Google Drive: The Cloud Backup I want to see

Google Drive: The Cloud Backup I want to see

Summary: A Google Drive shouldn't just be a Dropbox competitor. It needs to have value-added services for transparent Cloud-based data backup as well.


Within a matter of weeks or perhaps even days, Google is going to be announcing its Google Drive service, a Cloud-based offering that has been in several years in the making.

Google Drive also comes at a time where several competitors have filled a void which the company has failed to address, despite the clamoring of its users.

Over the years I've talked a bit about what I would have liked to have seen in an actual Google Drive., Amazon Cloud Drive/S3, Microsoft Skydrive and to a limited extent Apple's own iCloud have the basic storage capacity issues addressed, but none of these really do what you want them to do without the addition of 3rd-party software.

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Based on the limited information we have today, Google Drive will launch with 5GB of free cloud-based storage. We don't know how much additional storage will cost, and what platforms it will likely support beyond Windows and Android, and what other functionality it will have beyond basic cloud storage.

Personally, I don't see a huge amount of value-add if all Google Drive ends up being is a DropBox or clone. What end-users really need is an end-to end storage and backup solution that works on as many platforms as possible and ties in all of Google's cloud services.

Ideally, I would like to see Google Drive combined with an incremental sync-based backup service. So whether you have files stored on your PC, your Mac or your Android device (and potentially iOS, should Apple approve such a thing) your data gets backed up, and you have completely transparent access to everything that has been backed up from those devices to the cloud from any authorized device that you need to access it from.

And the data should be fully searchable, whether it is from within an app or the Chrome browser.

You should simply be able to choose what folders or apps on your computer or mobile device get synced. Even better, it should be able to integrate with existing applications, such as Microsoft Office and LibreOffice, so that when certain types of data gets saved to your local hard disk, such as productivity office formats (.DOC, .XLS, .PPT, .ODF, .PDF, etc.) it automatically gets replicated to your Google Drive.

Ideally, there should also be revision tracking in the event you over-wrote something important by accident. And anything that gets synced to this Google Drive naturally should undergo a thorough virus and malware scan, with instantaneous reporting to the account holder if something is amiss and would give them the ability to quarantine, clean or destroy the files in question.

What we're talking about here is not just an online hard drive -- it's business continuity for humans.

I think it also would make sense for Google to streamline the pricing and the way storage works in their Cloud. Today, my free GMail account has nearly 8GB of storage assigned to it and is over 90 percent full. My Google Docs has separate storage, as does Picasa Web Albums.

What I would like to see is Google offer a unified cloud storage offering with Google Drive.

[Update: Google currently offers unified storage across Gmail, Picasa Web Albums, and Google Docs at different tiering price levels. 200GB is currently $50 per year, so it would be logical to assume this pricing would apply for Google Drive as well.]

This unified storage could be used across all Google services, and would allow me to monitor my usage of all of these. So whether I was backing up files from my PC and my Mac, or from the local storage on my Android device, or even my wife's laptop or Android device, it would all be consolidated.

You'd have one master account owner, and then permit other Google accounts to use it, with the appropriate quotas set per family member. This way, one family could pay $50 a year for their critical storage needs, and everyone in the household (say, a limit of half a dozen unique Google logins and perhaps a dozen devices) would be backed up.

Additionally, the master account holder should be able to delegate any sharing of data from that Google Drive via email (a la Google Docs) and it should be integrated with services such as Google Plus.

What else do you think a Google Drive should offer? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Storage, Data Management, Google


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • You should be able to choose what folders on your computer get synced

    I think you just described SugarSync.
    • Yes. SugarSync pretty much does all that already

      The precise reason I chose SugarSync over DropBox is that I just have to designate folders and they're backed up automatically, including new files or changed files. I couldn't find anything else that would let me do this. And now I'm finding it can do the same thing for my cell phone.
      • Ubuntu One

        I think Ubuntu One also does the same... Although it has designated Folder, you can sync pretty much any folder/subfolder of your devices within the designated Ubuntu One folder....
  • Umm, Skydrive? 25GB free?

    Jason, ever thought of mentioning SkyDrive? Or is an MS product too distasteful for you to even mention in your post?

    Whilst it may not have ability at the moment for automated backups etc. It is a great place to store and backup documents and with Live Mesh to sync particular folders.

    Just thought it should be added to the conversation.
    Ken Doll
    • In the supporting links in the article.

      There was no conscious decision to omit it from the original draft of the piece, I simply forgot about it.
      • You forgot?

        A 25Gb offering from the software development house that helps most of the planet run thats been available for some years.

        I think there's a little more there than forgetting...
      • Clarification...

