Put Your Microsoft Office Data Into the Cloud Now

This recent debut of the Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview was exciting to many, including myself. However, as a long-time Microsoft Office user, the news that the online component of Office 2010, Office Web, won’t be ready for technical preview until later this summer was a bit of a buzzkill.

If you’re running Office 2003 or Office 2007 and you can’t wait for Office Web, there are some applications available that can help you get your Microsoft Office data into the cloud, via Google Apps or Zoho Business. These applications can give you piece of mind that your data is backed up and accessible anywhere, and can also help you test the waters for a full migration to a web office suite.

Syncing Applications
While syncing can be a somewhat of a dark art (even with established applications, getting your data to sync properly can be tricky), here is a roundup of some of the more popular syncing apps:

Microsoft Office Add-Ins
and Windows Applications
There are a number of Microsoft Office add-ins that enable you to move your Microsoft Office data to the cloud, including:

  • Zoho Plugin for Microsoft Office enables you to access and edit Zoho documents and spreadsheets offline using Microsoft Office. You can also publish local documents to to the cloud via  Zoho Share.
  • WebWorkerDaily covered OffiSync, which allows you to use Google Docs file storage and collaboration from a Microsoft application toolbar.
  • Google Docs Uploader is a simple Windows application that enables you to upload Office documents to Google Docs using a simple drag-and-drop interface. You need to be running the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or higher.

Hosted Applications
Moving your Microsoft Office data into the cloud doesn’t necessarily mean using Google Apps or Zoho Business. We covered the launch of Microsoft Online Services, which provides hosted SharePoint and Exchange services. I like the thought of Exchange and SharePoint hosted in the cloud, although my experience with SharePoint hosted through third parties has been less than favorable. As Online Services is hosted by Microsoft, I’m hoping it will provide a better experience. Microsoft Online Services makes these services more accessible to freelancers and small- to medium-sized businesses that lack the personnel and resources normally required to run them.

Applications for Neglected Mac Users
I count myself as one of the Mac users stuck in Microsoft Office. As Darrell Etherington wrote about on TheAppleBlog, Mac users are going to have to wait for the Office 2010 goodness. However, there  are some third-party applications available that can help put your Office data into the cloud while you are waiting:

  • Spanning Sync can sync iCal and Address Book with Google Calendar and Gmail Contacts.
  • MobileMe can sync Microsoft Office data from Office on the Mac to the cloud. Unfortunately, I encountered way too many issues with MobileMe after its amateurish launch so I didn’t renew my account. Apple tried to be everything to everybody and stumbled when it came to cloud computing; my plan is to revisit MobileMe in a year to see if Apple has gotten its act together. MobileMe is a fee-based service.
  • GDocsUploader, previously covered by WebWorkerDaily, is nothing more than a small applet that enables you to upload documents to Google Docs via a drag-and-drop interface.

Can Microsoft Office and Web Offices Coexist?
While these third-party and vendor applications, add-ins and services may seem like a rag-tag bunch, they do build a case for coexistence of the desktop-bound Microsoft Office and the various web office suites, although sometimes there are incompatibility problems. I’m hopeful that the interaction between Office 2010 and its web components will provide a smooth round trip for my documents from Microsoft Office on my desktop to Office Web, without the file compatibility issues from using third parties.

How do you use Office with the cloud?


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