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Storage Perspective: A Google Drive Preview

Author: Tim Verry
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Google

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).

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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.

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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.

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Google Drive then pops up a very short Getting Started guide that briefly tells the user how the syncing service works (images below).

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Page 1

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Page 2

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.

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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.

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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).

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Usage

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.

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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).

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Google Docs files cannot be opened with local applications, you'll need to use Google's web app.

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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.

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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.

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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!

May 8, 2012 | 05:20 AM - Posted by Laurențiu Roman (not verified)

People that had a Google Storage plan before the launch of GDrive, are grandfathered in.

I had a 20GB plan for 5$/year which gave me:
- 20GB Gmail Storage
- 20GB Google Docs Storage
- 20GB Picasa Web Storage

After Google Drive was launched, i have, for the same 5$/year
- 30GB Gmail Storage
- 21GB Picasa Web Storage
- 25 GB Google Docs/Drive Storage

May 14, 2012 | 07:22 AM - Posted by Branthog

You're only grandfathered in if you never let your account lapse and you never upgrade. Need more storage? Too bad.

I had been looking forward to an improved interface and something more than just "docs.google" for some time, but was bummed to find out that they were going to more than double the price. I currently have a 400gb account with google for a mere $100/yr. I'm on the search for another - cheaper - solution.

May 13, 2012 | 06:12 AM - Posted by Zicoz (not verified)

Google isn't really the best plan for those who pay for storage either. Unless you're heavily invested in Googles products,or need ALOT of storage Microsofts Skydrive is a better option, more free storage, and you pay less for the extra storage.

May 13, 2012 | 05:51 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

True, Skydrive is the cheapest option, but if you are invested in Google products you may as well, it's priced pretty competitively for the 50GB+ tiers. I'm using the 30 (+25GB paid tier) on Google Drive right now, though I don't know if I'll keep it or not.

May 14, 2012 | 09:46 AM - Posted by Skidmarks (not verified)

I just can't see any use for these types of apps.

May 14, 2012 | 10:39 AM - Posted by Goofus Maximus (not verified)

I don't install any "synch" drivers from anyone. I only use these free cloud drives through my web browser. That said, free storage is free storage! I'm not going to pick between them! I'll use them all! :)

With 5 gig from Amazon, 5 gig from Google, and 7 gig from Windows, I have a place to dump 17 gigs worth of stuff. Archive storage for stuff that isn't important, but that I don't want to lose, and temp storage for all the stuff that is important, while I do reinstalls and the like.

All the docs and image gallery stuff is so much fluff for me. I just need a place to put stuff, and get it back later.

May 14, 2012 | 11:06 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yeah, I can respect that strategy :). Skydrive saved my butt about two years ago when my backup hard drive died... I thought all my senior photos and such were gone forever but turns out I had uploaded them all to Skydrive :)

Ever since then, I've been putting as much stuff in as many baskets as possible :)

May 14, 2012 | 04:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

just remember to encrypt your data before you go putting it on someone elses hard drive.

December 4, 2012 | 05:33 AM - Posted by AnonymousUnhappy (not verified)

i had to try google drive for to share an urgent 1.2 GB file.
a week ago i shared the same file on Drop Box and it took about 10 hours to upload, and Drop Box showed the remaining time since the beginning of upload till the end and everything was OK.

i exceeded my storage space with Drop Box so i had to share another version of the same 1.2 GB file but this time using Google Drive :

on the same iMac and same connection speed Google drive took more than 31 Hours to upload, and during this time i was VERY VERY FRUSTRATED because i could not just know the remaining time and of course because it took MORE THAN 3 TIMES LONGER than Drop Box.

i said there is something wrong here so
i tried again Drop Box to make really sure
and again :

Drop Box took this time about 11 Hours to complete
the remaining time was VERY HELPFUL and the last remaining hour was displayed in very accurate and precise "remaining minutes " !

i after that launched again same file on Google Drive and now it has been uploading since 18 hours now and still NOT COMPLETED and there s NO WAY i could know how much time this would take.

this is the first time i AM EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED OF A GOOGLE PRODUCT.
MAY BE THEY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT "GOOGLE DRIVE" BECAUSE IT HAS NOTHING "GOOGLE" !

**Note, during all the upload time in all this uploads, i left my mac was always on day and night, with the sleep function and hard disk suspension disabled !

December 4, 2012 | 05:33 AM - Posted by AnonymousUnhappy (not verified)

i had to try google drive for to share an urgent 1.2 GB file.
a week ago i shared the same file on Drop Box and it took about 10 hours to upload, and Drop Box showed the remaining time since the beginning of upload till the end and everything was OK.

i exceeded my storage space with Drop Box so i had to share another version of the same 1.2 GB file but this time using Google Drive :

on the same iMac and same connection speed Google drive took more than 31 Hours to upload, and during this time i was VERY VERY FRUSTRATED because i could not just know the remaining time and of course because it took MORE THAN 3 TIMES LONGER than Drop Box.

i said there is something wrong here so
i tried again Drop Box to make really sure
and again :

Drop Box took this time about 11 Hours to complete
the remaining time was VERY HELPFUL and the last remaining hour was displayed in very accurate and precise "remaining minutes " !

i after that launched again same file on Google Drive and now it has been uploading since 18 hours now and still NOT COMPLETED and there s NO WAY i could know how much time this would take.

this is the first time i AM EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED OF A GOOGLE PRODUCT.
MAY BE THEY HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT "GOOGLE DRIVE" BECAUSE IT HAS NOTHING "GOOGLE" !

**Note, during all the upload time in all this uploads, i left my mac was always on day and night, with the sleep function and hard disk suspension disabled !

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