Google Drive: What it could mean for the cloud storage market

Major cloud industry players weigh in on what the arrival of Google Drive could mean for the consumer and enterprise cloud storage markets.

After months (or even years) of waiting, Google is supposed to be very close to introducing a cloud storage service dubbed "Google Drive."

There is already a lot of debate over what this could mean for existing cloud storage service providers, such as the likes of Dropbox and Box, or even Microsoft's SkyDrive and Apple's iCloud.

When it was reported at the end of March that Google Drive was expected to launch this spring after months (or perhaps even years) of rumors, I asked whether or not it was too late for Google Drive to make an impact. After all, there are plenty of other services out there available that satisfy both consumer and business customer cloud storage needs pretty darn well already.

Jesse Lipson, vice president and general manager of data sharing at Citrix, pointed out to me that "Google has a history of being late to the game, and the launch of Google Drive is a direct response to the success services like Dropbox are experiencing."

Even though Google is playing catch up, according to Lipson, it can afford to do so as it has the resources and the infrastructure needed to entice and handle millions of users from launch time -- not to mention that the name brand doesn't hurt.

Lipson explained:

There is no need for another stand-alone cloud storage provider, but where Google will compete is through integration. Integration with Google Docs, Google Apps and Gmail may give it an advantage –- consumers start using the service because it integrates and then transfer the rest of their content to that same provider.

Furthermore, Google Drive is expected to debut with 5GB of free storage space allotted for each user. That puts Google Drive on par with Box's free 5GB and ahead of Dropbox's 2GB without any strings attached.

Given the option for possible integration with other Google products, Google Drive has enormous potential to make a splash in the enterprise market.

Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie acknowledged that "Google has a responsibility to its shareholders to get into attractive, high growth markets." Still, Levie isn't too worried about the looming threat of Google Drive just yet.

"Box will compete with products like Google Drive for adoption among prosumers, teams and small businesses, but our laser focus on the security, scalability, collaboration and cross-platform support that businesses require means that we'll continue to be extremely competitive in the enterprise market," Levie explained.

But not everyone is so excited about Google Drive. Yorgen Edholm, president and CEO of Accellion, a file transfer and collaboration solutions provider for enterprises, posited that Google Drive will just feed "the problem already created by consumer file sharing services," citing Dropbox and iCloud as examples.

"The introduction of yet another unmanaged cloud file storage solution, this time from a major industry player such as Google, is a IT security nightmare," Edholm said.

Perhaps then Google could surpass the competition if it does a better job of addressing enterprise security issues. After all, Google already plays well in the business collaboration services market with Google Apps.

Funny enough, Levie predicted that Google's entry into this market will actually have a "positive effect by raising overall awareness of the benefits of the cloud, just as iCloud's launch did," acknowledging at the same time that enterprise needs are different from those of consumers.

Nevertheless, Edholm advised, "CIOs need to make it a priority to deploy an enterprise-grade secure file sharing and storage solution, and take control over sharing of business information."