Google’s new file syncing service, Google Drive, was launched last week, and it immediately stirred up discussions around existing cloud storage services. In simple words, cloud storage refers to the ability to upload and access your files or data on any device connected to the internet. The jury is still out on whether you should discard those flash drives and sign up for cloud storage services, since Indian users are still in the early stages of getting the most out of their internet devices. If you haven’t yet signed on to any cloud service, begin with evaluating how each service integrates with your device, or requirements.
Not all users and businesses will be comfortable using an online backup service provided by a search and advertising company. Users or businesses that have data or files already on Google Docs, Google Drive does make the sense. For others, there is the Dropbox. Microsoft Office users will find it easy to migrate their data to Microsoft SkyDrive, and Apple device owners are likely to stay with iCloud simply because it is efficiently integrated with the platform.
Google’s latest cloud service mirrors Google Docs; the difference being that users can create files, folders, search through files, and then upload them by a simple drag-and-drop onto the browser window. But, unlike Docs, Google will also enable user’s entire drive from their desktop once they have installed the Google Drive application.
To get started, log on to drive.google.com and select “Download Google Drive”. A “Google Drive” folder is added to your desktop once installed and synced with Google Drive (online). Thus, any changes you make on your desktop, Google Drive would reflect on the Web interface or vice versa. In other words, as you add files or folders to Google Drive, they would be simultaneously be uploaded to your web drive (provided you have an active internet connection at all times)
Image files, movies, documents, powerpoint, PDFs — you name it and Google Drive supports the storage and viewing of nearly 30 popular file types. So, if you upload a movie or soap series onto your Drive, it will allow you to play it back on your browser as long as you get a steady internet connection. Drive’s search puts Google’s Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Google Images database to use, allowing users to find images and scanned document using text search terms. For example, if you have a scanned document, then Drive’s search can find it by words in the document or if you have a picture of Taj Mahal in your Drive then it will bring up the same. The new service promises to work cross-platform, with apps for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS (iPhone app hasn't been launched yet)
Maximum size of files that can be uploaded on Google Drive is 10GB. If you are a data hoarder, then you can choose from paid plans (once you exceed the free 5GB storage limit) that start from an affordable $2.50 a month for 25GB to $800 a month for 16TB.
Why would Google wants to have an independent cloud storage system? Google Docs already allows uploading different file types and you have all kinds of files in your Gmail account. Also, there are tools that can map a Google account as a network drive. We all know how Google works – by displaying targeted ads from information collected through Gmail, Google+ and Google searches. So, do we know for sure that they won’t go through the files on Drive?
Dropbox allows users to share files for collaboration, store and share photo and video galleries, and the data is also kept in backup on Dropbox’s secure servers. To start using it, install the app on a PC and Mac from its website. You can begin with the free service that offers 2GB storage or sign up for paid service that starts at $9.99 for 50GB storage or $19.99 for 100GB storage. Since Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage it will feel the pressure from users as Google is giving away 5GB of free space.
What tilts the scales in its favour is the ability to upload files of up to 300MB in size via the web or unlimited size via the desktop app. Dropbox enables you to work on any file in your Dropbox folder regardless of whether you are connected to the internet or not, and whenever you are connected again, the files sync across the devices where the app is accessed. Dropbox also keeps 30 days of history for your files, such as documents that you updated, and even includes access to files deleted from your local drive.
Google’s price tag of $2.49 a month for 25GB option scores over Dropbox. But Dropbox has been able to strike successful deals with mobile device makers to include free storage with new tablets and smartphones.
SkyDrive is powered by Microsoft, that gives 25GB of free storage space. But Microsoft has now changed the free space for new users from 25GB to 7GB along with an update of the service with clients for Windows and OS X, which means users can connect to their storage space from any where.
Skydrive accounts can be accessed from anywhere, including mobile device, and any type of file can be stored in private, public or shared folders. Publicly shared files do not require a Windows Live login for access. It integrates seamlessly with Hotmail, Office Web Apps and Office Desktop versions, making it a must-have for Microsoft users. SkyDrive offers in-browser Microsoft Office document editing and creating capabilities.
For Apple users, iCloud is the most logical way for users to back up and sync pictures, videos, music and documents on their iOS devices. How it works? If you take a photo on your iPhone, it will end up in all your other devices. When you purchase an app on iTunes store on your Macbook, you can access it on your iPad without having to plug in and sync.
Now, Apple gives 5GB of free space that can easily back-up your mail, contacts, calendar entries, office documents, bookmarks, and notes. If you want more space, then upgrade up to 50GB for $100. Apple’s iCloud includes iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream, Documents in the Cloud, Apps, Books and Backup, Calendar, Mail and Contacts, Find My Friends and Find My iPhone. Since iOS versions of Pages, Keynote and Numbers are now iCloud enabled, which means Apple users can move their documents around easily. Again, iCloud.com doesn't let you view documents like Google Docs does, but it will let you upload documents from your computer so that you can then access them through the iOS apps. Similarly, if you create a document on your iOS device, once synced with iCloud, you can login and download to your PC to continue working.
While Dropbox app brings almost the same features to Apple users, too, iCloud is carved into the iOS platform and, hence, works smoothly.