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Is Google Drive the Answer to Your Problems?
The sun is shining on cloud computing these days. The latest major player to enter the cloud storage and synching service is Google, with its Google Drive. Google's service joins a growing field of providers that includes Microsoft SkyDrive, Dropbox, Amazon Cloud, Apple iCloud and other popular services like Sugarsync.
There Are Many Reasons to Use Cloud Services:

  • Storing important documents in the cloud is a good way of making sure you always have a reliable backup even if your computer is stolen or destroyed in an earthquake.
  • Using an online email service like Gmail not only makes it easy to get your email anywhere you have access to an online computer but you get the peace of mind that all your email is backed up.
  • Putting your photos in the cloud on services like Picasa or Flickr not only provides a backup but gives others access to your photos.
  • Using the cloud for office-type docs allows for better collaboration and synchronization.

With all these reasons to use the cloud, is it time for you to start using it and is the new Google service the one to use? If not, than which service is the best to use for which type of document or file? Here are some things to consider when deciding how to use new cloud services like Google Drive.

Cloud Services Are Very Easy to Set Up and UseThe new Google Drive and other services like Dropbox or Microsoft SkyDrive work through an app on your computer or mobile device. On your computer, the cloud drive looks like a normal drive that you can use just like a folder; dragging and dropping files in and out. You can also elect to synchronize selected folders on different devices so changes you make on one device will appear on another device. Google Drive has also been merged with Google Docs so if you're a Google Docs user, you can access files on Google Drive right from Google Docs. If you're a Microsoft Office user manipulating files with Google Docs and Google Drive may be a bit cumbersome due to the need to change formats and pay attention to file naming.
The "Extras" May Give Google Drive an Edge Despite the fact that early reviewers have complained about some usability issues with Google Drive, buying into the Google ecosystem may have some advantages. First there's the powerful Google search engine that can already do some remarkable things like image-based searches. Third party add-ons may also offer some attractive enhancements. At launch a company named HelloFax makes it possible for you to send and receive faxes from Google Drive while a company named WeVideo offers cloud-based collaborative video editing. If the audience grows and there is a way for developers to make money, you could see a big advantage for Google Drive.
Who Owns Your Data?As soon as Google Drive was announced a lot of attention was directed at Google's TOS (terms of service). Here's one of the paragraphs that created some alarm:

"When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content."

The way that reads it sounds like Google has the right to do anything it wants with anything you put on Google Drive however; the sentence that follows this describes the intent and may help calm some adopters:

"The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones."

Who Offers the Most Storage for Free?

Dropbox 2GB (Can go to 18GB with referrals)
Amazon Cloud 5GB
Google Drive 5GB
Microsoft SkyDrive 7GB (Downsized from 25GB after April 2012)
Apple iCloud 5GB

All of the cloud providers offer a generous amount of storage for free and sell incremental storage for a reasonable fee; running anywhere from $.50 - $2 per GB per year. Google Drive will even provide you with 1TB for $600 a year although for $600 you can probably buy yourself a few 2TB hard drives and make some backups to keep offsite.

Is a Cloud Drive Practical?
An average home network can download 2 MB per second and upload at a slower rate of around 500 KB per second so a 500 KB photo would take about a second to upload and a fraction of that to download. Songs will average about 4 times longer depending on the compression level. Videos are a different story since a 1 GB video file would run you almost 10 minutes to download and a lot longer to upload. On a file-by-file basis, moving files on and off the cloud is not that bad. On the other hand, if you wanted to move all of your 5GBs on or off the cloud you're talking an hour or more.
The Bottom Line on Clouds

  iOS Android Windows Phone
Dropbox Yes Yes No
Amazon Cloud No Yes --
Google Drive No Yes No
Microsoft SkyDrive Yes No Yes
Apple iCloud Yes No No

