Technological developments have been fast and furious in the past few years. We are seeing an unrivalled ability to communicate effectively and to collaborate in order to make sure that projects are completed on time and with great efficiency. It’s not too much of an overstatement to say that the world has shrunk before our eyes. Not that many years ago it would be inconceivable to think about actively collaborating with a Virtual Assistant who may be half a world away in order to complete a project for a local client. Back then, before we entered this new era, it would simply have been illogical, expensive and very difficult to master. In those days we would more often rely on tools that would be hosted on our own local machines and then employ individuals to operate “in-house.” Those were the days of the PC dominance, where Microsoft built its fortune and where we all became very familiar with their Office suite of products.
Some people say that there will be very little need for any storage capability on a local computer in the future. Laptops and notebooks will become thinner and thinner, as all we really need is browser capability after all. As we are increasingly able to access all the software tools and technology that we could ever need “through the cloud” and utilise a variety of first-class communications tools to reach our outsourcing team, why clutter our immediate work area with unnecessary resources?
Microsoft Office, as a locally hosted tool on your computer, is starting to be replaced by online applications, making it ever so much easier for groups to work together collectively on documents. If you have an important document that needs to be fine-tuned according to the input of various experts or professionals at scattered locations, then a product such as Google Docs is now perfect. Just like Office, you can access a variety of different types of document, such as text files, spreadsheets and presentations. Amendments are automatically saved as important work goes on, and you can share and collaborate with others on a particular document in real-time. Furthermore, a link to a particular document can be provided to an external user who can view the file simply by loading that link into a browser.
Don’t expect Microsoft to go down without a fight, however. Office 365 is their answer to the New World. Here you will find the online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. While this is still a relative newcomer to the cloud computing, document sharing arena, there may be a number of kinks to iron out. Also, anyone who is to be brought in to work on shared files has to have a Microsoft account ID, which is a little cumbersome.
There are a number of other interesting options including Zoho Documents and Teamlab, the latter having the ability to communicate in multiple languages. As is the case with most of the options, you can try it all out for a certain period of time before committing to monthly payment plans.
Have you ventured into ‘cloud’ document collaboration? If so, what tools do you use and how do you find working this way? I’d love to read your comments.