with technology in general or 2) completely wedded to Microsoft Office. The first group is OK. I can take care of them. It's called professional development and, as a district, we're making a concerted effort to build capacity, especially in the area of technology.

The second group is tougher, though. I've already acknowledged that Microsoft Office is worth paying for in some cases, much to the chagrin of my more militant open source friends. The only users who have a Get Out of Jail Free card, though, are secretaries and serious power users who have need of fine control over formatting, mail merging, and more sophisticated productivity tasks. Creating tri-fold brochures for your school? OK, Office is slick. Need to handle accounting but just don't have the volume to quite justify Peachtree or BudgetSense? Fine; Office is the way to go.

That being said, how many of your teachers are doing this sort of thing? Teachers need to create content, no doubt about it, but that content should be online, accessible, collaborative, and reusable. You don't need Office for that. Not everyone can embrace the cloud fully. We have some people who use their computers quite a bit, but very often are offline due to locational issues out here in the sticks, but that's rare. For them, we have OpenOffice. In fact, we have OpenOffice everywhere because there are times when Apps just can't quite get the job done.

For 95% of what we do, though, Apps does the trick quite nicely and allows people to work together in really nice ways. For a wide swath of users, however, getting them to jump into the cloud and leave their biases in favor of Office behind is remarkably difficult.

Why is it that people believe they need Office to write a letter home to parents? Or create a syllabus? I ran a presentation yesterday and surprised quite a few people when I told them I had completely created it in Apps, embedded video and all.

This, of course, will be the federal government's major sticking point as they roll out Apps for many employees in the years to come. I have great confidence that the Google powers that be will sort out security issues, scalability, and whatever else. It will simply be a matter of convincing people that they don't really need a productivity suite on their computer that will be a challenge. It's certainly my struggle in the microcosm of my school district.

Topics: Collaboration, Apps, Cloud, Google, Microsoft, Software

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • The problem, of course... that Google is a giant spyware company. And lots of us just aren't comfortable with <i>that</i>, not the technology.

    They admit it openly, so I'm not accusing them of being crooks or anything, but some of us just aren't ready to surrender our personal information to Google.

    Some of us hope to <i>never</i> be and are terrified of people standardizing on Google.
    x I'm tc
    • Spyware? Really?

      I'm not sure about the spyware moniker, but the fact that Google makes it's living by reading your email and documents is an issue. I work in K-12 education, like the author I believe, and we've looked at Google Apps. Our problem is security of information about the kids in our charge. Parent teacher email conversations are <b>not</b> for Google to cull to find ways to sell stuff to people.
    • Not exactly "of course"

      Google is going for FISMA certification. Just how compatible is that with your notion of surrendering your personal information to Google?

      Is it just possible that you're blowing smoke?
      • FISMA certification doe not mean that Google couldn't scrape data.

        From Wikipedia:
        <i>According to FISMA, the term information security means protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide:[4]

        * integrity, which means guarding against improper information modification or destruction, and includes ensuring information nonrepudiation and authenticity;
        * confidentiality, which means preserving authorized restrictions on access and disclosure, including means for protecting personal privacy and proprietary information; and
        * availability, which means ensuring timely and reliable access to and use of information.

        If you use Google Docs, you (probably, I haven't looked at the terms of use since I don't use it) authorize Google to scrape your data. All the FISMA certification would mean is that Google would prevent those who aren't authorized from gaining access to personal/proprietary information.
        • Yep, sure does

          • Google still gets your personal information.

            Which is what the OP was griping about.
          • Which is a stupid complaint

            It isn't like they can sell your credit card
            number, or use it, or use your SSN for something.
            What are you doing that will get screwed over by
            google knowing what you wrote? Are you writing
            something dealing with terrorism or something? ;D
            Michael Alan Goff
          • What stupid ignorance

            Google has already had Chinese bloggers put in jail by handing their particulars over to the authorities.

            Considering that Google has been so far up the butt of US government for so long -- nobody with half a brain could think that YOUR 'interesting' searches haven't already been reported to DHS.

            Or do you think it is OK never to have the opportunity to search for whatever you want or write whatever you want wihout being reported?

            You may want to go back and study your own bloody constitution. Check out the first and fourth ammendments if that gives you a clue.
            Marty R. Milette
        • "probably, I haven't looked at the terms of use " - Typical MS shill!

          Spreading FUD about Microsoft competitors.
          No More Microsoft Software Ever!
          • What makes you think I am a shill for MS?

            Given that I only use MS software in my work environment because that's what my customer insists upon and that at home, the only machines that run any MS software happen to be virtual.