If you're looking to have a reliable backup for some important documents, some photos, music and other smaller individual files, or want to make sure documents are synchronized among machines and users than buying into one of the providers' solutions makes a lot of sense. Google and Microsoft might be the best choice for multiple types of files. For example with Google you can get 5GB of "Drive" storage plus 1GB of Picasa storage, plus a lot of Gmail storage and even some more storage on Google's new music service. Buying into Apple's ecosystem with iCloud also makes a lot of sense if you're an Apple user with a large iTunes collection and you don't care about using iCloud on another mobile OS like Android. Amazon offers a good value in cloud services especially if you're willing to buy an album a year to get the 25GB of storage for free however, there's no automatic synching currently with Amazon Cloud Drive. On the other hand, if you want the easiest service to use that works across the most mobile operating systems, your best bet is Dropbox.


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Until we KNOW that dual band

Until we KNOW that dual band is IN the laptops, printers, and all the other stuff, where is the reason to upgrade?

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I am satisfied with all

I am satisfied with all google products whether it is apps or something else. Google is rocks

Cloud

While I can see some useful applications for the Cloud, especially for smartphones, I can't see how using the Cloud to store data has any significant advantage over storing it locally. One apparent plus, file sharing, is really a two-edged sword; when anyone can access your files, well, anyone can access your files. Passwords can't help much, any hacker can break user generated passwords without sneezing. So sensitive files are much safer on your PC, especially if you store them on a local server or, better yet, an external drive or server that is activated only when you want to access those specific files. Then there's the connection and speed issues.

Comcast, ATT, Huges et al measure speed in Megabits, not Bytes, so a 12 Mb download connection is slower by a factor of 8 than a 12 MB connection; you'll do a hell of a lot better with 2.0 UBS, let alone 3.0 or SATA connections. Uploading files of any size is still a joke (at 1 Mb). Personally, uploaded a 24 MB (at .95 Mb) file to a friend last Christmas as an Email attachment; took my Email carrier 10 minutes to load the file. Depending on protocols, encryption and compression, a direct line to a particular Cloud server could be faster (or slower).

Security, privacy and speed remain serious issues with the Cloud.

That leaves Backup - the Cloud's servers are, technologically, no better than anything you can buy on-line or at a retailer. In fact, down the road, it's easy to see Cloud providers scrimping on their servers to save a few pennies. Local Backup to partitioned drives, external drives and portable media, especially portable media, is far superior to entrusting your files to a third party.

With smartphones, they're lack of storage does make the Cloud attractive and, since the next generation of consumer and business computing is going to be driven by smartphones, the Cloud's time has come; just don't expect miracles and keep anything sensitive or essential local.

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Cloud storage & security

There are "secured" cloud base websites that use 128kb encrytion which is the same encryption that the banks use. One that comes to mind is Keeper Security who use "military" grade encryption!

There is another cloud base website that gives you secured access to a lot of the cloud websites all at the same time so you can transfer easily between them by the name of ZeroPC!

There is a site called Minus that gives you 15GB of free space as well.

I for one have multiple devices that I must sync between so using just a laptop or a CPU for storage and back up, for me, isn't an option!

Keeper for instance will sync between all platforms for just $9.99 per device per year! Which for me is diffinetly worth it!

Since Box.com increased my storage amount from 5GB to 50GB for free I've found them very convinent to use too with plenty of space to use.

It saves me alot of time being able to get to my personal info including pics from any of my devices that I use at any time I need to.

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SkyDrive on Android

I'm able to access my SkyDrive on my Android... Are you saying there is no SkyDrive app for Android?

I wonder

...if google would search my files like they search my mail, and send me advertisements.
Well, it doesn't work on Linux yet anyhow. Ubuntu One is cross platform, as is Dropbox.

Others

You should also mention box.net which has been around for a long time and offers a larger amount of storage for mobile device users for free, although they charge for their convenient interface.

And otixo, which is a front end for all of these services which lets you mount them all through a single aggregating interface.

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