Admins Must Choose Google Offline Access With Care

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-06-10 Print this article Print

Earlier today, I'd written about a potential Google data-snatching catastrophe that popped up when Google Enterprise Product Manager Rishi Chandra said Google Enterprise General Manager Dave Girouard's laptop was stolen from his car at a ballpark.

Chandra's tale came here in Boston at Enterprise 2.0, where he regaled the audience with the magic of cloud computing and how innovation for enterprise applications will eclipse innovation in on-premises apps in the next decade.

In the concluding Q&A session an audience member asked, if Google is using offline access, where data is stored on the laptop as well as on the Internet, would the data on Girouard's laptop be compromised? Data on a laptop is data on a laptop; the same security threats prevail for offline access, right?

This is a fair question. Google is always telling us how secure the information it hosts on its servers is. What security can we expect from using Google Docs offline?

In a meeting this afternoon, Chandra clarified that Girouard's laptop was lifted last year, before Google started offering offline access to regular civilians, as well as to Googlers themselves.

So, Girouard wasn't too concerned about the data. In fact, as I noted, his biggest concern was: Mac or PC. For the record, he chose the Mac.

But for the record, admins must be careful about any offline access they enable their users to have through Google Gears.

"What we're hoping [is] an IT administrator has the flexibility to control what data is offline and what data is not offline," Chandra told me. "So if there is sensitive data that they are very worried about, they should have the flexibility of saying that cannot be stored in an offline manor."

"But the very nature of the laptop computer makes it very difficult," he said. "We do have password protection on Google Gears and we can take it all the way down to encrypting it. But once someone has it, you're still going to be nervous about what they're going to have access to. "

As Chandra noted, some apps are going to be more sensitive for others, and the IT admin needs to decide what's best for his users.

"What we're hoping is that Gears is a short-term bridge to having full Internet access across the board," Chandra said. |

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