Google Drive: Does It Matter?

On April 24, Google announced the much anticipated Google Drive service, a cloud-based “disk drive” where individuals and organizations can store there documents, spreadsheets and a host of other electronic files. That may sound like a big deal but organizations and individuals with Google accounts could do that already using Google Docs. So does Google Drive really matter?

In short, the answer is yes! Despite its infancy, Google Drive has the real potential to overcome some of the limitations of the Google Apps environment that have prevented many individuals and organizations from adopting the platform as a replacement for traditional storage options like servers and local disk drives. Google Drive is also part of the Google Apps for Non Profits platform which many organizations have started to adopt as a way of migrating to the cloud. Here is just a short list of features and why they matter:

Data Synchronization

One of the most significant limitations of Google’s previous storage option, Google Docs, was the lack of a convenient way of synchronizing data to a laptop or desktop. While there are a bunch of third-party tools that allow you to sync your local desktop files to Google Docs, most of them just didn’t quite work the way people are used to doing things. Google Drive changes that. With a simple download, Google Drive users can synchronize their Microsoft Office and other files between their local machine and Google Drive. In fact, your Google Drive data shows up much like your current My Documents folder on a Windows-based PC. You can open existing files just as you do now. If you make changes to the file and save it back to your local Google drive, the file automatically syncs to your online Google Drive account if you are connected to the Internet. If you are on the road and not connected, the files will sync to Google Drive the next time your machine is connected to the Internet.

Ubiquitous Access

What if you could seamlessly and securely access all of your working files from your desktop, smartphone and tablet from wherever you are? This is one of the key components of Google Drive. Because your electronic files are synchronized to a cloud-based storage, you can access your data from anywhere (with a decent Internet connection) across multiple devices. If you make a change from one device, you will see that change on all of your other devices (assuming you are connected to the Internet so that your device can sync). No more emailing documents back and forth to yourself to access them on multiple devices.

N.B.: While Google Drive IS supported on a Macintosh, it is NOT currently available on the iPhone or iPad but Google has promised this capability soon. Let’s face it, Google has to support the leading smartphone and tablet platform!

Expanded File Support

When Google Docs first launched, only files created using Google’s online applications were supported. But over the past 24 months, Google Docs (and now Google Drive) have improved support for widely used applications such as the Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and PDF files. But it would appear that Google has upped the game with the announcement of Google Drive. More complicated files like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop files are now supported. In total, 30 different types of files are supported in Google Drive and the indications are that this will continue to expand as more people adopt the Google Drive solution.


Once your data is part of Google Drive, it becomes readily searchable using Google’s well known and widely used search utility. That does NOT mean everyone in the world can search your data! But within your Google Drive account, you can use Google’s search capabilities to search your own data. As Google states in their policies “what belongs to you stays yours”.

Inexpensive Storage

All Google Drive users get 5 gigabytes (GB) of storage for free (either for personal accounts or under a Google Apps account). That is a fair amount of storage for the average user. But if you need more, you can purchase additional storage for a fairly nominal monthly fee. For example, 25GB of storage is $2.49 per month or about $.10 per gigabyte of storage. Need even more storage? Google offers solutions up to 16 terabytes (that is 16,384 gigabytes!). To put that into perspective, most 501cTECH clients use between 500 and 750 GB of total storage for all of the organization’s data (including email). One terabyte of storage (1000 GB) using Google Drive would cost an organization about $600 per year.

Not So Fast!

Before you go throwing out your servers and copying all of your data to Google Drive, a word of caution. While Google has a tremendous amount of experience managing massive amounts of data, Google Drive is still brand new and not without limitations. Some initial testing shows that there are a few hiccups left to be sorted out and Google Drive is still not directly accessible from platforms like iPhones and iPads. But the capabilities of Google Drive are pretty hard to ignore.

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TJ Rainsford
Chief Technology Officer
TJ Rainsford is 501cTECH's Chief Technology Officer and brings with him a wealth of experience in nonprofit IT. In the past 15 years, TJ has done everything from building workstations to deploying virtual enterprise class network infrastructures – and quite a bit in between. His experience goes well beyond the hardcore network engineering to include custom Web application development; systems integration; and information and knowledge management consulting.