Google Drive review

Google Drive doesn't have the same features as its rivals but it is relatively cheap and is a good fit for firms that use Google Apps.

Google Drive is increasingly the backbone of Google's cloud-based services, now providing 15GB of pooled storage for your Gmail inbox, Google Drive files and documents and your Google+ Photos, absolutely free. If that's not enough, higher capacity plans are available, starting at $4.99 per month for 100GB. .

The browser-based interface will be familiar to users of Gmail and Google Docs, providing easy access to files on your Google Drive and at-a-glance monitoring of recent activity. More crucially, a downloadable Google Drive applet creates a Google Drive folder on your PC, and then enables synchronisation of that folder across multiple PCs and even Macs, in the vein of Dropbox or SkyDrive.

When Google Drive launched we weren't 100 per cent keen on the user interface.There were good points about the stripped-back look and simple presentation, not to mention Google's strong search facilities, but the service didn't offer the easy one-click functionality of Dropbox or the Windows/Office integration of SkyDrive. To share a folder, for instance, you had to go to Google Drive in your browser and right-click on the folder sitting there.  

To some extent, this has changed. You now share files with a right-click from within the Google Drive folder, while the system tray applet provides more options and information. Meanwhile, the online Google Drive now offers easier navigation and a more intuitive grid-based view, making it easy to browse through your files, particularly PDFs, PowerPoint files or photos.

Google Drive's biggest advantage is its integration with Google Docs and Gmail. Whether you use Chrome or another standards-compliant browser, it's quick and easy to preview office documents, PDFs and most common photo and video file formats, whether you have any specific software installed or not.

Recent updates have even bought a dedicated Preview view, which allows you to quickly flick through previews of photos, documents and PDFs, then download or share them with a click. What's more, the built-in Google Docs applications can be used to edit documents, on your own or in real-time collaboration with other Google Docs users.

No-one sensible could argue that Google Docs rivals Microsoft Office for formatting power or ease-of-use, but it's a great tool for, say, laying down the foundations of a report, and in a way Google's document sharing and collaboration features are better tied together than those of Microsoft.

However, while you can edit Microsoft Office docs from your desktop Google Drive using the standard Microsoft Office applications, doing so within the browser requires importing them in a Google Docs format then exporting the changed version later not exactly streamlined process. Google Docs can also struggle to maintain the fidelity of complex documents.

If your company uses Gmail then being able to share files and folders quickly with contacts in your address book, or sending documents as Google Drive links rather than attachments works well. What's more, integration with Google+ is now very good, so that you can see profile pictures for users editing a file at the same time as you, and even start a real-time chat. Google Drive has also improved its mobile support, with Android and iOS apps now supporting full upload and editing features. Security has also improved in the last year, partly because Google now offers two-factor authentication for its products, and partly because HTTPS is now used for transferring the data. However, Google still doesn't encrypt the data stored on its servers.

Google Drive's performance is only adequate when it comes to uploads and downloads, with just under ninety-two minutes to upload our test data and 24 minutes to download it to a second PC. However, sync happens at a blistering rate, with edited files syncing from one PC to the next in under 40 seconds.

Google Drive has improved since it emerged last year. It's easier to use and more fully-featured, though it still makes most sense as part of Google Apps, where it can play the role of hub in document management and collaboration, or in smaller businesses where Gmail and Google Docs are already deployed.

It's also extremely affordable, even if SkyDrive beats it on cost per GB when you work out the costs over a year. Of its rivals, Dropbox is a more efficient choice for straight storage and collaboration, with a more streamlined and intuitive UI, while SkyDrive's seamless Office integration can't be dismissed.  However, none of the other services provide so much storage for nothing, particularly if you can keep your Gmail mailbox down to under 5GB.

Ratings (out of 5) Features: 4Ease of Use: 3Value for Money: 4

Verdict

Now easier to use and fully-featured, Google Drive's biggest asset is that no other service gives you so much space for free.

Price: 15GB Free, 25GB $2.49 per month, 100GB $4.99 per month. As part of Google Apps for Business from £3.30 per user per month. - See more at: http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/iaas/cloud-storage/5650/google-drive-review#sthash.U3X3W5wd.dpuf

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