Google Drive Launches
After much speculation and online rumours, Google's online file storage/sync/sharing service, Google Drive, has finally launched. Produced to compete directly with products like Dropbox, Google Drive provides an alternative way to store files online, share them with other users and sync between multiple devices. As a fan of Google's software and long time Dropbox user I was keen to see if Google Drive would merely be an alternative to Dropbox or add something a little more special for the average Google user.
As someone who has had a Gmail account since the days of having to be invited to Gmail, I wasn’t able to get running with Google Drive as soon as it was launched. I had to add my name to the 'waiting list' to be notified via email.
I signed up for the notification email and a few hours later received the go ahead to start using Google Drive. I was directed to my new Google Drive account where all the documents I had in my Google Docs account were migrated to Google Drive. There was one very minor but very important change, any Google Doc 'collections' I previously had were now converted to folders in a more conventional 'file system' structure. I saw this as a step in the right direction as I never liked the implementation of collections vs folders.
One other bigger change is the fact that once you convert to using Google Drive it replaces Google Docs (as can also be seen in the fact that the Google Docs app on my Android tablet was updated to Google Drive). Even attempting to go to docs.google.com while logged into your Google account will redirect you to your Drive account.
Using Google Drive
Installing the PC application on Windows 7 from the download link in Google Drive was as pain free as installing Dropbox. In fact Google Drive uses the same folder structure as Dropbox, adding a folder to your user Folder and a short cut to your Favourites.
Once the app had installed all my documents started syncing to my PC. Interestingly any Google Document format files are only synced as links to the online version of the document (which makes sense) whereas other file formats (pdf, word, exel) are actually downloaded and available for editing on my PC. There is also an option to enable 'offline access' to your Google Document format files, which requires the Chrome browser.
As the use of 'collections' in Google Docs never really did what I wanted it to my current set of Google docs where fairly unordered. To test out the syncing of Google Drive I created a few folders and moved some files around. The sync was fairly quick and it was fun watching the web versions of my documents move themselves into the various folders as the sync happened.
Google gives you 5GB of storage space to begin with, which should suffice for the average user. You can however upgrade to 25GB for as little as R20 per month and according to the pricing guide you can go as high as 16TB.
I didn’t really do much with Google Drive on my first spin, its the kind of thing that needs some time to work with to really determine if it will stand the test of time. I don't think it will replace Dropbox for anyone who doesn’t currently use Gmail/Google Docs.
The one thing I did miss which Dropbox does well is the little synced/updating icons used on files/folders. This little touch means that you know not to switch off your pc/laptop while a sync is in process. I also don't know if Google Drive has the 'LAN' option that Dropbox has, where if you share a file with a user and they are on the same local network, it will sync the file to their machine via the network not the internet.
What I do know is that for someone who already uses Google software for most of their online activities (Gmail, Docs, Calendar) and especially businesses who make use of Google Apps for Business, the addition of Google Drive will be a pleasant one. You can now read an email attachment/create a document online, save it directly to your Google Drive account and then view the same document on a connected PC, laptop or mobile device or share it directly with another Google Apps user. In my opinion this is the one thing that the Google suite of online applications has been missing for quite some time. I won't be deleting my Dropbox account any time soon though.