Last week, Google jumped into the cloud computing world with their Google Drive, a cloud-based storage system that they hope will compete with similar releases by Apple and the other technology heavyweights. It is truly an incredible technological breakthrough. Imagine a world where you no longer need a hard drive. Physical storage is obsolete, and you can access your entire collection of books, music, movies and documents from any computer, anywhere in the world. That’s convenience like never before, but also a ridiculous level of security. Your information cannot disappear on a stolen hard drive, or be lost forever because of faulty hardware or a spilled glass of water. Pair that with Google’s industry-leading online security standards, and you’ve got what seems to be a complete game changer.
Google was not the first company to hit the cloud storage market. Other services, such as Microsoft SkyDrive, DropBox and Apple iCloud, have all been out for several months now. They all basically act the same way, and offer similar services. You choose how much storage you want, and pay a monthly fee for it. You’ve got an incredible range of options, from 100 GB for around $4.99 a month, up to $49.99 monthly for 1 TB of storage. Of course, if you’re making the purchase for a large corporation you may want to go even bigger, and all the drive services make that possible, with caps set at an astounding 16 TB. Basically, you will never need any other sort of storage.
Regardless of the amount of storage you use, Google makes it very easy to access whatever you need. With Google Drive, you hop onto the cloud service right on your browser. They’ve designed an application that will run the Drive on either Windows or Mac-based operating systems, and in either case you’ll have a folder on your desktop that you can use to upload and download from your Drive cloud storage. But one benefit that the other services do not offer is integration. Google Drive links your data with all of Google’s document and editing services. Therefore Google Docs is fully replaced, and any changes you make online will be saved into the master on Google Drive. The only problem is that all of this integration is web-based. You cannot take those Google Docs and pull them offline for work on your computer. They will not interact with the standard document editing programs on your computer. So once you go with Google Drive, it may be difficult to go back. Cloud services such as DropBox don’t have this issue; they simply work off of your computer’s software. But Google Drive is meant to be self-contained. Chances are Google will eventually come up with a fix for this situation, but until then the service is still a little bit clunky.
The other issue keeping Google Drive from being truly perfect is how it handles multimedia files. With some of the other cloud services, once you’ve uploaded a video or audio file it is ready for real-time streaming. With Google Drive, you actually have to download the file from storage in order to watch it. They’ve created a viewing window for video in the Google Drive browser, but it will still need to be processed. In other words, these files act as downloads from the web, as opposed to how you are used to files stored on a hard drive responding.
Lastly, some people might have issue with putting their personal files online. Google Drive does offer secure file transfer, but once it is up there, you have to trust Google will keep your information safe. For many savvy web users, that may be a less than comfortable situation. None of these flaws detract from the amazing potential of the service, however. All in all, it is still well worth checking it out for yourself.