A Look At Google Drive, Google’s Long-Awaited Cloud Storage Service

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google driveAfter more than 6 years of rumors and a long-ago cancellation because “files are so 1990″, Google Drive is finally here. Coming with 5 GB of free storage space, a Dropbox-like desktop sync client, and strong integration with Google’s web apps, Google Drive has a lot to offer. Google Drive is late to the game, but it stands out from the pack with its deep search features and application integration.

Google Drive is the evolution of Google Docs – it actually replaces Google Docs entirely. Google Docs has had the ability to upload arbitrary files for a while, but it was awkward — Google Drive adds a convenient desktop file sync folder. If you had any Google Docs, you’ll find them in Google Drive – the Docs editing apps are now part of Google Drive.

On The Desktop

You can download the Google Drive application from the Google Drive website. Both Windows and Mac OS X are supported, and Google says they’re working on a Linux version. Google also offers an Android app that replaces the old Google Docs app, and an iOS app is almost done.

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After you install it, any files you’ve already uploaded to Google Drive (or Google Docs in the past) will download to the Google Drive folder on your computer. Files you place here will be automatically uploaded to your Google Drive account online and synchronized to your other connected computers. Upload and download performance is good, as expected – Drive leverages Google’s existing infrastructure.

If you’ve used Dropbox, Google Drive works just like Dropbox – as does Microsoft’s new SkyDrive application. Dropbox got it right many years ago, and the big players are just now starting to catch up.

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Google Drive offers a few advanced options, allowing you to set a different location for your Google Drive folder and selectively synchronize folders to your computer.

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If you leave the “Sync Google Docs files” option enabled, Google Drive will create .gdoc files that represent your Google Docs. Unfortunately, these are just links that open the documents in a web browser when clicked. The “Enable offline viewing” link walks you through enabling offline Google Docs access in Chrome.

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On The Web

Your files are available on the web at the Google Drive website. There’s a new grid view, allowing you to view previews of your files. Many file types can be previewed in your browser with the Google Drive viewer, so you don’t have to download them first.

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Google Drive stores up to 100 previous versions of a file and deletes them after 30 days. These previous versions count as part of your storage quota. To view previous versions, right-click a file in the web interface and select Manage Revisions. From here, you can restore previous versions, delete them to free up space, or tell Google to keep them forever.

google cloud storage

Deep Search

So far, Google Drive is a slick service, but these features have all been done before. Google Drive has a few tricks up its sleeve, though. One of the stand-out features is Google Drive’s search capabilities – this shouldn’t be surprising; this is Google we’re talking about.

  • Optical Character Recognition – Google Drive performs OCR on your files. When you upload a file – say, an image containing text, or a PDF file of a scanned document, Google tries to recognize the text inside the file. When you search your Google Drive, Google will also search the OCR’d text – this all happens automatically in the background.
  • Image Recognition – Google goes further than OCR. It uses the same technology used in Google Images to identify what’s in your images. For example, if you took a photo of a landmark or place, you could search for it by name and Google would return your photo – even if you haven’t tagged the photo of the landmark.

Here, Google Drive is returning photos I took of the Eiffel Tower, even though I haven’t associated the words “Eiffel Tower” with any of the images.

google cloud storage

Third-Party Application Integration

Google Drive includes an API that third-party web apps can take advantage of. For example, the Aviary image editor can load images from your Google Drive and save modified images to it – simplifying the process of using web apps and keeping all your important data stored in a single place you control.

There’s already an ecosystem of apps for Google Drive available on the Chrome Web Store. After you install an app, you can open files in it directly from your drive.

google drive

Google Drive isn’t just another me-too cloud storage service – Google wants it to be your new storage location for all the apps you use on the web.

What do you think of Google Drive? Will you be switching to it, or are you happy with your current cloud storage service?

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Comments (17)
  • Francesco Anastasio

    I really can’t figure out; why these cloud webservices are considered almost as a revolution? what’s the diffrence between sending a document to google drive and send a document to a webdomain, which is a lot cheaper? I wont never spend a single coin for a cloud web service, any of them! FTP forever! xP

    • Chris Hoffman

      Honestly? Ease of use, I think. The average user wasn’t using FTP a lot, but the average user certainly started using Dropbox.

      It’s also automatic, whereas FTP doesn’t watch your files and automatically sync them.

      Plus — free storage. A web domain may be a lot cheaper if you want to pay for storage, but most people use the free storage, which is cheaper than paying for hosting.

  • Oscar Rainford

    Direct Downloads would be a lot better. Like dropbox

    • Chris Hoffman

      But you can directly download files from the Google Drive website, can’t you? How does Dropbox do this part differently?

  • Vahid

    It’s still not mature enough and not what expect from Google. Have a look at my post (lazytechyguy.blogspot.com) that I wrote last year to know what I exactly expect from Google’s cloud services. For know I still have to build up the could that I want using different apps and services which definitely won’t have the integration and consistency and easiness-to-use of apple iCoulde.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Yes, Google really needs to integrate their services better. They’re working on that, so I’m happy about it.

      Google Drive definitely has some problems (I’d like to see proper offline docs access myself, as well as integration with Picasa Web Albums photos).

    • Vahid

      Agree. What I expect is to have ‘one’ could space shared among different services like files, docs, photos,… and accessed from a central easy to use portal on any of my devices. Other services like contacts and bookmarks (web and maps) are very primitive and scattered.
      Anyway, I would like to see how new devices (like HTC One and SGS3) that come with some free Dropbox space handle the integration in their software.

  • reverbnation

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  • Arjun Bajaj

    Till today I have not used File Search a lot, i keep my files clean enough so i can search on my own without having the help of Google or any other searching algorithm.

    Also, the point you made in the article about using other applications and saving the data on Google Drive, it just doesn’t make sense, the apps still host your data making it more useless.

    And last but not the least, its mobile client is the most useless Android App i have seen. There is absolutely no integration with Third-Party apps like MindMeister, SlideRocket and more. So its useless to use Google Drive to create proprietary data from other applications, which cant even be read by offline applications on desktops or phones…

    And obviously the privacy policy sucks, so definitely Google Drive is just a me-too product trying to get into everything what others do.

    • Chris Hoffman

      Well, the apps don’t host your data — it’s hosted on Drive. So, for example, you could create an image with one web app, save it to your drive, then easily open it in another image editing web app. You don’t have to worry about multiple copies of files hosted in different web apps.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.