Google Drive Tutorial (Part 1): Introduction to the Cloud

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Google Drive Tutorial

It came to my attention recently that several of my readers (and soon to be readers) are interested, not only in the “Cloud”, but in Google Drive and the Cloud. This led me to ponder developing a multi-part tutorial for Google Drive.  I expect to cover as fully as possible the idea and I hope that these posts will help you to better understand the Cloud and how Google Drive works.  In this tutorial we will cover the following topics

  1. Introduction to the Cloud

  2. How to use Google programs & sites

  3. Google Drive

  4. Google Docs

  5. Google Spreadsheets

  6. Google Presentations

  7. Google Drawing

  8. Google Forms

  9. Other Google Drive features

Part 1: Introduction to the Cloud

What is the Cloud?  Well for starters it’s not a mist of tiny water droplets, that would be a cloud.  The Cloud is a collection of computers, usually servers, hosted by an internet company, like Google or Amazon.  The concept of idealizing the activities that this collection of computers could perform is “the Cloud”. These activities include writing posts (like this one), posting and editing pictures, uploading and listening to music or video, or creating, editing, and sharing documents.  Google Docs just happens to be the most well known site for dealing with documents on the internet or in the cloud.

I’ve been using Google Docs since it debuted in 2006 and I think it is a revolutionary and brilliant idea.  I am quite sure that you will see this and want to use it by the end of this tutorial.  Google Docs can trace its origin back to Google’s acquisition of a company called, Upstartle (in Feb 2006) and their web-based word processor, Writely. About three months after the acquisition of Upstartle, Google Labs released a web-based spreadsheet program and Google Docs was born.

Google devised a new ideal for how to deal with documentation through Google Docs.  This ideal bears some historical definition and explanation.  Since the 1980’s it’s been possible to create electronic documents on computers. Computers helped to save time in the editing process, over writing with pencil and paper or on a typewriter.  If a person wanted to send a document to another they would print it and mail it.  Once the internet became available, people started to use e-mail to send documents to each other, which drastically reduced the amount of time needed to transfer documents.  We have had the internet in some semblance of its current form for 20 years and Google has devised a change in how documents are dealt with.

The Classic Method

It was observed by the engineers at Google that creating documents on a computer (without the use of the internet) and then sending them to other people either to be read or edited could create an excessive amount of file duplication.  An example of this is as follows.

Fred creates a Word document on his office computer in San Jose, CA.  His team, George and Sarah work in two other locations, New York City, NY and Chicago, IL respectively. He needs to collaborate with his team on this document.  Fred emails a copy to each of his teammates.  George adds his info and Sarah adds her info and they each email back their copy of their updated documents.  Now Fred has three copies of the document that he will now have to merge into one.

Another example works in a line.

Rather than have Fred email the document to both George and Sarah, he emails it to George only and has George forward it to Sarah.  Once both George and Sarah have added their info, only one document is emailed back to Fred.

In both these examples, there are multiple copies of the original document sent through email to various members of the team. Fred still retains his original and the final, but now George and Sarah have a slightly different copy.  This pattern is repeated daily with millions of people around the world.  Each new copy takes up more space in the email inbox and the computer of each person.  But there is a simple solution to these issues.

The New Method

Like a central bulletin board of a community, any member can create, edit, or view a document for the board.  If the bulletin board is instead on a computer and shared on the internet any member of the community can create, edit, or view it, from anywhere in the world.  For example…

Fred logs into his Google account from his computer and starts a Google Document which he then makes available to his team members through a link he sends to them in an email.  George and Sarah can either watch and contribute to the document in real-time or wait until later to add their information. The original document stays in the Cloud and can be updated by anyone on the team, at any time. from anywhere.

Use of a computer takes out many of the prior physical barriers to access and control of information.  First there were computers for easy editing of documents.  Then there was the internet for easy sending of documents. Now there is community collaboration through the internet, using computers and portable devices.

When I worked for Maxim Integrated, I saw the problems of the Classic method used everyday by the Engineers in my department.  I sought out the new method and tried for four years to convince my management of the time savings.  Only a few took to the ideal.

The following short list is for all the problems that the internet centralization of documents resolves.

  • Stockpiling of revisions of documents

  • Running out of space in your inbox for the excess of document revisions.

  • Merging of information from countless sources

  • Guessing if your revision is correct when merging documents

  • Not having the correct revision, but the colleague who has it, is unavailable.

  • Concerns of time zone differences between colleagues or odd work hours

There is now only one copy and it is universally accessible.  The Cloud has, at the very least, solved the file duplication problem.  It is yet another thought shift in the progress of technology. I look forward to what future progress we make in collaboration through the Cloud.

Next week we will talk about “How to use Google programs & sites”.  That section of the tutorial may be one of the most useful, as it will detail the ins and outs of access to Google.  As always, if you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me via my email account and be sure to check out the Glossary for the new terms from this and every article.

Have a wonderful week


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