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Cloud Storage Providers: Comparison Of Features And Prices

Google Drive Cloud Storage - Pricing And Features Overview

Google’s Drive service is an extremely affordable cloud storage option, yet very powerful for collaboration and teamwork. The features around team review and collaboration have been enhanced and polished through increased file change notifications, "live" in-document highlights, and integration with Google Hangouts online meeting tool. Google really thought through the functionality that both consumers and business users need.

In its most simple form, Google allows users to make comments and share files as viewers, collaborators or co-owners. This is simple and fast, yet powerful. While other tools can also do this, Google does the collaboration better through its tight integration between storage and editing tools, and its focus on platform-independent browser-based apps. The apps and ecosystem also work on Chromium zero- or minimal-storage devices.

For word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents, Google's full-featured and feature-rich Docs, Sheets, Forms and Drawing tools edge close to a "walled garden" approach. However, the document editing isn't required, nor is it forced on users as part of the value proposition.

File changes and updates are outlined when viewing files, including color highlights by user. The activity tab in the browser window shows all file changes and viewing activity within a folder, and lets you see detailed changes when individual files are selected. Unfortunately, we could not see detailed activity on older documents; many documents not edited prior to January 2014 did not have any logged activity in our Drive. 

As we tested Google Drive, the lines between the consumer-oriented Drive and Google Enterprise Apps appeared to be thinning. The late June 2014 announcement of Google Drive for Business further validated this. For $10 per month, Google offers auditing, reporting, retention rules and control over desktop client installation. The company  also addressed questions around security, specifically documents at rest and in transit, through security controlled via the enterprise administration console and mobile device management.

Google differentiates Drive around cross-platform usability. The iOS and Android apps are very polished, and have improved greatly over the past year. For example, fonts are slim and easy to read, and folders are now displayed on top of the file list, both of which make browsing Drive a much more logical task than with Dropbox, which mixes folders and files together in a list. However, Google removed the built-in editing capability from its Drive mobile app in early 2014, so users must now separately install Google apps to have native editing functionality on the go. 

Another interesting feature of Google Drive is its ability to convert Office documents to the native Google format within the Drive Web interface, and pull text from PDF documents and image files. The latter functionality acts as “lightweight OCR” and can save users time if they need the raw text out of otherwise read-only destination formats. This is optional, and can be controlled for corporate purposes through the admin console or via PDF creation rules (previously Google Docs allowed opening password-enabled PDF documents, but this was fixed).

The only perplexing piece of Google Drive is, surprisingly, its search functionality, especially compared to Box. First, the search results are sparse, the quick-results aren't instantaneous, and to engage a full-text search query, you have to take extra steps and go to the full list of results. Second, with search as Google’s core competence, the results screen pales in comparison to what we are accustomed from other Google products (for example, there aren’t highlights or explanations of where, within files, the full-text terms are found). 

Google has an incredibly powerful and open Drive SDK, including deep integration with Android app back-ends, and birthing many Drive-centric products like Teamlab Office (an excellent alternative to Microsoft Office). The Google API allows developers to write Drive applications in Java, Python, Javascript, .NET, Ruby, Go and Node.js. Getting started is as easy as setting up an account in Google’s Developer Console and attaching to a Drive-enabled Google account.

The Drive ecosystem and Google's open ethos has resulted in Chrome apps for Microsoft Office, Box and other products and services that arguably compete with Google on various products.

Google Drive Pricing