        @ jperlow

        Did you update with a link to SkyDrive after you got those comments? Because I could see that it is mentioned. Since the scope of the article is not comparison but to inform and state your expectation about Google Drive, I think the mention of several, if not all, popular and similar services shall be sufficient for the scope of the article...
      • No need to feel not mentioning SkyDrive was an omission ...

        Sorry, Microsoft killing Live Mesh Beta (LMB) really struck a nerve with me, as the subsequent cloud effort is now almost a fragmented "ecosystem" of services. A better comparison of Google Drive is Google Drive vs. Windows Live Mesh vs. iCloud vs. DropBox. SkyDrive does not synch real-time with local storage the way these services do when a locally stored document is updated only because SkyDrive storage (the 25GB from which you can use Office Web Apps) is not set up to synchronize with local storage (i.e. SkyDrive is NOT a BACKUP). It'd be absolutely KILLER for Microsoft if it did. I'd certainly kill my relationship with Gmail on that ability alone (I've been pestering Microsoft about this for the last couple of years. #iAmJerk.). But, SkyDrive is not the service to equate with Google Drive. The equivalent would be Windows Live Mesh, and now thanks to Microsoft throwing out the baby with the bath water when it shut down LMB, there are two unnecessarily separated Live "cloud"-based storage services, propagandized by Microsoft to both be SkyDrive services, but they are services that do not "talk" to each other. Hittin' home there, eh, Microsoft?

        Meanwhile, do we know if Google Drive will be married to Google Docs in allowing Google Drive stored documents to be edited via the browser and be updated in all places? From the screenshots I've seen, the implication I get is that if documents are accessible from the "desktop, mobile, or tablets," then that only means files are locally stored and synchronized separate from Google Docs and you would have to go through extra steps with this setup as well to get a true universal, real-time solution where you can go to any of your desktop, tablet, mobile or BROWSER to be productive. If that is the case, I might as well stick with Windows Live. The fact that HTC is connecting "natively" to SkyDrive via HTC Sense for editing with Polaris and NOT Google Docs on the new One series should say something about both Google Docs and DropBox ( Who would have ever thought that of any company, HTC would get the RIGHT big picture idea, even if it's solution is a mash up of services? They are using the most available to the common end user. I personally would actually consider an HTC One series device under this scenario should Google Drive not produce that greater completion of the cloud equation (hint to Microsoft and Google: the formula includes local storage). At least HTC's set-up is a straight-forward solution. Right now, the cloud "element" feels excluded from Google Drive without any clarification or announcement. If that is the case, what a waste if Google is truly focused on the cloud-based Chrome OS, which would be interesting to see if it will host locally stored files via some implementation of Google Drive.
  • Where is skydrive ?

    why dont skydrive mentioned in article even it offered 25 GB and get seamless updates and integration with windows 8.Dont author even read articles from ZDNET itself
  • We are finally off to never never land.

    Sky Drive, Cloud Storage, Goggle Drive...let the lunacy begin.

    When did computing start for the masses...generally?

    How long did the human race manage to actually get by without PAYING some organization to store a small amount if data for them in the cloud?
    It isn???t like a cell phone. We got by without that for a very long time but its also obvious that the value added for countless millions around the world with the proliferation of cell phones has been enormous, even if often a new modern annoyance at times. Not so much with cloud drives.

    I say if you have legitimate reasons, well I guess so. I mean its like anything, if there was formerly a problem without a solution, and now a cloud drive is the sudden long needed solution, well thats one thing. Like anything I guess. But lets also work on a reasonable reality basis and lets not start suggesting that MONTHLY FEE service is anything close to worth it for Mr. Joe Average who has to work hard, day in and day out for his bucks. He has to pay a mortgage or rent, he has to feed his kids, he has to pay for transportation, and he may now have to throw more money at the an iPad (garbage) if some educational experts get their way.

    What Mr. Joe Average does not need, AT ALL is suggestion that without some form of cloud drive storing his all important files he is letting his family down and its not right that he dosnt pony up the bucks for some great "GIGS" in the sky.

    Its nonsense, its garbage and its a waste of money. Its for techno geeks and people with more money then they can figure out what to spend it on. Or maybe in some cases just simply more money than brains because I have seen far too many stretch themselves for tech they no more needed for any purpose then fly a kite. Read in iPad right there.

    We have got to have some pity, some pity on the average citizen on all this "pay pay pay pay" or be left behind mentality driven by people who just cannot help themselves from insisting the latest tech has some real true value to just about all the multiple millions of financially stretched people around the world.
  • Drive!

    I really want to see Google Docs/Picasa/Google+ integration to start out with.

