Google Drive – the pros and cons of Google’s Dropbox killer
Google has launched its Drive service, but how does it compare to its rivals such as Microsoft’s SkyDrive and Dropbox?
We look at the best and worst parts of the Google Drive service and what makes it better – or worse – than the competition. We’ll be doing a full review of Google Drive soon, but until then you can read our backup software reviews to see what other services are available.
What is Google Drive?
Essentially Google Drive is an online storage locker. You install a program on your computer and any files you place in its folder are synced to your online account. You can access the files on phones, tablets and through a web browser, with any changes you make being synced across all your devices. Google’s video explains all.
Five benefits of Google Drive
- Generous free storage allowance
Google Drive offers 5GB of free storage, more than twice that offered by popular competitor Dropbox.
- Additional storage is cheaper
If 5GB isn’t enough for you, Google Drive offers the cheapest monthly price for extra storage with 25GB costing just $2.49 (£1.54) a month.
- Large file size limit
Some cloud storage systems limit file sizes to as little as 100MB. Google Drive lets users upload files as big as 10GB.
- Compatible with Google Docs
As Google Drive is essentially an upgrade to Google Docs it means you can use this storage space with your existing account if you use Google Docs for work or personal use. That means you can edit documents online without editing them.
- Can open files from 30 different software types
As well as opening Google Docs, Drive can also open files from 30 different programmes, including Adobe Photoshop, even if you don’t have the software installed on your computer or device. The service also has optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read any text in pictures and documents, making them searchable.
But it’s not all good news and there’s certainly a few areas where Google Drive disappoints, particularly if you prefer to use alternatives to Google rather have your life dominated by its services.
Five drawbacks to Google Drive
- Not the most free storage or cheapest
While 5GB is a good amount, Microsoft’s SkyDrive offers 7GB of free storage. Plus, while additional space isn’t available by the month, the yearly prices are cheaper with smallest package providing 20GB for $10 (£6.20) a year.
- No media streaming
Some services such as Dropbox and SugarSync allow you to stream content to your smartphone, unfortunately Google Drive doesn’t so you’ll have to move entire files to your smartphone if you want to use them.
- Can’t sync multiple folders
While Google Drive will sync all files dragged into the Drive on a computer, you can’t quickly select a folder to share without dragging it to the specific area for sharing. This may only take a few seconds to do, but some services offer a much quicker solution.
- Can’t password protect publicly shared folders
While adding a password to a folder you are making available publicly may seem a little pointless, it’s an easy way to share files with a lot of people without having to add their permissions individually.
- Questions over the terms of service
It didn’t take long for people to start questioning Google’s motives for including the following text in its terms of service: ‘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.’ While the terms make it clear that these rights can only be used by Google to improve the service, it also says the license continues even if you stop using the service. You can read a legal view on Google Drive’s Ts & Cs on Which? Conversation.
With many other competitors offering additional services there may well be a better service for you than Google Drive.
Alternatives to Google Drive
Microsoft SkyDrive offers the most free storage and is cheaper for additional space, but you will have to pay by the year and it isn’t compatible with Android smartphones.
Dropbox is currently very popular and you may know lots of people already using it, making it easy to share files with them. But, with less free storage and a higher price for additional space, its popularity may soon wane. Read our full review of Dropbox for more details.
SugarSync offers the same free 5GB of storage that Google Drive does and some extra features including the ability to upload files larger than 10GB. With a Windows Phone app due to arrive this year, it is compatible with all the major mobile operating systems, as well as Windows and OSX. However, additional storage costs more than some rivals.
Apple’s iCloud is a bit different from the rest in the fact that it offers cloud storage, but it can’t be used to share files with others. If all you’re looking for is something to keep your Apple devices synced and to stream content – which Google Drive can’t do – then it is a good solution, although additional space is quite expensive with an extra 10GB costing £14 a year.
Do you use Dropbox or a similar service? Will you be switching to Google Drive? Let us know in the comments.
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