The dust on the Drive has settled — Google Drive, that is — and users finally have the chance to play around with the company’s new cloud storage system, one that’s designed to, “work seamlessly with your overall Google experience.”
Seamless, perhaps. But perfect? Google’s arrived a bit late to the cloud storage game and, like a pinch hitter facing a run deficit in the seventh inning, the company needs to knock one out of the park to pull people’s loyalties away from their favorite cloud storage services.
It feels as if general reactions to Google Drive have been good, but not great: That Google’s service is a fine player among its peers, but not noteworthy enough to generate a massive, digital rush to Google’s servers. We’ve rounded up some of the larger criticisms that might be keeping Drive from dominating, all areas that Google could stand to work on if it wants the prettiest cloud in the sky.
How many of you have ever run out of space on your Gmail account? We’re willing to bet that it’s a rare occurrence for all but the most popular of Gmail users, makes one wonder why Google is so generous with its email capacity (10GB) and so seemingly stingy with its Drive storage (5GB).
“For cheapskates or freebirds like me, you’ll be better off turning to (or remaining with) Microsoft’s SkyDrive, which offers 7GB of free storage; Google Drive offers five. (SugarSync, which I’ve also used, does as well.) Microsoft also gave existing SkyDrive users 25GB of free storage. Google, however, would like you to pay them for the privilege of mining your files,” writesPCMag.com’s Mark Hachman.
2. Cross-Platform Support
And the mobile war continues: Google Drive is fully supported on the Android platform with a native application (go figure). Windows, OS X, and Chrome OS systems can all download a dedicated Google Drive app as well — in fact, it’s the only way you can access your cloud. As for iOS, Blackberry, and Windows Phone owners…
“GDrive, meanwhile, includes an app for Android. Everything else must use a browser to connect to Google Drive, although there are reports that Google will be releasing iOS apps for GDrive at some point. Other mobile devices will have to continue to use their respective browsers, but it’s worth noting that not all browsers will work. According to Google’s information for GDrive, some older versions of Android won’t work with the Drive, even using the browser.” — eWeek’s Wayne Rash
Of course, it would also be nice to be able to edit non-Google-Docs files or move anything around in one’s Google Drive via the corresponding mobile app, but step one is acquiring working mobile apps in the first place.
3. Offline Editing
Throw a typical Microsoft Word document into your Google Drive and you’ll be able to edit it online, right? Wrong — you can only view it online. You have to convert the file to a Google Document in order to edit it via Google’s Web app. But here’s the rub: You can’t edit Google Docs in your Drive cloud from an offline computer; you can only view them. For novice cloud users, the relationship between Google Documents and offline documents can be pretty confusing.
“There are a couple of ways to work around this issue. First, you can configure your Google Docs for offline access, and you can use Google Chrome browser extensions to enable you to edit Google Docs files offline. Another solution would be to save the file back to its original format after editing it online so that it will open locally in its native application as mentioned above.
That brings us to the other potential issue–file fidelity. Google has gone to great lengths to maintain formatting when converting from Microsoft Office formats to Google Docs and back again, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. For basic documents that just have text, with maybe some bold, italics, and underlining, or simple bullets, it may not be an issue. However complex documents that include things like a table of contents, footers, headers, and footnotes are likely to get mangled and require a lot of manual repair when switched back to their native format.” — PCWorld’s Tony Bradley.
4. File Hosting
“Files hosted publicly in Google Drive should be usable anywhere on the Web.
Anyone can already download the files manually. Google Drive could have a huge advantage over its competitors if you could permalink to those files. If Imgur can host images for other sites, why can’t Google? And Google Drive can understand over 30 file types. Why not PDFs and audio files, too?” — ReadWriteWeb’s Jon Mitchell
Makes sense to us!
5. More Security
As Discovery News’ Rob Pegoraro points out, your files within Google Drive are only as secure as your Google password. That’s not only a great plug for enabling two-way authentication on one’s Google Account, but it also highlights a key difference between Google’s cloud service and that of one of the company’s chief cloud rivals.
“Like SkyDrive but unlike Dropbox, [Google Drive] doesn’t encrypt files stored on its servers; you can use third-party tools like the open-source TrueCrypt to scramble files before uploading, but that’s more work,” Pegoraro writes.
That said, Google execs have said that encrypting files on Google’s servers would prevent features like Google Drive’s OCR engine from being able to scan them. Worse, users would also lose out on being able to preview files within Drive’s Web app.
6. The Dreaded ToS
Much has been written about Google’s Terms of Service for Drive. But you shouldn’t be as concerned about Google “stealing” your information or displaying your publicly available content in a Google Drive advertisement (or what-have-you). Rather, you should be more annoyed if you’re one of the users ponying up additional cash for expanded Drive storage.
By David Murphy
Article originally published in PCMAG.com