The concept of ‘software as a service‘ has been gaining momentum in recent months, with many schools I visit now using Google Docs and web-based wikis and other applications to create and share content, as opposed to using traditional locally hosted software installed on the user’s own machine or local server. Supporters of SaaS cite the following benefits
- easier administration
- automatic updates and management of ‘fixes’
- compatibility (all users will have the same version of software)
- easier collaboration, for the same reason
- global accessibility.
There are, of course, still concerns over things like security of the content that is produced and stored online, and the fact that these applications are still maturing in terms of the features they offer, but things are developing rapidly in these areas.
Recently GoogleDocs introduced the ability for users to create and edit content offline using their Google Gears technology, a plug-in that extends your browser to create a richer platform for web applications. Over the weekend I’ve been playing with the latest release of Zoho which has been adding significant updates to several of its applications over the past few months, including its word processor (Zoho Writer), spreadheet (Zoho Sheet) and its presentation application (Zoho Show).
I’m impressed with Zoho Writer, built on Ajax technology it’s easy to use and I can create documents online (and offline too using Google Gears!), and access them from any computer, at home or at work. Plus, the instant collaboration, inline commenting and chat facilities enable me to develop documents in true collaborative style – no more emailing drafts back and forth. Writer has an increased range of features that you expect in a word processor, and the ability to export my documents in a range of formats, including HTML, WORD and ODF.
While exploring several of the applications in the Zoho suite, I was intrigued to receive an email soon after from someone in the Zoho team, offering to assist me with the service should I need it – providing me with links to online help docus, forums, blogs and even a twitter account! Now that must be a sign of things to come!