There is no shortage of cloud service providers; in fact, there are hundreds of them, and often users are left overwhelmed by the number of options available. If you’re one of those people still undecided about which cloud provider you should go with, then don’t despair, as the recent release of Google Drive may just provide you with a solution. For the benefit of the wider audience, I will start this article with a brief explanation of what Google Drive is, some of its basic features, and how it can be utilised. We will also take a look at how Google Drive stacks up against other big name cloud providers such as Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud.
What is Google Drive?
Google Drive is a cloud service that enables you to store documents, music, photos, and videos in one place. Uploading and accessing all your files is made simple as Google Drive syncs to all your mobile computer devices, essentially providing you with access to your stored files on any device. With the incorporation of Google Docs in Google Drive, the process of transferring your Google Docs files is pretty much automatic.
How much can you store?
Google Drive users are given 5 GBs of storage for free, and there are options to upgrade your storage limit at a relatively low cost. Google is offering plans of 25 GB for $2.49 a month and 100 GB for $4.99 a month. Of course, there are other amounts available as well with the highest storage plan at 16 TB for $800 a month. As for the types of files you can store, Google Drive supports up to 30 types of files and has support for third-party programs, allowing you to open up your files in any program of your choosing.
With what platforms is Google Drive compatible?
Google Drive can be installed on almost all Web browsers and is compatible with Windows, OS X, and Android. At this stage, there is no iOS app for the iPhone and iPad — yet. In a statement released by Google, it seems that there will be a Google Drive iOS client in the future. There is no indication of when it will be released, but it doesn’t appear as though it will be one in the immediate future.
Have the privacy concerns with Google Drive been resolved?
Over the last few days, there have been a number of privacy breaches raised against Google Drive. The main privacy concern was largely a misinterpretation of this passage in Google’s privacy terms: Any uploaded content on Google Drive grants Google a “worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute such content.” A further analysis of Google’s terms indicates that these same terms apply to most of Google’s services, including Gmail. This is not a cause for alarm as when this particular passage is put into context, Google clearly states that “You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.” These privacy terms are fairly standard for any Internet company as it grants Google the licensing rights to provide its services.
So, in short, yes. The privacy concerns have been resolved.
How does Google Drive compare to other cloud providers?
There are several other competitors to Google Drive, all simultaneously yelling out “Pick me! Pick me!” This makes it a fairly difficult proposition for the average consumer to choose a service. But a close look at the features each cloud service offers eliminates most of the competition offered to Google Drive. Smaller scale companies such as SugarSync and Dropbox in particular are in serious danger of losing their users as many have already defected to Google Drive.
Despite the fact that Dropbox is considered a low-scale cloud service provider, it is the current leader in cloud storage with over 45 million users. The problem for Dropbox is that its market largely focuses on technology-oriented users and not the average consumer. Additionally, it only offers 2 GB as free storage and its premium storage plans are expensive to say the least. The sheer size and influence of Google will make it difficult for smaller cloud service players to compete. As it is now, Dropbox will have to significantly lower its prices to stay afloat as there is no reason for users to stick with it if Google Drive is offering cheaper prices for the same service.
The main competitors to Google Drive are Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Apple’s iCloud. First, let’s take a look at how Google Drive stacks up against SkyDrive. There are a few advantages SkyDrive has over Google Drive, the main two being that SkyDrive offers 7 GB free storage and charges $25 for 25 GB of storage a year. In comparison, Google Drive offers 5 GB free storage space and charges $30 for 25 GB of storage a year. With what Google Drive lags behind in pricing and free storage, it makes up for in flexibility and value. Google also has the advantage of an established relationship with millions of users who utilize its chrome Web browser, Gmail, Google+, and most important, Google Docs. The relatively seamless transition to Google Drive from Google’s other services will no doubt appeal to consumers, and this is where Google has the upper hand over its competitors.
The comparison between Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive is a much less probing one. In basic terms, Apple’s iCloud is a cloud storage service for Apple products. In terms of flexibility, iCloud is only compatible with OS X and iOS. In comparison, Google Drive is functional on OS X, Android, Windows, and will be available on iOS devices soon enough. Since there is no iOS app for Google Drive as yet, iCloud is the best cloud service for iOS devices at this stage. As for pricing, Google Drive offers cheaper storage plans than iCloud: Google Drive offers 25 GB for $30 a year, whereas iCloud charges $40 for 20 GB a year.
Over all, Google Drive is more flexible and cheaper than iCloud, but SkyDrive has an edge over Google Drive. It is important to note that companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and even Dropbox have already established themselves in the cloud market. As such, it will take some time for Google Drive to catch up to its competitors and, while it is not the cheapest option available, all indications suggest that Google Drive will eventually stand out from the pack.