Google Drive cloud storage
Google Drive is a new product from the search engine giant Google and while the name suggests they have developed a new Satnav system, in reality it’s a cloud based virtual storage drive. All you need to sign up is a Gmail account and you get 5 GB of space for free! Drive is particularly useful if you already have a Gmail inbox, Android-powered smartphone, use the Chrome web browser or subscribe to any of Google’s other online services.
Before we delve too much further into Google’s plans for world domination let’s first take a look at some of the features Drive has to offer:
Google Documents is an online document editing system that has its own built-in word processor, spreadsheet editor and presentation package. There is support for pictures, videos and there's also a PDF reader. I’ve found these online document editors particularly useful when needing to open an email attachment away from my home computer. It's great to be able to open and edit a document from Google’s web application.
The Google Drive interface
Drive takes all the documents I’ve ever edited via my Gmail account and saves them in a cloud based storage drive. Very useful if you’re constantly on the move and need to access and edit documents on the fly. As with all Google services it is accessible through a shortcut directly on the Google homepage.
Provided you’re already signed into your account, clicking Drive takes you here:
This is the Google Drive interface, and as you can see it’s fairly simple. There are folders and documents down the left side of the window, which nicely compliments the Gmail layout. Along the top there are several buttons:
- Add a new folder button
- Sort your items by title/size/last used etc
- List view/ grid view
- The settings button
If you select an item the buttons change and you now have the option to edit that item:
Along the top you now have:
- A share button, which allows you to share a folder or document with colleges or friends, making it easy to collaborate on a project.
- An organise button to help sort your folder structure
- A delete button that moves unwanted files to the 'Trash'
- The preview button shows you the folder/files details at a glance
The 'More' drop down list allows for even more functionality:
- Create a new document in this folder
- Add a star to important folders
- Better organise your files with colours
Grid view allows you to see your documents at a glance with a preview of the first page of that document, very useful when you’re looking for one file amongst hundreds.
Getting more Google Drive storage space
Running out of storage space? Don’t worry, Google Drive offers expandable storage up to……..wait for it…………16TB! (That's 16,000GB in case you were wondering.) Unfortunately, you will need to pay to increase your virtual space from the intial 5GB provided. The monthly cost depends on the amount of space you need, according to the current exchange rate:
- 25GB is about £1.54 a month
- 100GB is about £3.09 a month
- 200GB is about £6.20 a month
- 400GB is about £12.42 a month
- 1TB is about £31.10 a month
- 2TB is about £62.12 a month
- 4TB is about £124.24 a month
- 8TB is about £248.49 a month
- 16TB is about £496.98 a month
How to upload files to Google Drive
As well as saving all your old Google documents, Drive allows you to upload you files too. This can be done directly through the website or via the Google Drive Application (Windows/Mac) which works in the same way as a DropBox folder. Android users also have the Google Drive app which is downloadable from the Google Play Store. The iOS App is still in development but should be released in the Apple App Store soon.
To upload your files from the website:
- Click the upload button
- Choose the file you want to upload
- Choose the folder you want to upload, then use the normal browser window to find your file, as if you were attaching it to an email
To upload your files from a PC/Mac you first need to download and install Google Drive on your computer. Click the download link in the bottom left. Your OS should be detected automatically.
To install Google Drive on an Apple Mac computer, simply click on the download link and once Google Drive is installed the logo will appear in the status bar. Windows users will need to click 'Accept and install' to download and install the program. Once installed the Google Drive logo will appear in the system tray.
A special folder is created on your computer and synced with your Google Drive account. Anything you put in this folder will automatically be uploaded to your Drive and likewise anything added to your Drive will be synced with this folder.
The upload setting also allows you to automatically convert your documents to Google Documents format and it will even convert a PDF too. How useful you find this function will depend on how much you use Google Documents already.
When is Google Drive useful?
Ever tried to send an email with a large attachment only to have it bounce straight back to your inbox? If your attachment is larger than 5MB it might have problems getting through the system, and anything over 10MB has no chance. As media evolves file sizes get bigger; a high resolution uncompressed photo can be as big as 9MB or over. So how can we get this data to its destination? The answer is Drive. You can share files with friends, giving them access to it at any time, they can download it or edit it directly in the browser and the best bit is you can see the results of their changes because you still have access to the original document.
Need to back up those holiday photos taken on your Android device? Don’t wait until you get home; upload them to your Drive with the Android smartphone app. That way your photos are safe even if your device gets lost or stolen. (Note – make sure you’re connected to Wi-Fi to avoid roaming charges!)
Worried about computer viruses deleting your data? Back up your documents to Google Drive, so that you always have a copy whether your computer makes it through the night or not.
Need to access your document on the go? Whether you're using a PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet, your files are never far away.
What about when you can’t find that file you made last year? Google after all is a search engine and they’ve made searching your own files easy too. Just type some of the words in the document and Google will find it. What if it’s a picture? Type a description and it will find that too. Plus there is seamless integration with Google Goggles for help with picture searches and scanned documents that have no text.
Google Drive apps
Google have thrown open the “open source” gates and allowed third party developers to create apps that work with Google Drive. To access them, click on the settings button > Manage Apps > Get More Apps. To use most of the Apps you’ll need Google’s own web browser “Chrome” and it’s the Chrome Store where you can download these Apps (PC /Mac only). This is definitely unique to Drive:
Here are some of our Google Drive app recommendations:
- Pixlr.com is an online photo editor that lets you upload, edit and export image files for free. It’s not quite Photoshop but considering it is free, it’s a very good tool and now it’s available as a Google Drive app for editing all of your Drive photos
- The Hello Fax app allows you to sign documents and fax them straight from your Drive account. Very handy in today fast paced digital environment
- Floor Planner is aimed at architects and designers. There’s nothing smoother than editing a building on your android tablet right in front of a client
- AutoCAD is another app aimed at industry specialists for editing technical drawing/designs. Seeing this level of integration with Google Drive Apps will surely make them stand out from the crowd and help cement Drive as the must have storage platform
- Pixorial is a video editing app that helps you 'Collect, share, and tell a story with your videos directly from Google Drive'
Google have entered yet another competitive market with Drive, but undercutting all its competitors has surely helped its growth. For anyone already favouring Google services, switching to Drive is a logical step. Its interface is easy to use and it integrates well with Gmail and Android as well as most other Google services. For those of you not currently with Google may well select an alternative cloud storage vendor, however with 5GB of free space, an aggressive pricing structure and innovative app integration, it’s easy to see why many people might make the switch. All things considered I think Google Drive is here to stay. This leaves me wondering if there is any market Google can’t enter.