Google Takes Office to the Cloud, Security Issues Remain
Google has begun testing an intriguing plugin for Microsoft Office. Google Cloud Connect is a devastatingly simple concept: rather than save your files to your computer's hard disk, it allows you to save them to your online Google Docs space.
Tue, November 23, 2010
PC World — Google (GOOG) has begun testing an intriguing plugin for Microsoft Office. Google Cloud Connect is a devastatingly simple concept: rather than save your files to your computer's hard disk, it allows you to save them to your online Google Docs space.
Following the upload, the user can share docs with colleagues and more importantly, collaboratively edit them from within the Microsoft (MSFT) Office software window. In other words, the plugin brings the shared editing power of Google Docs--its best selling point--to Microsoft Office.
If you've never tried Google Docs collaborative editing, I'd advise you to give it a try. Right there in your browser you can see other invited people working on the document, and edits are shown almost in real time. It makes an extremely compelling case for embracing cloud computing.
Unfortunately, nowhere in its new product announcement does Google address the number one concern of businesses when asked about the cloud: data security.
Survey after survey shows that any mention of cloud computing goes hand-in-hand with concerns about data security. It's a mystery why companies such as Google don't make more of an effort to assuage fears. After all, we have to assume their setup is extremely secure and probably involves high levels of encryption every step of the way. Yet in the Google Cloud Connect official announcement, there wasn't one mention of security or encryption.
Would you upload a highly confidential document into the cloud--one that could fatally wound your business if it fell into the wrong hands?
What about your clients' data? Are lawyers safe to use cloud services without running the risk of betraying client confidentiality? Data protection laws are also an issue. Could a business become liable, should data it stored in the cloud accidentally become available to others?
Not one of these questions are being answered by the majority of cloud service providers. Such reluctance turns using the cloud into something of a gamble. You'll probably be OK, but what if things go wrong?
Larger businesses that build their own cloud storage systems have complete freedom to incorporate encryption via bespoke software, of course. The incorporation of 256-bit AES (AES) will ensure that even if the data is picked up by another individual, it will be unreadable. However, smaller and medium-size businesses have to rely on third-party infrastructure, and that involves 100 percent trust in service providers.
The only way companies like Google will encourage such businesses to embrace cloud services is to offer unequivocal guarantees about security and privacy.