Did you know that through the Internet you can access your computer from almost anywhere?
Relatively few of us have taken advantage of facilities like Google Document, Zoho Offline Office or Hotmail co-founder Sabeer Bhatia's Live Document.
These provide softwares like Word, Excel or Power Point. You can use them without having MS office installed in your PC.
"I wasn't aware that something like this exists. Does this mean I can read my excel file without actually having Microsoft Excel installed?" asked Abhishek Jha, an asset manager with IDBI Bank.
Online office suites enable you to view or edit existing documents in Google Docs without requiring an always-on Internet connection. It is however not possible to create new word documents while you are offline in Google Docs. Any changes that you make to the documents locally will automatically get synched to Google Docs the next time you connect to the Internet.
This office suite also allows editing of files from the remote location.
"It was very difficult for me to keep updates of the projects and the involvement of employees. Once researching on Internet, I saw the features on Google and started using it to maintain the project's and employees' daily report," Surjeet Kumar, owner of an advertising agency, told IANS.
A similar facility is available on Zoho, which does not even ask for a Zoho e-mail id. Zoho supports offline access via the same Google Gears plugin. It includes tools for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, note taking, wikis, project management, invoicing and other applications.
Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail, launched Live Documents last year. It has all the features of Microsoft Office 2007, and is available free online.
However experts believe using such online office suites may be risky.
Sahil Khan, a 14-year-old IT prodigy who has written three books on hacking and computer viruses, told IANS: "The risk increases if you share files with others when you are working from a remote location. You may unknowingly allow other people to copy private files - even giving access to entire folders, subfolders and sometimes the whole computer. You may also download a virus which can breach your security."
However, Google assures foolproof security for the data being shared. "We provide choices and the control to decide how much users want to share. Google gives you your own private cloud to store your data. Only you can grant permission to access it. So for Google Docs a user can share docs with entire office, or just one friend." a Google spokesperson told IANS.
"To protect data we employ some of the world's best engineers and use the most cutting edge technology available." the spokesperson added.
There are other remote accessing softwares like GoToMyPC and TeamViewer that allow users to access their computers from anywhere. GoToMyPC is a paid software while TeamViewer is available free of cost for non-commercial use.
To use TeamViewer both the remote and the original computer must have the software. It has the added feature of an user id and password. All those sharing the password can make a virtual private network of computers through cyberspace.
"I was in Jaipur to conduct a training session. Just an hour before I found that the file containing details of the training session was missing. The file was too heavy to be e-mailed. So my colleague told me to download TeamViewer and then he put the file on my desktop. It was a great saviour," Sarfaraz Bora, a human resource manager, told IANS.
(Nabeel A. Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)