Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Google

Introduction

Search engine giant Google took the wraps off its long rumored cloud storage service called Google Drive this week. The service has been rumored for years, but is (finally) official. In the interim, several competing services have emerged and even managed to grab significant shares of the market. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Google’s service will stack up. In this article, we’ll be taking Google Drive on a test drive from installation to usage to see if it is a worthy competitor to other popular storage services—and whether it is worth switching to!

How we test

In order to test the service, I installed the Google desktop application (we’ll be taking a look at the mobile app soon) and uploaded a variety of media file types including documents, music, photos, and videos in numerous formats. The test system in question is an Intel i7 860 based system with 8GB of RAM and a wired Ethernet connection to the LAN. The cable ISP I used offers approximately two to three mpbs uploads (real world speeds, 4mbps promised) for those interested.

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Overview

Google’s cloud service was officially unveiled on Tuesday, but the company is still rolling out activations for people’s accounts (my Google Drive account activated yesterday [April 27, 2012], for example). And it now represents the new single storage bucket for all your Google needs (Picasa, Gmail, Docs, App Inventor, ect; although people can grandfather themselves into the cheaper Picasa online storage).

Old Picasa Storage vs New Google Drive Storage Plans

Storage Tier (old/new) Old Plan Pricing (per year) New Plan Pricing (per year)
20 GB/25 GB $5 $29.88
80 GB/100 GB $20 $59.88
200 GB $50 $119.88
400 GB $100 $239.88
1 TB $256 $599.88
2 TB $512 $1,199.88
4 TB $1,024 $2,399.88
8 TB $2,048 $4,799.88
16 TB $4,096 $9,599.88

(Picasa Plans were so much cheaper–hold onto them if you're able to!)

The way Google Drive works is much like that of Dropbox wherein a single folder is synced between Google’s servers and the user’s local machine (though sub-folders are okay to use and the equivalent of "labels" on the Google side). The storage in question is available in several tiers, though the tier that most people will be interested in is the free one. On that front, Google Drive offers 5GB of synced storage, 10GB of Gmail storage, and 1GB of Picasa Web Albums photo backup space. Beyond that, Google is offering nine paid tiers from an additional 25GB of "Drive and Picasa" storage (and 25GB of Gmail email storage) for $2.49 a month to 16TB of Drive and Picasa Web Albums storage with 25GB of Gmail email storage for $799.99 a month. The chart below details all the storage tiers available.

Google Drive Storage Plans
Storage Tiers Drive/Picasa Storage Gmail Storage Price (per month)
Free 5GB/1GB 10GB $0 (free)
25GB 25GB (shared) 25GB $2.49
100GB 100GB (shared) 25GB $4.99
200GB 200GB (shared) 25GB $9.99
400GB 400GB (shared) 25GB   $19.99
1TB 1TB (shared) 25GB   $49.99
2TB 2TB (shared) 25GB   $99.99
4TB 4TB (shared) 25GB   $199.99
8TB 8TB (shared) 25GB   $399.99
16TB 16TB (shared) 25GB   $799.99

1024MB = 1GB, 1024GB = 1TB

The above storage numbers do not include the 5GB of free drive storage that is also applied to any paid tiers.  The free 1GB of Picasa storage does not carry over to the paid tiers.

Even better, Google has not been stingy with their free storage. They continue to allow users to upload as many photos as they want to Google+ (they are resized to a max of 2048x2048 pixels though). Also, Google Documents stored in the Docs format continue to not count towards the storage quota. Videos uploaded to Google+ under 15 minutes in length are also free from storage limitations. As far as Picasa Web Albums (which also includes photos uploaded to blogger blogs) goes, any images under 2048x2048 and videos under 15 minutes in length do not count towards the storage quota either. If you exceed the storage limit, Google will still allow you to access all of your files, but you will not be able to create any new files until you delete enough files to get below the storage quota. The one exception to that rule is the “storage quota free” file types mentioned above–Google will still let you create/upload those. For Gmail storage, Google allows you to receive and store as much email as you want up to the quota. After you reach the quota, any new email will hard bounce and you will not be able to receive new messages.

In that same vein, Google’s paid tiers are not the cheapest but are still fairly economical. They are less expensive per GB than Dropbox, for example, but are more expensive than Microsoft’s new Skydrive tiers. One issue that many users face with online storage services is the file size limit placed on individual files. While Dropbox places no limits (other than overall storage quota) on individual file size, many other services do. Google offers a compromise to users in the form of 10GB per file size limits. While you won’t be backing up Virtualbox hard drives or drive image backups to Google, they’ll let you backup anything else (within reason).

Continue reading for the full Google Drive preview.