Google's entry into the cloud-storage market includes editing, collaboration, and sharing features that may make it attractive for small and mid-sized businesses.
Recently launched, Google Drive competes with existing cloud-storage services like Dropbox, Amazon Cloud Drive, Apple iCloud, Box, Microsoft SkyDrive, Trend Micro's SafeSync, and SugarSync — to name the leading providers in this rapidly growing segment.
The common feature for all of these services is that they allow users — individual or corporate — to drop files into a special folder on a computer or mobile device and have that same file, whether it is a document, a picture, a video, or just about anything else, instantly accessible from nearly any Internet-enabled device — a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
Integration with Other Google Services
Perhaps the most important differentiator for Google Drive is the service's tight integration with other Google products, including Google Docs, replacing the document creation and collaboration service while absorbing all of its features and functions when installed.
“Drive is built to work seamlessly with your overall Google experience,” wrote Google's senior vice president for Chrome and apps, Sundar Pichai, on Google's Official Blog.
In practice, this means that a user could start a file in Microsoft Word on a Mac, save that file into the MyDrive folder Google Drive places on the Mac, instantly storing the doc in the cloud too.
Online, several collaborators working in diverse locations could simultaneously view and edit the file from a browser window. Drive will even store each and every version and change for a month or up to 100 different saved versions. Finally, the doc file could be downloaded to several different devices ranging from Android tablets to Windows 7 PCs.
Google has also made it easy to post pictures stored in Drive on Google+, adding the service to the post drop down menu.
“And soon,” wrote Pichai, “you’ll be able to attach stuff from Drive directly to emails in Gmail.”
Gmail integration, when it becomes available, could be the most compelling advantage since the service is popular with small businesses.
Finally, Drive includes a search feature worthy of its Google heritage, making it easy to locate just about any file you can think store with the service.
Integration with Apps
Google Drive, like a few of its competitors — Box, iCloud, and SkyDrive are examples — allows third-party developers to create applications that expand or enhance the services capabilities.
In addition to many compelling features, Drive's open platform, at least in theory, makes it possible for even small businesses to write custom applications to conquer organization-specific tasks. In the ecommerce world, an example might be a single spreadsheet that aggregates sales data from an online store, eBay, Amazon Marketplace, and a Facebook store, making the information available just about anywhere in real time.
Google Drive is also competitively priced. Any user can have 5GB of cloud storage for free. Upgrading to 25GB of Drive storage, which includes a boost in Gmail storage, is $2.49 per month or $29.88 per year. Getting 100GB of Drive storage and 100GB of Gmail storage costs $4.99 per month or $59.88 per year. Google also offers even larger plans with 1TB running $49.99 per month or 16TB at $799.99 per month.
At the time of writing, Google Drive did not offer a client for Linux or Apple's iPhone and iPad. Although support for both iOS and Linux is expected soon.