Wikinvest defines Cloud Computing as “a technology that uses the internet and central remote servers to maintain data and applications. Cloud computing allows consumers and businesses to use applications without installation and access their personal files at any computer with internet access. This technology allows for much more efficient computing by centralizing storage, memory, processing and bandwidth.” In simple terms, you can take pictures of your latest vacation on your phone and access them from your office PC. How cool is that!
What sets Cloud Computing apart from the other channels of data access is its:
• Cost Effectiveness
• Easy Accessibility
2011, has been the year of Cloud, and according to SearchCloudCoumputing Amazon is the undisputed leader, where as Search giants Google and Microsoft Rank at 7th and 9th place respectively. According to a new report, released on April 23rd, 2012, by Forrester Research, in near future, users will be opting for tablets as the primary medium for personal computing relying heavily on cloud services for office and home. A day later, came the announcement of Google entering the cloud storage market.
Towards the end of April, Google unveiled its own version of the Scottish Loch Ness Monster, Google Drive. For those who haven’t yet heard about it, Google Drive is Google’s cloud storage service. It is a file storage and sync service by Google where you can store all your data from anywhere and you can share that anyone in real time. In totality, it is an extension of Google Docs which has been magnified to integrate all of Google’s other services.
So let’s go over what Google Drive has to offer. Like I said, it is a magnified version of Google Docs. With Drive, you can store you files, documents, photos, music, videos, PDFs, etc. all in one place. You can also sync your mobile, tablet and computing devices so that if you make any change on one device it will automatically get reflected in your other synched devices. It also stores your change history of 30 days so that you can easily look back and revise any changes. In Drive’s advanced capabilities it is massively dependent on Google Search, smart tagging and OCR (also used in Google Goggles).
You can easily start your Drive by downloading a small application to your devices that you wish to sync. Once installed, a Google Drive folder will appear in each of your synced device’s file system. Now, you can copy and store you files in the Google Drive folder which can be accessed via a Google Drive web app or by accessing the Google Drive folder directly in the device. You can now access and view your family pictures on your office computer!
An edge that Google always had over Apple was its multi platform sharing capabilities. Needless to say Drive takes care of this as well. Not only can you access a host of Google’s services, like Google Docs, Gmail, Google Analytics, Picasa and YouTube, you can also access more than 30 different types of files, including HD videos, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator that too without the proper software installed on your system. Not only this, with the launch of Drive, Google also increased the storage capacity of Gmail from 7GB to 10 GB, thereby fueling the rumor about future complete integration of Gmail with Drive.
Google gives the user an option to choose the Free or the Premium version. It offers data storage capacity of up to 5GB to start with and for a more extended service you can always switch to the Premium options. Here is a price comparison done by engadget comparing Google Drive, SkyDrive, Dropbox and iCloud. Personally I feel the prices are on the higher side, for a service that is build to cater to a users need, however, with the integration of Gmail, Calendar, Picasa, YouTube and other third party applications the price is something that a user can live with. Google also offers encryption of data transfer between your browser and the Google server to prevent any non-authorized access to any of the user data.
What about ownership and licensing? Everyone is skeptical when it comes to sharing their data. According to Google’s policy,
“Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.
The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).”
Google has left an open ended statement there, not clearly defining the extent of its license; however, it also states that,
“Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”
A desktop app for PC and Mac is available at Google Drive and Android users can download from the Google Play store on their phones. iPhone and iPad versions are also in the pipeline. What remains to be seen is how much this platform will help increase the stickiness across Googles services and how well it will integrate usage across them.