It has been hyped for weeks or even months — and finally it is here: the one and only Google Drive. If you’ve been following Cloudbackuping.com the last couple of days you most certainly noticed that we followed rumors about the launch date and possible features of the new service closely.
Just before launching this Tuesday the French section of Google released a blog post with some screenshots a little too early and withdrew them instantly; however, a few tech news sites managed to grab some information. But now all the rumors are finally over and the whole world can bask in the glory that is Google Drive.
In this little sneak-peak review, we’re going to have a look at the basic features and how they might help you in regards to file management: meaning syncing, storing and sharing of files either with yourself or with friends, family and colleagues. No worries though, this post has a lot of growing to do since the service has only just been launched. Nonetheless, I think I can give you a good overview of what you can do with Google Drive and if it’s worth signing up.
Is it a *insert your favorite cloud service here* killer?
One of the major issues that has been discussed recently in the tech world is to what extent the new Google Drive is a killer of other services in the niche. And it seems that services like Dropbox, Box.com and Microsoft Skydrive could be threatened. Google Drive is very powerful and competitively priced at the same time; and if any company can leverage scale it’s Google and its huge world-wide data centers.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the features of Google’s new service but here is a nice summery:
- You get 5 GB of free storage on your Google Drive.
Upgrades are available starting at $2.95 per month for 25 GB all the way up to $799.99 per month for 16TB. If you compare Google’s 100GB plan ($4.99 per month) with Dropbox, where you pay a whopping $19.99, the price difference is staggering, so it is certainly tempting to switch to Google Drive.
- Sync, share and store your files in the cloud
This sounds obvious but it has to be mentioned as well. You can sync your files with the native app available for both Mac and Windows, which creates a folder similar to Dropbox in which you can put and manage your files — all from within your OS or via the web browser.
- Comment on, edit and preview files
One of the best features is the ability to comment on files that you share with other people. This makes for very effective collaboration. We know about this feature from Google Docs, but now we can use it with video files or any other file-type as well. There’s also the preview feature, which allows you to preview 30+ file types. I’ve tested it with .ai (Illustrator), .psd (Photoshop) and .NEF (Nikon Raw image format). Both NEF and .ai worked fine, but I still had trouble previewing .psd files in my Google Chrome.
- File versions
One of the best and most useful — yet painfully underestimated — features is file versioning. Google Drive gives you 30 versions of your files, or you can select individual file versions, that are kept forever.
Getting started with your new Google Drive is as easy as signing up for any other product within the Google Universe: just type in your ID and password and you’re done. Of course you can sign up with an unique account if you’d like to separate your Google Drive activity from your main Google ID.
Not surprisingly, the process reminded me a lot of Dropbox. After downloading the installation wizard for my Mac, Google placed a folder into my system called “Google Drive” that serves as my primary folder from which I can sync my files across all of my devices.
A note for Google Docs users: if you’re an avid user of Google Docs (as I am) you might be wondering what happens to your files after signing up with the big G. What will happen is your documents will be synced automatically to your new drive account and downloaded to your synced folder. Keep in mind that you can no longer use the URL docs.google.com to access your docs; instead, you have to use drive.google.com.
I think Apps that integrated into Google Docs will have a very tough time now. Insync, for example: they would take care of your syncing your documents with Dropbox, and now their business model is in severe danger. On the other hand I am happy to have it all in one place, I’m just afraid that this will flatten the landscape even further.
If you have been using Dropbox you’ve certainly noticed the little box icon in your task bar that displays a green check mark when all your files are synced. Google uses the new Google Drive logo to reflect that it is active, and whenever you put a file into your synced folder it flashes very lightly indicating that is currently sending your files up to Google’s servers.
Uploading files and the web preview
Another interesting feature is the ability to preview a variety of file formats in your web browser. I often work with Photoshop files that people send to me, or sometimes preview photo files from my Nikon D7000.
I was hoping to see this feature when I tested Box.com, but unfortunately it wasn’t available. I am happy that Google has taken it to the next level (this feature is further evidence that Google Drive wants to cater heavily to the cloud storage needs of businesses).
The first thing I wanted to test is the ability to preview .jpg files and movies. I dragged them into my new Google Drive (you can also drag them into the web browser for upload) and waited until the upload had finished.
As expected .jpg images showed up immediately in the preview; however, movie files needed a little more time before they were available to preview in a YouTube style video player (they’re obviously using the YouTube engine to encode the video preview).
After that I wanted to take it up a notch by uploading a couple of .psd and .ai files (Photoshop and Illustrator). While I had no trouble at all viewing the Illustrator files, I still couldn’t manage to get a preview of my Photoshop files (April 25, 2012). Finally, know that you shouldn’t expect high image quality, since it really is just a preview.
File and folder sharing
If you work on a project with multiple people file sharing is indispensable. We’re already familiar with this feature from Google Docs, where you can share files and folders with anybody who has a Google ID. You can also assign various levels of access, giving you a great level of control over who can do what.
Users can comment on files and track revisions or even approve changes to documents, pictures, or videos. But again, if you have been using Google Docs this is nothing new. Google has just expanded the service to other file types.
Integration with Google+
One of the major goals for large enterprises in the tech industry is to provide a universe of its own for the people using it. The best case scenario is that people won’t have to leave the platform at all. With Google this is certainly the case with search, as it is currently their main money making machine, and probably will be for a long time to come.
However, the problem with search is that people leave after having found what they were looking for. So Google has tried to improve the overall Google experience with services like Google+, Google Docs and, now, Google Drive.
It is no wonder that the new Google Drive integrates so smoothly with its social networking counterpart. With just one click you can share files from your Google Drive and show them to your circles.
Will it kill other services?
Google is constantly releasing new products meant to revolutionize the market. Remember Google Wave? It was supposed to make waves in the field of real time collaboration, but lately it hasn’t been heard from much. In fact, they closed the service down a couple of months ago. So even though Google constantly puts out revolutionary products, many just disappear into oblivion. The key for Google will be to focus on integration, and the steps they’ve taken with Google Drive and Google+ already have them moving in the right direction.
And let’s not forget that services like Dropbox or Box.com have a huge 5 year head start. Millions of customers have already been using them and that’s not likely to change. One of Dropbox’s advantages is that, over time, they’ve closely tied their service to other products that use it to sync data; ranging from bookmarks, to photos, and even passwords.
So a lot of Google Drive’s success will depend on how well it “syncs” with other Apps/plattforms, and unfortunately I think its willingness to do that is actually quite limited.
Box.com, on the other hand, may be in a little more trouble, since Google is attacking the corporate market with such affordable rates (only $49.99 for 1TB of storage per month) and easy file sharing and collaboration features.
It is very hard to look into the future when it comes to cloud storage; and, unfortunately, my crystal ball is a little blurry in that regard as well.
Are you going to use the Google Drive? And is 5GB enough for you, or do you plan on upgrading and using the service for more “serious” work?
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