Ditching the Desktop Ditching the Desktop Design Department

can get prior versions as they are edited, but there's literally one document."

Rochelle said Google Docs is secure through a single sign on and, unless a user makes a document public, documents are only shared with the people specifically invited to view or edit them.

Google Apps Team Edition might benefit organizations that need a custom e-mail address and an intranet system, in addition to the other services provided. Applications included are: Google Talk; Google Docs; Google Calendar, for arranging meetings and coordinating schedules; a start page; and Google Sites, group Web sites for sharing information.

Agencies looking for further customization can now add programs onto the spreadsheet application. "One of the things we launched recently was gadgets in Docs, which is specifically meant for spreadsheets right now, but we could see that expanding," Rochelle said. "That allows people to write specific third-party programs that actually allow them to visualize and see their data and interact with their information in Docs in their own way."

Flash Fusion

When it comes to online document creation and management, governments have a few options to choose from. One choice is Adobe's Acrobat.com, a hosted suite of online services that includes file sharing and storage, a PDF converter, word processing and Web conferencing. The suite is now available as a free beta version and was launched in June 2008.

"One of the real secrets to Acrobat.com, and to practically all of our online services that we're making available, is the fact that we're leveraging Flash Player," said Bobby Caudill, government solutions manager of Adobe. "Regardless of where you are in the world, regardless of who you are in the world, you pretty much have the technology already on your machine to be able to leverage the services that we're making available."

Adobe's online word processor, Buzzword, allows real-time collaboration, and users can be given full editing, comment-only or read-only privileges.

ConnectNow, a Web conferencing tool, lets users create a meeting room and supports audio and visual communication, remote screen control and screen sharing, among other features. In the complimentary version, only three people can meet at once. Organizations seeking a wider implementation might consider purchasing Acrobat Connect Standard or Acrobat Connect Pro, in which users are granted 5 GB of space and can share documents with an unlimited number of people.

"As of right now, the physical security is handled all by Adobe," Caudill said, "so we certainly take the physical security very seriously."

The online security runs in an encrypted session, and currently a user name and password are required to sign on. "But at some point, I could see us being able to strengthen that and harden it down some more," Caudill said.

Bridging the Gap

Another option available to governments is Microsoft Office Live Workspace. Called a "companion" to Microsoft's software, it is currently available as public beta. Users are given a workspace, which is an online place to save, access and share documents. However, users still need a registered copy of Microsoft Office software because new documents cannot be created online. Users can save files from Microsoft Office programs directly to their online workspace.

Microsoft SharedView enables real-time collaboration by allowing users to work together on the same screen. Users can share files with up to 100 people and are allotted 500 MB of storage, though each document can't exceed 25 MB.

No downloads are required, but Microsoft provides an Office Live Update to ensure easy access to the site's components.

Files are secured by virus protection from Microsoft Forefront Security and can only be accessed with a password and a Windows Live ID.

Elaine Rundle  |  Staff Writer