            But back to the terms of service:
            "11. Content licence from you

            11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

            11.2 You agree that this licence includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

            11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this licence shall permit Google to take these actions.

            11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above licence.

            "19. Changes to the Terms

            19.1 Google may make changes to the Universal Terms or Additional Terms from time to time. When these changes are made, Google will make a new copy of the Universal Terms available at and any new Additional Terms will be made available to you from within, or through, the affected Services.

            19.2 You understand and agree that if you use the Services after the date on which the Universal Terms or Additional Terms have changed, Google will treat your use as acceptance of the updated Universal Terms or Additional Terms."

            From the additional terms page:
            Section 11.1 of the Terms of Service governing Google Docs is replaced in its entirety by:

            "You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Service. By submitting, posting or displaying the Content you give Google a worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through the Service for the sole purpose of enabling Google to provide you with the Service in accordance with its Privacy Policy."

            From the Privacy Policy page:
            "Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information on a server outside your own country. We may process personal information to provide our own services. In some cases, we may process personal information on behalf of and according to the instructions of a third party, such as our advertising partners. "

            The way I read it, Google can do what they want with your data. They do say it's for the purposes of providing the service, but that could very easily change. They reserve the right to change the terms at their discretion and your only recourse is to stop using the service.
          • TO him

            Everyone that uses MS is an automatic Shill.
            The one and only, Cylon Centurion
          • You are right!

            you are right, they technically OWN the data so they have the rights to do as they see fit.
          • Not quite

            MS owns the [i]software application[/i], so they can modify as they choose. Very different from Google holding rights to the end-user's [i]data/files/information[/i], which they clearly state that they reserve the right to do with as they please. Not even worthy of comparison!
          • Sorry but..

            ..[i]most[/i] companies reserve the right to
            change their terms.

            If that's a problem, get off ZDNet, because they
            do too.
          • I'm seriously laughing here

            because I don't care what they do with my document
            that I write up. Why should I, as long as it's
            there? Are you writing something you can't let
            them see?
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Just because you don't care...

            ...does not mean that OTHER PEOPLE should give up their expectation of PRIVACY.

            When I go to the toilet, everyone knows what I'm doing -- but I still like to have the door closed and don't want a camera recording the process and posting it on the big screen somewhere outside.

            It is people like you who so easily give up and scorn the hard-earned rights and freedoms that other people have died to earn that there are so few left.
            Marty R. Milette
          • Just becuase you don't care...

            or are simply a moron, don't assume everyone else falls in the same catagory!

            This article is aimed at [i]enterprise or even small business[/i] adoption - even educational facilities. Would you want your child's exam results, or behaviour report unwittingly presented in some 3rd-party's "survey" posting, because your local school moved to the Cloud. Would you want the afore-to-now sealed Census data leaked to advertising companies (or used by AdSense), because some government agency started moving over to Google Apps? Would you want your voting history publicly catalogued? Your medical records made publicly or even commercially available? Need I go on?
      • How exactly does Google get 'FISMA certification?'

        Is there such a thing for vendors? I thought federal agencies review their networks following NIST's security authorization process: How can IT vendors get "FISMA certified?"
    • Please include a link that states I surrender my personal info to Google.

      I think you are just spreading silly FUD.
      No More Microsoft Software Ever!
      • Not FUD. And it's a CRIPPLED version of their actual online apps...

        We hear this all the time about Windows and their various versions of Windows below the most functional, so the same goes for any other company who has a product below their top tier, free or not.
        It's a crippled version of their 50 bucks per seat/per year online apps and nothing more. They will show you how if you want to do what you really need to, later on, you have to shell out far more than the cost of Windows Office.

        Want FUD? Go to Google and seek out the page that compares Google's premier mail package to Microsoft exchange. They only allow you enter up to 3000 seats since they know they are more expensive beyong that.
        But the funny part is they are more expensive in the first year, let alone past 3. On the exchange side, for example, if you put in 3000 users, they show you need SIX 5000.00 servers.
        Of course 3000 users is fine on one, maybe two servers. They overstate the admin costs to be more than we pay for a network admin for All of his duties in 3 years. It's ridiculous.

        notice for 10 users, it takes 2 servers. LOL.
        And 31,000.00 in Admin costs per year with SQL Exchange and your 10 users.
        Forget it's bogus from the start, try to put in a large number of users.
        And this is only messaging apps.
        Then it's 50.00 a seat/year for premier applications and every new app that comes along will be more and more $$, but you'll have all of your data on Google and talk about Lock in!
        Wooo baby.