Online application – ThinkFree

A few years ago, and I mean quite a few (CompuServe would probably have been a 'brave new idea' in the UK), I remember reading articles about applications running on the Internet rather on PCs. In those days, I freely admit thinking the idea was without merit then. After all, PCs were having a hard enough time running their own apps in a timely manner, and modems running around 19 kbps were struggling to cope with browser pages that had anything other than text on them.

Fortunately, I was to end up as a network manager a few years later, and was introduced to the benefits of File Servers when I ended up having offices strung between Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle and London. When you have to run a common management and control system that provides the same info to each branch, and access to documents and spreadsheets, you soon learn to appreciate what the 'weirdos' were talking about a few years earlier. After a while, I was quite disappointed that the system couldn't justify the cost of running the applications that had grown within to run under Citrix, but it creaked along on borrowed and/or free software, so it was difficult to wrest much more out of the Board.

Now there's assorted ways of delivering such solutions through various client/server solutions for small businesses, but they always seem to be marginally economic, the benefit often being unrelated to the initial cost of the system development and installation from scratch. The only way we could really do it was by doing it ourselves – paying the going rates for external IT consultants and software was astronomic, and didn't seem to bring the benefit of any development they's already done. They always seemed to be starting from scratch.

Now I happily run publishing applications and data management for my personal info, and it exists both in my hosted web space and on my own server. This means I can work on the same data both on and offline depending one where I am and what I'm doing. The info can be private, or easily shared without having to re-format it, unlike the days when it was in a stand-alone word-processor for example. There's still stand-alone applications, online and browser apps still aren't too happy where huge files are concerned. Still, part of the skill is still being able to pick the best tool/method to service a requirement.

Not a commercial application (I think, honestly haven't looked at the detail) I found this when I re-visited an old business info link I'd stored. It seemed to be rather different from the last time I'd seen it, and was offering me 1 GB of online storage for free. Not only that, the package includes free use of online applications that provide online word-processor and spreadsheet applications compatible with Word and Excel (and a presentation app), again for free. You also get your own Bulletin Board and the option to post to your Blog remotely.

Be interesting to see how/if it works.


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