Storage Perspective: A Google Drive Preview
Installation and Usage
The term "installation" may just be an understatement in this case as the actual installation goes by in the blink of an eye. The process is somewhat similar to that of installing Google’s Chrome web browser, in fact.
To get started, you will need to head over to the Google Drive website at drive.google.com and log in with your Google account. If Google Drive has been activated for your account, you will be presented with an interface that looks a lot like Google Docs with a list of files on the right and a list of labels (folders) on the left. At the top of the page will be a notification advising you to download the Google Drive application for you OS (if you are on a Windows or Mac PC currently).
Click the text link to download, and your browser will download the initial installation file (name: googledrivesync, file size: 722KB). Once finished, open that file and allow it to run by selecting yes to any UAC (user account control) messages. The program will then download the remaining installation files–meaning you will need to maintain an Internet connection for the full install.
Once the Google Drive program has finished downloading and installing, you will be presented with a new window that indicates you have successfully installed Google Drive if no errors occured.
Google Drive then pops up a very short Getting Started guide that briefly tells the user how the syncing service works (images below).
After the Getting Started guide, you will be prompted by a new window allowing you to continue with the default settings or enter the advanced setup which looks like the following image. The advanced setup will allow you to selectively sync only certain folders from Google Drive with your local machine and adjust other configuration options. For example, you are also able to choose whether or not to sync your Google Docs files (which amounts to saving a web pointer/link to the web based version of Google Docs), change the installation directory and location of your Google Drive folder, and choose whether or not to start Google Drive automatically when Windows boots. After configuring the settings, click "Start Sync" to finish the installation.
After the initial setup and introduction is out of the way, the application will ask you to log in with your Google account. Once you log in, it will begin syncing your files from Google’s servers to your local Google Drive folder and vice versa.
That’s it for installation and setup. Google Drive will now run in the background with a small system tray application syncing your files for you. On my system, the Google Drive application consumed a total of 48,892 KB (about 47 MB) across to GoogleDriveSync processes. Naturally, I did not notice any RAM shortages (Chrome is a much worse offender for eating up memory in my experience).
Once installed as an application, you can use your Google Drive just like any other folder on your computer including moving, copying, cutting, pasting, adding and deleting files, and creating sub-folders. And just like Dropbox (and the new Skydrive), Google Drive takes care of the rest for you in the background to keep everything in sync.
In my testing, i did run into an issue where Google Drive would flat out refuse to upload any MP3 files or older cell phone video recordings (I believe it used a variant of .mov and .amr audio–yeah it was from an ancient phone heh) that I attempted to upload. It uploaded folders of documents and photos without any complaints though so it may just be a bug or issue on my end.
As I mentioned above, if you elect to sync Google Docs files, you are essentially only downloading links to the documents and not the documents themselves. This is because Google does not have an actual document format that traditional desktop word processors can understand. On the other hand, if you have uploaded documents and did not convert them to Google Docs format–meaning you uploaded Open Document Format .odf (OpenOffice/LibreOffice) or Microsoft .doc(x) files–you can edit those as usual.
As an example, I clicked on a Google Doc in my new Google Drive folder and it opened up Chrome in a new tab to view and edit the document. According to Robert Heron over at Tekzilla and what I've observed seems to back up his claims, these local "files" are only links to the web version and do not actually contain any textual data or document contents. (Opening them with a text editor for example just results in what is essentially jibberish heh).
Google Docs files cannot be opened with local applications, you'll need to use Google's web app.
Editing a local copy of an ODF formated file synced with Google Drive.
There is a way to enable offline access to those Google Docs formats when using the Chrome web browser and a web store application (using Google Gears APIs I believe). The catch is that it only works with Chrome and only allows viewing of documents–you will not be able to edit documents offline.
Last up, while upload and download speeds are going to vary from user to user, in my testing I did not notice any bottlenecking on Google’s end. I was able to push my connection to it’s maximum though it will be interesting to see how it holds up as more and more accounts are activated (which is likely the reason it’s a rolling release–to give Google time to mitigate congestion and add new server instances as needed).
Enable offline Access Of Google Docs
To enable offline viewing of your documents, right click on the Google Drive system tray application and select the “Visit your Google Drive on the web” option. A new browser window will open showing the web interface of your Google Drive. Click on the Gear icon in the upper right and choose the “Set up Docs offline” option at the bottom of the menu.
You will then need to click two buttons, one to enable offline access and the other to navigate to the Chrome Web Store to install the Google Docs application.
After the application is installed, just navigate to your Google Documents as normal, whether in the browser or by selecting one of the file pointers in your local computer’s Google Drive folder. When online, you have the full functionality of Google Docs, and when you are away from an Internet connection you will not be able to edit, but can still view, your applications.
The next page will cover the pricing comparisons between the big online storage players to see how Google Drive compares to its competitors and which service gives you the most storage for you dollar!