google drive

Last week, the web was buzzing with news about Google Drive, the new tool from Google that is being positioned as the alternative to Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and other cloud storage systems. However, not everyone was impressed by the Google Drive announcement and a question began brewing: “What is the value of Google Drive?”

Newstex Authoritative Content Publisher Shelly Palmer points out that, “Google Drive is so integrated with Google Apps for Business, Google Docs and Google that it is destined to become the seminal point of ‘the’ paradigm shift to business in the cloud.  Or, as I like to think of it, business with a single point of failure.”

In other words, in Google’s quest to make people Google-dependent, there is an added element of risk that most people won’t even realize they’re taking. Shelly explains:

“I consider Information ‘the’ currency of the Information Age. And right now, my business information is in my version of an Information Hedge Fund. I’ve got information, the currency of my business, stored in all kinds of places – some safer than others. So, what would possess me to put all of my InfoCurrency in one place? What is the upside? There is none. It is a remarkably stupid idea.

“Single threading your business through a single point of failure is like putting all of your money in one pretty good investment and hoping for the best. You could make a profit, but if anything goes wrong, you lose. Of course the things that can go wrong are completely out of your control, just like financial investments – you have no say over new regulations, lawsuits, market conditions, you’re just hoping that your investment advisor picked the right investments.” — Shelly Palmer, ShellyPalmer.com

While Shelly warns against relying on a single-point of failure to store and protect your information currency, Newstex Vice President of Technology Chris Moyer adds another layer of consideration — added value. He explains:

“Google Drive doesn’t actually add any value to the existing Google App ecosystem. It tries to act like Dropbox, synchronizing ‘files’ to your system, but anything created with Google Documents can’t be edited with a local editor. For example, if you make a spreadsheet with Google Docs, you can’t then open that spreadsheet in Excel or Numbers. When you try to edit it, it takes you directly to the web site to edit it. The real question is, what is Google Drive adding that the Web view doesn’t already have?

“To Shelly Palmer’s point, this means that Google Apps really becomes a single point-of-failure. Even though we all have documents ‘synchronized’ on our local systems, if they’re Google Docs, we can’t actually do anything with them if we’re not able to contact Google Apps. Forget if Google were to suddenly die (which is highly unlikely), but what about if you’re just not connected to the internet? What if you’re sitting on a plane and want to tackle editing that presentation that you started using Google Presentation, or modify that report you were writing using Google Document?

“The entire advantage of services like Dropbox is that they synchronize files which can just be used by you as you would normally, with your local editor, and they sync back up with the server whenever you do get an internet connection, but they just work even if you don’t. If Dropbox were to go away tomorrow, you’d still have all your files saved on any local computer that you synchronized the files to. With Google, you just end up with these really useless links to web pages to edit and view the documents, not something useful.” — Chris Moyer, Newstex

According to CNET, Google is working on adding more functionality to make Google Drive more competitive with Dropbox and similar services. Already, a tiered pricing structure is offered to give users more storage space (and turn them into paying Google customers — a bold step for Google). Stephen Shankland explains:

“Google is applying its data-extraction technology to whatever you upload to Google Drive for personal searching purposes. Its Google Goggles technology scours images for recognizable text and images — a Coca-Cola logo pops to the front of the search results even though it’s only in a photo, for example, and Google uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to try to extract text from PDFs.

“Because Google Drive copies file names to your local hard drive, your Windows or Mac machine can find them through search that way, too. However, at this stage, the contents of the files aren’t indexed, though Google is working on that too. Opening one of the files through Windows Explorer or Mac OS X’s Finder takes you to a copy of the file in your browser.

“But just because you see those file names on your hard drive drive, don’t get your hopes up that you won’t always need a network connection. As with Google Docs today, offline access to Google Docs documents is limited to seeing the files but not editing them.” — Steven Shankland, CNET.com

Bottom-line, Google Drive integrates seamlessly with a variety of Google products. For example, you have to pay for additional storage space through Google Wallet, and uploaded content will become searchable (for personal searching purposes — so far) making Google+ and Google Social Search integration an expected future enhancement. However, Google Drive should be used with caution because it comes with risks. If information and content are your livelihood, you can’t afford to take risks with a single point of failure.