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Tanks for the memories: Building a post-Microsoft Office cloud suite

Redmond owned it, Google invaded. Your options

File storage and sharing

Now the water gets cloudier. Google Drive is the underlying storage and sharing engine for G Suite files. In the Enterprise plan, you’ll even find Data Loss Prevention. It’s not hard to find a cloud file storage alternative, with Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, ShareFile and more to choose from. There’s not much functionality difference between them, so do your research and pick your favourite flavour.

One challenge with these services, though, is how well they play with others. Often you are restricted to one of two choices for external sharing – the other party needs their own login to the same service (sometimes only required for editing) or you have to set the permissions to ‘anyone with this link can access.’ Don’t get started on the whole “unrestricted link” business. It just takes one tiny forward of an email for your information to end up in the hands of anyone.

Dropbox has Office co-authoring sorted. As long as you both have a free Microsoft account (Dropbox Basic and Pro) or a paid Office 365 account with Office Online (Dropbox Business), Dropbox supports Office file co-authoring beautifully, maintaining formatting and not creating multiple files. It’s an alternative for those who are SharePoint or OneDrive phobic, but you may be paying Dropbox for functionality you already have in Office 365.

Team collaboration

Hands up if your first thought was Slack? Going beyond any social media group messaging or WhatsApp, Slack again won hearts through its ease of use and collaboration with external people. It spread like wildfire through tech companies like Twilio and Udemy, then more traditional companies like Marks & Spencer jumped on board. Outside the office, Slack has become the default meeting place for loosely connected, geographically diverse groups of tech-savvy people who share similar interests, with the author of this article being a member of six different Slack teams.

A couple of downsides are the authentication directory and the file storage. Slack treats every team invitation as separate, even to the same email address. There’s no signing into Slack and seeing all your teams. You sign into each team individually by remembering the team name. Once you are logged in though, it’s easy to see all your Slack teams and navigate among them, but things like nicknames and profile pictures don’t populate across different teams.

By default, Slack’s file sharing is prone to creating another isolated version of the file outside of your other systems, as you upload a file copy. This is addressed with file management integrations, which you can turn on to link files from Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and others. The linking varies per service in terms of whether changes made in your Cloud file storage automatically update the file contents in Slack or not.

Slack claims to deliver an 80.4 per cent increase in team transparency and a 48.6 per cent reduction in internal email. Anything that can reduce email noise is a good thing, right? In reality, though, without some cultural guidance you can end up facing Slack overload, where channel numbers, unread posts and notifications are insane, just like email.

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