After giving more promises than a desperate ex-boyfriend, we now have Google Drive - Google’s effort to link their online storage with computers and devices.
Like DropBox, SugarSync, Skydrive and others, Google Drive aims to be a single point to store files which can be accessed from wherever you are. At present you can sync your Google Drive storage with a PC, Mac and Android devices with iPhone and iPad promised soon.
For Office users it means yet another way to automatically share documents between computers (eg desktop/laptop home/work) or with others working on a shared document.
Google Drive comes with 5GB of storage which you can pay to increase into the terabyte range if you’re truly eager. On the more realistic side, 25GB of storage will cost US$2.49 a month.
Drive is being rolled out to all Google account users. If you get a message saying it’s not yet available for you, choose the ‘notify me’ option. That option does seem to advance you in the deployment queue.
Once you have Google Drive, your old docs.google.com url becomes drive.google.com
The Drive and SkyDrive difference
The major difference between Google Drive, Microsoft’s Skydrive and the other cloud options is that both Google and Microsoft have their own ‘Office’ web based software.
That means you can save documents in their synchronized storage for distribution to other devices and also edit and collaborate those documents via any web browser.
Naturally, the two systems use different file formats so using Google documents with Microsoft Office, or vice-versa, isn’t easy or even possible. More on that later.
Some Android / Chrome apps already work with Google Drive to send faxes or save other types of documents. There’s no equivalent to this in the current Skydrive world.
Go to http://drive.google.com/ , login to your Google account then download the Google Drive software for your device.
Google Drive - download software
You don’t have to install the software to use Google Drive, however the software will make things easier and faster by synchronising everything online to the computer or device.
If you are on a public computer or a machine you don’t control, then don’t install the software and use the web interface instead.
The installer won’t take long and after installation you have to login and go through a simple starting wizard. On the second step there’s an advanced options button that’s worth checking, though most people won’t need to change anything.
Google Drive - advanced options
After finishing the wizard, Google Drive will sync the online contents with your computer.
Google Docs is part of Google Drive. Any documents saved using Docs will now appear on your computer as part of Google Drive.
Google Drive in Windows
If you accept the default settings, Google Drive files will be saved in \Users\<username>\Google Drive
A favourite is added to Explorer
Install Google Drive onto your Android device from the Market (now called Play).
Under Settings you may want to increase the local cache from the small default of 50MB.
You can’t stop synchronization over most costly mobile networks but there is a choice to notify you when sync is taking place while not connected to Wifi.
It’s a shame Google Drive doesn’t have an explicit choice to operate only via Wifi.
On the other hand, the Android version of Google Drive lets you switch between Google Accounts, something PC and Mac users would love to have.
The Android app ahs an option to automatically upload photos taken on the device to Google Drive. It's similar to Apple's iCloud camera roll but a lot more straight-forward.
You’ll still need separate software to view of edit documents on your Android device.
iPhone and iPad
Google says the iOS version of Google Drive will be released soon. Select journalists have reported trying it, so presumably it’s not far away.
Dropbox and other sync services have a ‘Public’ area for each user. This lets you upload files to share with others but without the need for special logins or accounts.
All you have to do is email other people with the link to the file in your public area. Once they have the file, you can delete it.
This is a very handy feature for sharing files without hassling people to create an account they may never use again.
Google Drive has a similar feature, though it’s not obvious and you have to do it via the web site. For a file or folder choose ‘Sharing’ then under ‘Who has access’ click ‘Change’ to see the options:
- Public on the Web
- Anyone with a link
The first two options don’t require a sign-in. For most people the ‘Anyone with a link’ choice is the most appropriate because it makes the file easily available but prevents it from showing up on web searches.
While all the focus is on documents, pictures and videos, there’s no reason why you can’t upload and share any type of file via Google Drive (or any other similar service).
These services are particular handy for sending files that are too large for email. Simply upload to the service of your choice then send people the link to the file.
Peer to Peer
One of the great features in Microsoft’s Live Mesh (while it lasts) is the ability to sync folders between devices without saving to cloud storage. Sadly, Google Drive doesn’t have this feature.
It’s not clear if the Drive software is smart enough to sync directly between computers on the same LAN instead of transferring all files via the cloud. Dropbox has such a bandwidth saving feature.
Article posted: Monday, 30 April 2012
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