The Google battle continues over City of L.A.

The Daily News has been in the thick of the fight over whether Google Apps — principally Gmail and Google Docs — should be adopted by the City of Los Angeles to replace current systems that are aging and said to be much less than reliable.

Much of the battle is over whether a Web-accessed system for e-mail and document creation (and collaboration) will be as secure as systems with traditional servers. Detractors worry about information being compromised, but others say that Google has a lot more on the ball security- and redundancy-wise than the systems currently in place.

In the past few days, a couple op-eds have run in the paper:

Before that, there was my column on the matter:

I’ve written about Gmail and Google Docs quite a bit in the past, and regarding their use by entities such as the city of Los Angeles, I’ll try to state my opinion a bit more quickly than usual. I’ll bullet-point it:

  • Lots of organizations are farming out their e-mail to Gmail. Google does a great job with this app. It’s different enough in many useful ways from other e-mail clients, both on- and offline, to stand out of the pack. The ability to “tag” messages seems so simple yet borders on revolutionary.
  • Google Docs isn’t as sophisticated as Microsoft Office. Google Docs does work, and if you’re willing to think outside the document-creating box for your text documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it probably handles 95 percent of the needs of 95 percent of the people 95 percent of the time. For “specialty” uses, the city can still install traditional client software such as Microsoft Office or the free OpenOffice. The great thing about Google Docs is that it makes collaboration on and sharing of documents an integral and seamless part of their creation and modification. For an organization like the city, this is a huge thing. Still, I hope the city is prepared to hire a development team to “build out” Google Docs with the many specialized templates that will be needed to make this system work.
  • Having Google hold onto the data of the city means much less software and hardware needs to be purchased, maintained and managed.
  • This is pretty much the future: cloud-based storage (with top-grade archiving and backup) and network-delivered applications. The city might as well go there now.

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