Rumors of a free online drive storage service from Google have been around for some time. (See my article about the new service that was published on February 9, 2012 at http://goo.gl/pshkB.) Google finally made the announcement today. Of course, dozens of other companies already offer similar services, but the Google name should attract even more customers. In fact, the new Google Drive service appears to be a very appealing offer with huge storage space available for much lower prices than that of established competitors.
Drive offers 5 gigabytes of free storage — more than twice the 2 gigabytes of free storage offered by the very popular competitor, Dropbox. However, the biggest eye opener is the price for those who wish to store more data. While Dropbox charges $10 a month for 50 gigabytes of storage space, Google intends to sell a whopping 100 gigabytes for only $4.99 a month. That price should attract a lot of customers! I find it interesting that documents stored in Google Docs don’t count against your storage quota.
Drive lets you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your work in one place where it is backed up constantly by a professional data team. Simultaneous data replication occurs automatically in multiple data centers, so that in the unlikely event that one data center is unavailable, your files will still be safe and accessible.
You can store videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and even genealogy databases on Google's servers so that they are accessible from any Web-connected device and (optionally) can be shared with others. For instance, if you want to e-mail a video shot from a smartphone,you could upload it to Google Drive by using a mobile app and then e-mail a link to the video rather than sending a huge file directly.
Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items.
As you might expect with any new product from Google, the search capability is excellent, probably better than any of the other, competitive services. Quoting from Google's announcement:
Search by keyword and filter by file type, owner, activity and many more. Drive can even recognize text in scanned documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. Let’s say you upload a scanned image of an old newspaper clipping. You can search for a word from the text of the actual news article. We also use image recognition so that if you drag and drop photos of the Grand Canyon into Drive for an upcoming ad campaign, you can later search for [grand canyon] and photos of its gorges should pop up. This technology is still in its early stages, and we expect it to get better over time. Open more than 30 file types right in your browser, including HD video, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop, even if you don’t have the corresponding program installed on your computer.
Security is also top notch: Encryption on data transfer between your browser and Google's servers is automatic. An optional 2-step verification prevents unauthorized account access by having users sign in with a secure code from their mobile phone.
You can save as much as 16 terabytes, which should be enough for most people. (A terabyte equals 1,000 gigabytes which is the same as one million megabytes. In other words, it is a lot of storage space.) However, that much storage space will be expensive as each additional 20 gigabytes will cost an additional for $4 per month. Then again, that's probably cheaper than purchasing your own 16 terabyte disk array and then backing it up constantly by replicating to other data centers.
I doubt if many individuals have a need for huge storage space but I can imagine this will be a very popular offering amongst commercial companies that do not want to build large data centers and the required infrastructure. Renting storage space from Google will be much cheaper than building your own data centers and hiring the personnel to manage them.
You can install Drive on your Mac or Windows PC or Android phone or tablet. An iOS version for iApple iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is expected within a few weeks.
You can read today's announcement from Google at http://goo.gl/1sZmy.
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