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Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Google Drive: Hands-On Winner

Google's new online storage service represents the natural evolution of Google Docs, and another transformation for the world of collaborative file management.

Google launched Google Drive, its new cloud-based file storage, management, and sharing service, Tuesday. It offers 5 GB of data storage for free and significantly more if you're willing to pony up some cash each month. It supports 30 different file types and a number of mobile and desktop platforms. Google Drive isn't exactly unique, however, and competitors Dropbox, Box, iCloud, SkyDrive, and others offer similar features sets. What makes Google Drive different or better than the rest, and who will benefit from it the most?

I've used Google Docs every day for more than five years. Its online document and sharing/collaboration tools are an essential element to my workflow. Considering how many governments and business have "gone Google," I am surely not the only one who's come to rely on Google Docs.

Tuesday's introduction of Google Drive is more a revamp of Google Docs than it is a brand new service. Essentially, Google is rebranding Google Docs to Google Drive, and modifying its user interface to suit a bunch of new features.

Docs already lets users create documents, spreadsheets, and other files. Those files could be edited, shared, downloaded, uploaded, and so on. None of that has changed, only now Docs, er, Drive users have a minimum of 5 GB of storage of which to make use. There are a few key differences, however, that dramatically improve the usefulness of the whole shebang.

[ Learn more about Google's new cloud storage service. See Google Drive Arrives, At Last. ]

In addition to the browser-based user interface and file access, Google has developed dedicated applications for the Android, Windows, and OS X platforms (an iOS app is on the way). These apps give PC and smartphone/tablet users instant access to their files and will automatically upload, download, and sync them across multiple devices types.

I downloaded and installed the Google Drive app on two different Macs, an Android tablet, and an Android smartphone. On the Macs, I was able to download and sync all my Google Docs files to a local "Google Drive" folder. Want to make a file on your desktop available to your smartphone? Easy, just drag and drop it into the Google Drive file and it syncs across the 'Net where it can be accessed on the smartphone. Dropbox handles this same feature very well.

The real killer feature is search. You've always been able to search through Google Docs, but the new tools available in Google Drive let users sort among file types, file owners, file visibility, and so on. Being able to specify searches just for PDFs or presentation files can really help narrow down results and speed up the searching process.

Perhaps what's more enjoyable than easy file syncing, though, is easy file sharing. I'm not talking about sending a spreadsheet to your boss. I'm talking about social networks and other services such as Google+. Sending files, such as photos, from Google Drive to Google+ or Picasa is a breeze. It's also a snap to send files, including music tracks, documents, or photos, from an Android device to the online drive.

Who will benefit most from Google Drive? The service is clearly meant for use by consumers and not necessarily the enterprise, where intranets are the norm for file storage, management, and sharing. Small businesses that can't afford to purchase intricate database systems can reap plenty of rewards from the simplicity offered by Google Drive.

Will Google Drive replace the services it acts to mimic? Probably some of them. It's one thing to be able to swap files from device to device, but something else to create, share, and collaborate on files with coworkers or others. For organizations or individuals who don't need the powerful document tools, sticking with services such as Dropbox or Box will make sense. Any business invested in Google's services and Google Docs should look seriously at Google Drive.

As companies increase their use of cloud-based applications, IT and security professionals must make some tough and far-reaching decisions about how to provision, deprovision, and otherwise manage user access. This Dark Reading report, How To Manage Identity In The Public Cloud, examines the options and provides recommendations for determining which one is right for your organization. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:58:09 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
Check the T&C's you might not be so enthusiastic!
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:37:10 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
IMO storage is not specific to any particular application. SkyDrive provides 25 GB compare to 5 GB Google space. SkyDrive integrated in to Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 so copying files to cloud is a snap.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:35:34 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
Any honest review of Google Drive must, IMHO, mention the horrible Terms of Service... you did read them, right? I could never use G-Drive no matter how whizz-bang the feature set is because of this startling bit from the ToS:

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

So, don't put up anything on G-Drive you wouldn't be comfortable putting on a billboard in every city of every country, in every language, search indexed. I certainly wouldn't put up any sensitive business, deeply personal or financial info, which pretty much rules out anything you'd actually want to use G-Drive for, I would think, no?
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:26:28 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
I fail to see how you dont seem to understand that this is his experiance with Google Drive. Not a 'you should buy this over that' review.

Unfortunately you come across as a Microsoft Fanboy.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:21:56 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
I think Eric is pretty clear that he's a Google Docs enthusiast and sees this as most valuable for people who would appreciate this file service as part of the whole Google Apps suite. He doesn't pretend to provide a feature-by-feature comparison with every file sharing service out there.

In the accompanying news story, we did point out that some other services are offering more free storage.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:10:45 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
Hands-On Winner for the most evil terms of services:
User Rank: Apprentice
4/25/2012 | 2:04:35 PM
re: Google Drive: Hands-On Winner
I'm confused as to how "Google Drive: Hands-On Winner" came out as the headline for this article. I've been looking at Skydrive today, and it seems to have comparable features to Google Drive - document editing and creation, easy sharing between web, phone, PC, Mac, iPad (oh, wait, Google doesn't have that), search into the documents you've stored there, blah blah blah. OK, sure, if you're "invested in Google's services and Google Docs", Skydrive loses out - but then, if you're "invested in Microsoft's services, and Office documents", Skydrive beats Google Drive hands down.
This story seems to be summed up as "I like Google Docs, and the new update and rename are an improvement, so I'm comfortable not paying any attention to competing services". While that's a win for Google's customer retention, it's a little strange to tout this as a comparative win against those other services.
Couple this with Skydrive's base 7GB free service, and the recent announcement of a short-term offer to provide 25GB free service (the offer is short term, not the service), and I'm really quite at a loss to understand the point of this article, other than "we received a press release from Google, reworded it so that it sounded like our words, and then published it, without bothering to do any extra work of our own."
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