Which cloud service is best for your mobile office?

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Your cloud service can do more than you think. While it certainly makes for the ideal storage facility, it can go above and beyond keeping your important files intact. With seamless interaction between local apps, and profoundly improved remote applications, cloud services are now the best mobile office solution on the market. No more worries about sharing folders and syncing data between devices, no more dealing with resource-hogging office suites.

With a cloud service, everything you need is just a browser – or an app – away. However, now that there are a number of different options available, it can be tough picking the one that’s right for you. So let’s narrow it down to the three major cloud solutions that have evolved, or are in the process of evolving, into mobile office solutions. These include:

When you consider making the switch to a more agile mobile office, the possibilities can be daunting. The most common questions that first come to mind go something like this:

  • Do I need to choose a single platform?
  • Which solution is best for business?
  • Which cloud service offers a better desktop parallel?

Let’s break it down.

Do I need to choose a single platform?

This can often be a deal breaker, because not everyone works on a single platform environment these days. You may have a Windows, Mac or Linux desktop, but work with an Android smartphone or tablet. Or, you may have a work environment made up entirely of Macs, but need to collaborate with other platforms. In this case, what do these solutions offer?

If you’re looking for the maximum amount of freedom, Google Drive is completely platform independent. So long as you have a web browser, you can use this versatile mobile office. This service also has apps for Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices. The most seamless mobile integration is, of course, with Google’s homegrown Android platform (and ChromeOS), but every feature can be enjoyed from any platform.

It is also possible to use iWorks for iCloud on nearly any platform. However, Apple insists that its cloud solution works best when used from a supported browser – this includes the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. I have managed to use it in both Linux (with Firefox or Chrome) and on a Chromebook Pixel. But if you’re an avid Android user, you’ll need to look elsewhere, as you cannot run iWorks for iCloud on Android devices – not even with the latest version of Chrome or Firefox. Apple simply does not want you using Android with its mobile office solution.

As for Office 365, I was nearly shocked to discover Microsoft enabled its mobile office suite to function with almost any platform. This is the one solution that requires a paid subscription (price varies depending on the type of Office 365 desired), but the fee may be a small price to pay when you consider that it runs on nearly every operating system. The one caveat is with Android; not all Android-powered devices are compatible here. I tested a Samsung Galaxy Note Tablet and had no luck, but a Motorola Moto X, HTC Hero One Max and Samsung Galaxy S4 were all compatible. It should also be noted that you’ll have to install the mobile app, as opposed to working directly through a browser.

Which solution is best for business?

This is a fairly simple question to answer. Businesses will certainly get the most out of Office365 and Google Drive. With both solutions you’ll be happily working with your documents from anywhere. And since both give you adequate storage, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of space on your cloud.

When you need to collaborate with other users, especially those that work primarily with collaborative features such as Track Changes, the nod goes to Office365. Google Drive has yet to implement a Track Changes that works with anything other than the Google Doc file type. So if you often use the collaborative features of MS Office, your best bet is to take the Microsoft route. This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to collaborate with Google Drive; just that you’ll need to remain within the Google Drive environment.

Which one offers a better desktop parallel?

Each of these mobile office suites offers a unique take on the tool. The iWorks for iCloud takes more of a dashboard approach to the interface, whereas both Google Drive and Office365 lean more toward the standard office suite tool. Anyone that has used one of the later iterations of MS Office will feel immediately at home with Office365. That said, if a shallow learning curve is crucial, Office365 is the way to go. Google Drive, on the other hand, offers an incredibly easy-to-learn interface that makes use of standard drop-down menus.

No matter how you examine the parallel between mobile solution and desktop, you are either working within a browser or a mobile app. If you fear change, it’ll be important to choose a solution that either remains within your comfort zone or is easy to learn. In this case, Office365 and Google Drive are your best options. The only hit against Google Docs is that it has no direct desktop parallel to compare (Google hasn’t created a desktop application). However, Google Drive’s simple interface makes it a solid choice for business users.

When choosing a cloud service, you should also keep in mind the agility of each company. Google, for one, has proved itself to be one of the most adaptive and agile companies on the planet. You can bet that Google Drive will continue to improve at a rate substantially faster than that of Office365. I would imagine that we’ll see a similar rate of improvement with Apple’s iWorks for iCloud, even to the point that this solution begins to make perfect sense for business.

Just remember that, no matter how hard you fight it, you will go mobile at some point. Those who craft and create the office suites you depend upon are clearly tagging the mobile space as the office of the future. Thankfully, the cloud has finally caught up with (and in some cases surpassed) the needs of its users. In the end, any of these major mobile office tools will work for you.

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