Google Drive: Stash Your Stuff in the Cloud?

Category: File-Sharing

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

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...

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Most recent comments on "Google Drive: Stash Your Stuff in the Cloud?"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Karen Davis
25 Apr 2012

I am just not yet comfortable with cloud use. No really rational reason. I expect that to change - at one time I wasn't comfortable with online banking and now I am slightly annoyed when I cannot make a bill automatic. You would think that anyone who has experienced a computer crash would be delighted to back up to something else and yet my new iPhone is backed up to my computer rather than iCloud. I think it has to do with a level of trust that I am not willing to give. Will be interested to read other comments.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2012

What you don't mention is how Google's terms and conditions apply to stored items - is it like gmail where reasonable privacy remains, or is everything grist for the search (and cite or publish) mill? I suspect for business use that could be kind of important.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2012

Google assumes ownership of everything you store with them.

"Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps)."

Simply put: there's no definitive boundary that keeps Google from using what it likes from what you upload to its service.

The fact is, according to its terms, Google may own any code or product you ultimately upload to its new Google Drive service, whether you realise it or not.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2012

I'll definitely will be using it. But the same privacy issues that existed in DropBox seem to be verbatim in Google Drive. Not much of an issue in that I never leave anything important on these drives, except my resume. I have far more drive space at home, but I use these cloud drives as swing locations. As soon as I get home, I clean them up and load to local disks. I have SkyDrive as well, and as a long time user, I got the 25GB offer.

Posted by:

25 Apr 2012

Does Cloud usage impact data limits imposed by ISP and/or Telco, and therefore does this add another cost risk to Cloud usage (including Google Drive)?

Most Cloud articles seem to ignore this.

Am I wrong or is this a factor I should consider in transferring data to/from the Cloud, particularly images ?

Posted by:

Richard Pederson
26 Apr 2012

Once you put something on Google drive, they own it and can do whatever they want with it, even if you are no longer using Google drive. This seems to be going too far. Check out their user agreement.

Posted by:

John Walker
26 Apr 2012

I have numerous devices.
Desktop IE-8 w/windows vista
IPAD2 IOS-5, Apple Apps
Android Phone Google Apps
Netbook IE-9 w/windows 7
MIFI Broadband wifi for the car

I have been looking for something where I can get my photo's, other files, etc., into or onto 1 device, preferrably my desktop.
I use picasa, snapfish, and a couple others, and to get a certain photo, I have to go to that device to get access to it.

This Google Cloud storage will do all that for me into 1 place, and I will be able to access it on any of my devices.
Looking at MS's pricing, and storage amounts, as well as others out there, Google offers the best.

Now, I will try out the Google Chrome so I have all google.

Great articles.. Thank You.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2012

I'm leery of Cloud data storage. I might be a Ludite - I don't know, I haven't checked lately.

Posted by:

Gordon Peterson
26 Apr 2012

I have heard nasty rumors regarding Google acquiring property rights (or something?) to all material uploaded to Google Drive. I'd like to know more about whether that's a real concern, or a misunderstanding.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I think it's just legal mumbo jumbo. Google's privacy policy says "Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours."

Read more here:

I expect that Google will clarify this, and don't expect them to be selling coffee mugs with my AskBob logo any time soon. :-)

Posted by:

26 Apr 2012

"YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important!" In view of that quote, maybe you could do the same in your articles. There's generally a few errors. Today's article has two sentences that doesn't make sense - "First, it 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.)" I generally enjoy your articles, but a bit of proof-reading would go a long way.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Hate to pick on you, but shouldn't that be "There ARE generally a few errors" and "two sentences that DON'T make sense"? :-) As for the mangled sentence, I added a "bold" tag and missed the closing bracket. Fixed now.

Posted by:

Brian S.
26 Apr 2012

Sorry Bob, but I simply don't trust Google nor anyone else for storing any type of sensitive or private information, pictures, documents or anything that could be used to identify me without my consent.

Google has stated in the past that one of their goals was to make the entire web available to everyone, (or something to that matter.) and breaches of security do and have happened. I no longer use Google or their toolbars as I have switched over to DuckDuckGo and Ixquick to avoid any search filtering and tracking.

Posted by:

Justin Sane
26 Apr 2012

I'm amazed that anybody would use Google to store their data in light of what they've been known to do with info. As far as I'm concerned this is the cyber equivalent to handing your wallet/purse to a total stranger for safekeeping. I'd rather get a portable HDD and store it somewhere safely. At least I know my info won't be shared for profit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ummm, "in light of what they've been known to do with info"? What exactly are you referring to?

Posted by:

26 Apr 2012

Is anything uploaded encrypted? Who has access to it? Can the Federal Government obtain access whenever it likes? How private are the data files? Privacy is a concern for some United States Citizens. Just saying.

Posted by:

26 Apr 2012

I feel, many people have no idea about this type of storage system. The main idea of that is to have access to info from virtually everywhere. Of course, if you have an Internet connection. So the speed isn't an issue. It's not just another storage for your computer. It's like you have money under your bed or in your bank account. It's fast and easy to take some bucks from under your bed and it doesn't require any formalities, but you are unable to get them, when you are out of your home, right? But you can use your money from your bank account from virtually anywhere - if you find an ATM or bank office, of course, or, again, have and Internet connection for online banking. Like with cloud storage, there are drawbacks - your bank knows everything about your money, you have to spend some time to access your money - by filling forms in an office or by logging in your online account. Why are you so concern about your info at Google's services, but not so concern about your money it your bank? What the difference?

Another funny concern about security. Why funny? Do you send highly encrypted e-mails only? You don't? Read e-mail standards - your mail is just a text that could be easily read by anybody, who got network packets by sniffer program, for example. Well, you code your mail, but what about signals between your computer and your screen? It's just an electromagnetic signals without any encryption that could be easily intercepted by a relatively simple equipment. Yes, any cable or wire works as an antenna. And, of course, wireless keyboards. The rest of your precious information you already have posted in social networks. You guys are funny! Really.

And some real life experience. Now I am far of my home. I have all necessary info with me, but one of flash drives stopped working - I am unable to read info from it. I have backups, of course, but anyway - cloud services have better backup systems. I've never used them since I am pretty seldom far from my computers, but right now I see advantages of such services and plan to get an account there. There is such thing as paranoia, it is professional in my case. But anyone's paranoia should be limited by some common sense. Be reasonable.

Posted by:

Wendy Scott
27 Apr 2012

Yes indeed -- Google's already a good friend!
Thanks Bob

Posted by:

27 Apr 2012

If I correctly sinc my Google Drive to my E-Z Contact address book (and I'm not sure I have) then make changes in the address book, should it also change in the Google Drive file?

Posted by:

27 Apr 2012

Love your note on my comment! I should have done some proofreading of my own. I'm still laughing...thanks again. :-)

Posted by:

28 Apr 2012

I really like these cloud storage services. I personally don't store any personal info on them, but I do upload all my gadget's user guides. I also subscribe to numerous tech, gadget, and PC newsletters, which contain all sorts of articles, tips, help guides, informative articles, etc...When I find things I want to keep, I save them as PDF files into a folder on my PC. Then I save/upload copies to my cloud storage services for easy access. For example, I subscribe to some Excel Tips newsletters. I use Excel a lot at work. When I find great tips that I can use to on my job, I save the article and upload it to the cloud service. When I'm at work, and need to find a better way to do something, I can just look through all my saved article files on Excel and get step by step tutorials. I also save a bunch of PC troubleshooting articles, so if I run into an issue where I can't boot my PC or can't access my PC files, I have the info at my fingertips from my cloud drive. I have my smartphone and tablet user manuals on my cloud drives in case I need to look up how to do something. I love the convenience of this. It's all at my fingertips whenever I need it. (If anything happens to my cloud drive files, I still have copies on my PC at home.)So for me, these services really come in handy. One could even store receipt copies, copies of warranties. If I want to cook a new recipe, I save a copy to my cloud drive, then when I'm in the store, I can open it and check for all my ingredients. There are so many uses.

Posted by:

11 May 2012 is offering a free 50 gig storage. It's free because it is ads supported which means the site will get its revenue from advertisers.It is fast in its uploads too using HTML5, and the nicest thing is that it won't affect the speed of your browsing nor the speed of your pc as a whole.

Posted by:

01 Jun 2012

I was asked to pay a license fee for google docs. is this a legitimate charge?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, Google Docs is free. Maybe you're thinking of Google Apps for Business?

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