Google Drive: Stash Your Stuff in the Cloud?
Google launched its long-awaited cloud storage service on April 24, 2012. Dubbed Google Drive, it competes with the likes of Dropbox, Microsoft SkyDrive, and Apple's iDrive. It's also going to change the way users interact with Google Docs, Google Apps, and other Google products. Here's what you need to know about Google Drive...
What is Google Drive?
Google Drive works a lot like Dropbox, another popular cloud storage option. (If you're not familiar with Dropbox, see my article Free Online File Sharing With Dropbox for an intro.) You install a small agent program on a device that runs Windows, Mac OS X, or Android (Linux and iOS will be supported in coming weeks). I say "device" because Google Drive runs on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. After installing the software, a Google Drive folder appears on the device. Drop a file into that special folder and it's uploaded to your Google Drive storage.
The cool thing about cloud storage is that you're not tied to one computer when you want to access, change or collaborate on a document. As long as you have an Internet connection, everything you've stored in Google Drive is available on all your devices. It takes a bit of getting used to, but the concept that files no longer have to be "on your hard drive" offers a lot of freedom and convenience.
Google Drive gives you 5GB of storage space for free. You can upgrade to 25GB for $2.49 per month; 100GB costs only $4.99. Several other tiers will take you all the way up to 16TB for $800 per month. What would you do with 16 terabytes? I have no idea. Almost five years ago, I wrote an article What is a Terabyte?, where I came to the conclusion that a terabyte is like "a thousand librarians driving Ford F150's stacked with literature".
Dropbox, by comparison, is free up to 2GB (with the possibility of more in return for referrals of friends), then jumps to $9.99 monthly for 50GB or $19.99 monthly for 100GB. And just to celebrate Google Drive's debut, every Gmail user's free storage allowance has been bumped up to 10GB from 7.5GB. If you buy Google Drive space, your Gmail free allowance goes up to 25GB. You can sign up for a free or paid Google Drive account today, but since Google is still rolling out the service, you may have to wait a day or two before your Google Drive is ready.
Competition and Integration
Interestingly, Microsoft adjusted its SkyDrive cloud storage offering just the day before Google Drive debuted. First, it reduced SkyDrive's free storage allowance for new users from 25GB to 7G, which Microsoft says is enough for all but one per cent of SkyDrive's current users. (Existing users keep their 25GB allowance.) Additional space costs $10 per year for 20GB, $25 for 50GB, or $50 for 100GB. Also, Microsoft released a SkyDrive for Windows app that provides a share-and-sync folder for Windows and Mac computers.
Google Drive is (or soon will be) integrated with other Google products. Google Drive storage will supplement the free storage space available on Picasa, for example. Google Drive's thumbnail file images will replace the file name listings on Google Docs. "We want you to think of this as the center of your Google apps experience," Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Google's Chrome and Apps projects, told CNET.
Google Drive includes the ability to search for text within documents, and the start of image-recognition based searches. This is actually a lot cooler than I made that sound. Let's say you stash a photo of the Statue of Liberty in Google Drive storage. Google Drive can recognize what's in the photo, and if you later search for "Statue of Liberty" it will find that photo. Google+ already supports face recognition, so I'd be surprised if this feature isn't coming to Google Drive as well.
A less exciting (but still very useful) example would be storing a PDF or scanned document. Google Drive will use optical character recognition to extract the text from those files, and make them searchable. Google Drive also automatically transcodes videos into multiple formats for viewing on a variety of platforms.
As I mentioned before, Google Drive will be integrated into other popular Google products. Already, Google+ users can share photos stored on Google Drive easily. Later, you'll be able to attach Google Drive files to Gmail messages, and save received attachments to Google Drive.
Already, third-party apps are integrating with Google Drive. HelloFax will fax a Google Drive document to a recipient's fax number or email address. WeVideo lets multiple users create, edit, and collaborate on videos stored on Google Drive (one reason you might need that 16TB of cloud storage).
Google Drive will enhance almost every other Google product, no doubt. But it will also tie users even more tightly to Google, as they entrust more and more of their digital stuff to the ubiquitous cloud.
I'll definitely be using Google Drive -- how about you? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Apr 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Google Drive: Stash Your Stuff in the Cloud? (Posted: 25 Apr 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved