For better or for worse, Google has come to dominate my online life. I made this statement four years ago and, if anything, it holds even truer today than it did then. I use Gmail. I use YouTube. I have an Android phone.
While Google+ hasn’t quite been a runaway success, to put it lightly, Google continues to dominate the online world and that domination is continuing with the recent launch of Google Drive. We’re once again going to the cloud with yet another Google service and there’s a very good chance that it’ll become an indispensible part of our daily lives on the world wide web. Will it squash the cloud storage alternatives like SugarSync and Dropbox, or will it fizzle out like Google+? Before we get that far, let’s just get a closer look at Google Drive and what it’s all about.
The Evolution of Google Docs
Many people are saying that Google Drive is positioned to be a direct competitor to cloud storage solutions like Skydrive and Box.net, but that isn’t completely true. While it’s there for cloud storage, it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s the natural progression of Google Docs. In fact, after you “sign up” for Google Drive, Google Docs will disappear altogether from your account.
When you try to access Docs, you’ll simply get redirected to Drive. From a user experience perspective, it’s really not all that different. You still get all the usual files and folders from the web interface, but there’s the added function of being able to upload additional file types, as well as the ability to upload entire folders.
In either case, all of these files will still work in a very similar way to Google Docs. You can share the files with your colleagues and collaborate on them in real time. Select file types can be converted to the corresponding Google Docs formats, like spreadsheets and word documents. One difference is that you can switch to “grid” view rather than “list” view, if you prefer a more visual layout.
Synchronizing with Apps
Perhaps the bigger difference is the introduction of desktop applications. Google has already pushed out the apps for Windows PC and Mac OS, as well as an Android app. The iPhone app is being planned for the near future.
What you’ll find here is that the Google Drive desktop app works not unlike the Dropbox application you may already have. There’s a folder that is then synchronized with your account. You can go ahead an install the app on multiple computers and it’ll all sync up accordingly.
Normal file types that can be natively read by your computer can be easily accessed offline, but you’ll need to go through a setup process if you want to view Google Docs file types.
Upgrading Your Storage
Since this is Google we’re talking about, the basic plan will always be free. You start off with 5GB of Drive storage (Google Docs doesn’t count against this), as well as 10GB of Gmail and 1GB of Picasa. From there, the storage plan pricing starts at $2.49/month for 25GB of Drive storage (plus a free bonus upgrade to 25GB for Gmail), going all the way up to 16TB for $799.99/month. There are seven additional plans between those two.
Is It a Dropbox Killer?
I’m still convinced that Dropbox is one of the best cloud-based apps out there, especially now that you can share any file and not just those in the “Public” folder, but Google Drive is certainly an intriguing proposition. It also helps that the Google Drive pricing undercuts Dropbox: 100GB with Drive is $4.99/month, compared to $19.99/month with Dropbox.
Native support for over 30 files from right within your web browser is certainly appreciated, as is the ability to collaborate on files in real time, though the latter was already available through Docs. The terms can be a little scary — “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…” — but we’ve come to expect nothing less from the Big G.
Image credit: ZDNet