Free storage for you: Google Drive to arrive today

Google's new cloud-storage service is here. The Google Drive comes with 5GBs of free storage and up to 16 Terabytes of storage for paying customers.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Say hello to the Google Drive.

Say hello to the Google Drive.

The rumors were true. Google's personal cloud-based storage service, Google Drive, has been released today with 5GB of free storage. It includes both free and commercial versions. The minimum free service will include 5GBs of free storage, and you'll be able to buy additional space for up to, brace yourself, 16 terabytes  of storage.

In addition, Google Docs' available storage for your documents has moved up within the last twelve hours from 1GB of storage to 5GBs. You can see if you have this additional storage for yourself by going to your Google Docs setting page. You'll see about half-way down the page a listing for storage. This seems to be, for the moment, only available if you're using the English language version of Google Docs.

Gerwin Sturm, an Austrian developer and Web designer, spotted the Google Drive smoking gun on a French Google Web site this morning: a prematurely released Google Drive announcement.

This early French-language posting, which appears to have been an early draft, is no longer available on the Google site, is from Sundar Pichai, Senior Vice President, Google Chrome & Apps. In it he states: "Today we launch Google Drive, a centralized space where you can create, share, collaborate and store all your documents. You establish a budget with your staff that you develop a presentation with a working group or hosting a seminar, you can now do it in Drive. Download and access all your documents, videos, photos, Google Docs, PDF, etc."

So, this is more than just a Dropbox replacement. It's mean to be a cloud collaborative environment as well. As such, in some ways it seems to be, as Pichai puts it, the "Next step in the evolution of Google Docs."

With "Google Drive," he continued, "you can: Create and collaborate. Google Docs is integrated directly into Google Drive, allowing you to work in real time with colleagues on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Add and reply to comments on any media (PDF, image, videotape, etc.) and be informed when other people comment on or wish to share documents with you."

Pichai promises that you'll be able to "Keep your documents securely and access anywhere and on any device connected to the Internet. All your documents are just ... there."

How will this work?  Pichai wrote, "You can install Google Drive on your Mac, PC, or download the application Drive on your phone or Android tablet. An iOS version of the application will be available in the coming weeks. Drive is also accessible to visually impaired people using a screen reader tool." In addition, I might add, Google Drive is available on Linux.

In addition, and comes as no surprise from Google, you'll be able to search your cloud drive "by keyword and filter by document type, owner, activity, etc.

It will also include optical character recognition (OCR). Pichai claims Google Drive can even recognize the text content of scanned document. "For example, if you download the scanned image of an old newspaper clipping, you can search using one of the words quoted in the article. We have even begun to tap the image recognition: if you upload a picture of the Eiffel Tower in Drive, the next time you search the term [Eiffel Tower], the image will appear in the results."

It sounds as if, instead of being integrated with the operating system as an add-on, the way most people use Dropbox, Google Drive will work directly from the Web browser. This plays well with Google's Chrome operating system, but if so other users may not be as happy with it. I know, for me, the fact that Dropbox works hand-in-glove with any operating system's file manager is one of its nicest features.

Be that as it may, Pichai states that with Google Drive you'll be able to "Open more than 30 types of documents directly from a Web browser - including high-definition video, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop - even without the proper software installed on your computer,"

As for management and security, Pichai wrote:

We know that you need to access your documents in order to work everyday. Google Drive uses the same infrastructure as any other Google Apps services, which means it also has the same administrative tools, security and reliability, among others:

Centralized management: new tools are available in the Apps control interface for administrators to add or remove storage space for individual or groups of users

Security: encryption of data transfer between your browser and our servers, and check option 2 in time to prevent non-authorized access to an account by requiring users to log on returning secure code generated from their mobile phone

Data replication: synchronous replication of data in multiple data centers ensures the safety and accessibility of your records even in the unlikely event one of our data centers is temporarily unavailable

Availability: 99.9% uptime guarantee so you can be assured that your documents are accessible when you need it

Each user has access to Google Apps 5GB storage included in the suite Google Apps administrators can centrally manage and purchase additional storage space. When a user reaches the limit, administrators can purchase the necessary space of 20GB for $4 per month to 1TB (Google Docs are not counted in the quota of storage space).

Yes, you read that right, you could get up to a terabyte of storage via Google Drive. In the official announcement, Pichai also spelled out Google Drive's pricing: "You can choose to upgrade to 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or even 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage will also expand to 25GB."

He continued, "Starting today, Google Apps administrators will see new orders for Drive in their management interface. Users of companies have opted for the quick launch, will enable Google Drive on the Google Drive site and will receive their access in the following weeks."

The Google Drive site is now working. The response time to get a Google Drive seems to be a little slow, but that's only to be expected as millions of users start to flock to it.

The official Google Drive announcement uses somewhat different language, but there are no other real changes.

Finally, Pichai wrote, "Drive is designed to work harmoniously with all the products you use - whether Google products or third party service. You can share your photos on Google Drive + and will soon be able to attach documents directly into your emails Drive Gmail. Drive is intended to be an open platform, so we work with many third party developers, allowing you to do things such as sending faxes, edit videos and create models directly from Drive website. To install these applications, visit the Chrome Web Store and follow the events for more useful applications to come. It is only the beginning of Google Drive, many developments are coming. Stay tuned!"

I, for one, will be staying tuned.

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