    I hope they let us backup all our apps with data onto the cloud, so when we switch devices, they're restored just as they were.
  • Cloud security

    I would have one additional requirement. [u]Secure[/u] storage. The ability to have my files stored encrypted in such a way that they are not used for other 'business purposes' by Google or any third party. It would also be good if Google could not turn them over to any government agency, with or without a search warrant, without my consent.
    • Not possible

      Under the PATRIOT act. The government can ask for any data it wants from any data provider.
      • Unless it's encrypted before transmission

        and storage provider doesn't have the key (like it's done by SpiderOak).
        Tomas M.
  • Archive Storage

    I like use of cloud storage but simply for archival purposes. I like to relieving my hard drive of the need to store back TurboTax files, EXEs of programs I've purchased but have installed (so don't need the installer around), etc.. I can use DropBox or SkyDrive (of which I use both at the moment) but they are still, at least it's my impression, more useful for putting files to be accesses on multiple machines which is not the use I have in mind. I want them out of sight until I find myself in the unlikely position of needing them again, and not constantly in my face that I need to scroll down to the folders/files I need.

    Basically, higher storage but less bandwidth/usage is an option I'd like to see tossed around.
  • 5GB??

    I'll stick with S3.
  • Cloud Storage will not Work until Groups / Businesses Are Truly Supported

    The document storage cloud services I have reviewed don't "get it". They aren't living in the real world. They have limited features and are not practical solutions for groups or businesses. Let me explain.

    If you are creating documents, you are sharing documents. If you are sharing documents, you need to be able to secure who sees them.

    To secure documents, you first need to be able organize the documents into folders so that you can secure groups of documents and not have to secure each document individually.

    To secure folders and documents, you need to be able to identify users with ids. Some of those users are internal (e.g., in your web domain) and some of them are external (e.g., outside of your web domain, or "personal" e-mail addresses such as @gmail or @hotmail or @me, etc.).

    After organizing the documents and identifying users, you then be able to specify who has rights to read, modify or delete the folders and the documents in the folders.

    I'm still dreaming of the solution which allows a small company (or even a family or church or ...) to store their documents in the cloud solution which looks and works just like a network file share on a traditional, local file server.

    Egnyte is the one that comes closest. But their reliability was poor in our tests (granted, last year) and they also had relatively high costs.

    Until we are able to use the storage just like it is a local drive, to organize the documents into folders and secure the folders, the small companies I own will continue to use good ol' local Microsoft file servers -- with just basic disaster recovery backup services (we currently use Crashplan).

    Anyone know of a "real" cloud storage solution like I describe?
  • Twisted Thinking

    With the low cost of home storage why anybody would want any of their personal info stored on any off site location is "braindead".
    Security and access problems will continually cause problems.
    Consider that hackers can get into government and financial servers just how much protection do you think you will find in a profit driven cloud server?
    Another money maker that leaves the consumer with all the jeopardy.
    • Twisted Thinking

      Sickntired44, you are totally correct. Arguing about which cloud service is better is like arguing about which type of poison you prefer. They all have the same problems. Just ask those Gmail customers who lost their email service today ("Gmail hit by massive outage: Up to 35 million affected" in today's Tech Update). Or those who lost files when Megaupload was grabbed by the feds. And please don't tell me they were all "pirates." I lost files I was sharing with a friend. There are many other examples.

      For jclements, who said he wants to use the cloud to store files (such as tax returns) that he doesn't want cluttering up his HD, buy another HD and store them all there. HD's are cheap and much safer than giving your data to someone else. Or burn them on a DVD.
      • @Shara8 & @Sickntired44

        While this is true, I use my cloud storage for misc items, pics I want to share between my devices, text file notes, PDFs of manuals etc. I do not use it to store movies/series/music or any sensitive documents... that is why I have a storage server at home to keep all that stuff for me.

        So basically I use it as a flash drive (I am using 3.6% of 2.8GB). So as you can see not everyone will be using it to store their life, those that do, need to consider the consequences that you just mentioned. In the end it is each persons' personal choice as to what data they want to store on the cloud.

        "Consider that hackers can get into government and financial servers just how much protection do you think you will find in a profit driven cloud server?"
        One thing I have noticed is that "profit driven cloud server"s or private organisations usually have better security than any government. :)

        If you live in fear of servers being hacked, of there being broken into your house, etc, then you will be living in perpetual fear. If they REALLY want to get in (be it a server/house/car/piggybank) they will get in. All you can do is try to minimise potential loss.

        "HD's are cheap and much safer than giving your data to someone else."
        Saving your stuff on a drive at home is a good idea (I do this myself), however HDD's are susceptible to power surges, falling on a floor, melting in a fire, etc.

        "Or burn them on a DVD." They can break, melt in a fire, scratches and (as I have had a few times) not being able to be read by a drive after a long time, etc.

        So as you can see all methods have their risks, instead of focusing only on the negative, people should research which cloud solution would work for them. What data they want to store on where and what the risks are, it is up to each person to choose their own.

        /wall of text