Exploring the search giant’s cloud storage offering…
GWhat is it? The cloud storage component of Google’s wide-ranging suite of internet tools, offering a generous amount of free storage, and linking in with the company’s online productivity suite. What does itwo rkwith? You can access Google Drive from any modern web browser on a Mac, PC or Linux machine. There’s also a small, free downloadable app that sits in your menu bar to allow quick access and file syncing, as well as there being a dedicated app for iOS and Android, too. oogle was the first company to really popularise online storage for the masses when it introduced Gmail with its 1GB of free email storage, at a time when other providers were charging much more for much less space. Not only that, your allocation of space would continue to grow automatically over time, and indeed it still does. Perhaps to a greater extent than any other company, Google’s focus is the web, and its sheer size and deep pockets mean that it’s been able to build vast server farms. Google’s interest is in keeping you online and getting you to use its services, so what it offers for free is generous – even though you should keep in mind that it makes money by scanning the content of your email for ad-related terms.
Google Drive is a natural extension of Gmail: once you’ve built such a large-scale storage system for mail, adding user-accessible cloud storage is a relatively simple task. The concept is not dissimilar to iCloud Drive or Dropbox in that you get to access your stuff in a variety of ways from different devices. The basic free account gives you 15GB of space (which is pretty good) and if you’ve been with Google for a long time this may actually be larger, since accumulated storage upgrades through promotions and other giveaways have been allowed to build up. Your total Google storage allowance is shared across three things, assuming you are using them: Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos. In Google Drive you can store files of up to 1TB (if you’ve added enough storage) and anything you create with Google Docs, Sheets or Slides doesn’t count towards your storage allowance. In Gmail, messages and attachments do count towards your allowance, and in Photos, only pictures larger than 2048x2048 pixels count towards it.
You can easily view both your current usage and a breakdown of which of the three sections is using how much space. There are storage upgrades available of course, and these are among the best value on the market if you need a really serious amount of online storage. Again, this is because Google’s whole operation is based around running a really phenomenal number of servers. You can upgrade to 100GB of space for just $1.99 a month or 1TB for $9.99. Further upgrades to 10TB, 20TB or even 30TB of space are available, with the largest option costing $299.99 a month. It’s hard to imagine an individual needing that kind of space, but for a business that could be a pretty attractive deal.
The web interface for Google Drive is arguably the least elegant way to use it, so you might want to try the app for your Mac, which creates a local copy of your online folder for offline access. Like Dropbox, it can sync stuff straight to the cloud from the local folder and provides shortcuts to view allowances, account information and syncing preferences. The iOS app is pleasant and makes managing your files (and sharing links to them) simple. In iOS 8 you can expect to see the app updated to support extensions, so it should be possible to directly upload files from your device to Google Drive without having to open the app itself first.
On your desktop
Google Drive integration on the desktop is rather more well established at the moment, and Chrome in particular lets you install various extensions specifically for working with documents inside your Drive. There are also some web apps like Drive Notepad, WeVideo, PicMonkey and CloudHQ that let you work on documents form the cloud, and of course Google’s own office suite is available to all users as well.