Adopting Google Drive: Pros & Cons

At Hallnet, we are always looking at ways to be more efficient and more productive. A few years ago we adopted to the use of Google Drive, the cloud-based storage system, along with it’s associated suite of document, spreadsheet and other productivity tools.

First introduced on April 24, 2012, it's fair to say that Google Drive is becoming a growing part of how documents are stored, traded and shared online, with over 240 million users reportedly using the service on a monthly basis.

This article will look at the pros and cons that we had to consider. Hopefully it will provide a few pointers and help you to make a more informed decision on whether Google Drive could revolutionise the way you work.

Google Drive - The Pros

Cloud Storage

Although the concept of 'the cloud' has been around for years, it's only recently that dependable remote servers have made this concept feasible for ordinary users. Google Drive offers its users the ability to store their documents remotely on the company's hard drives, safely protected by their vast servers that contained 10 million terabytes of data in 2003, per a national report.

Auto Save

Google Drive has completely eliminated the need to 'save' documents, as the connection to the remote server is being constantly refreshed. This means that you'll never lose another document again, which provides a great sense of relief to many people.

Device Compatibility

Google Drive also makes sharing between devices much easier. Currently, Google Drive works on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and all forms of Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or better. Google Drive also works on Android smartphones and tablets running 2.1 (Eclair) or better. And Google Drive is also available on all Apple smartphones and tablets with iOS 5.0 or higher. With a bit of work, Google Drive can also be accessed by computers and tablets using a Linux operating system. The versatility of using different devices and operating system makes viewing a document at home or on the road as simple as logging in to your Google account.

Offline Access

Google Drive also is equipped with an offline feature for users with a Google Chrome Browser. A specific Chrome app, available from the Chrome Web Store, allows users to view and edit their documents offline that are stored on Google Drive. The Google Drive app for Android and Apple mobile devices allows for offline viewing, although not editing.

15 GB Free

Google Drive comes with an initial 15 gigabytes of storage, which is more than enough for the average user. Since the service originally began by offering only 1GB, having a total of 15 now means that most people should have plenty of room for their files. It should be noted that the 15GB is shared across all Google services, including Gmail and Google+, and is not exclusively just reserved for space on your Google Drive. Additional storage is available for a paid monthly upgrade.

Sharing and Collaboration

Documents created and stored on Google Drive can be shared with other Google users with the click of the mouse. Documents can also be shared with the general public as Google will generate a custom hyperlink for you. This allows website content creators and other independent publishers and writers to share material with their readers, or offers a simple and easy way to share photos and videos with friends and family.

Document Level Privacy and Permissions

Google Drive also allows you to control the level of access that you offer to shared documents. You can choose between 'can edit', 'can comment' and 'can view' settings. People who are given access to edit your documents can invite other people to edit your documents as well, which is a great option for collaborative work.

Google Drive - The Cons

Reliance on Internet Connection - In Some Cases

As nice as it is to have your documents stored on the cloud, sometimes you want access to them even when you don't have a connection to the internet. Yes, it's true that there are apps to view, and in some cases, edit, your material offline but it's still easier sometimes to create and store a document locally on your own computer and then email it to others later if you do want to share it.

USD Pricing Only

While the first 15GB are free, some power users are going to need more storage. Unfortunately, due to complications in the way Google handles finances, all prices for paid storage are denominated only in U.S. dollars. Users living in other countries are forced to convert their local currencies to American dollars at the going rate, which can cause difficulties for businesses and individuals trying to predict future expenses.

Renewals and Downgrades

By default, all Google paid subscriptions are set to automatically renew at the end of the contracted service period. This can surprise some users, who might be in favor of having the service lapse at the end of the contracted period. Furthermore, although users can always upgrade to a higher storage plan at any time, Google will block anyone attempting to downgrade to a smaller plan unless they are already under the 15GB free limit.

Filesize Limits

While Google offers paid storage of up to 30 terabytes, it has a restriction in place that files larger than 5 terabytes cannot be viewed within Google Drive. Also, embedded images inside other documents may not exceed 2 megabytes in size. Text or alphanumeric documents are restricted to 1,024,000 characters, regardless of the number of pages. Uploaded files that are converted to Google Docs format are capped at 50 megabytes. Slideshow presentations are restricted to 100 megabytes, which comes out to about 400 slides.

Unpredictable Third Party Apps

There are a number of apps which work with Google Drive. Some first-party apps from Google work pretty well, but some third-party apps are often bloated adware. Although all the third-party apps that we found were free to install, many of them required payment to unlock all of their features.

Privacy

While most users will feel comfortable relying on Google to safely store their documents, not everyone feels at ease knowing that the company has access to their data. Google's business model is predicated on analyzing vast amounts of personal information and then selling it to advertisers. All Google services, including Google Drive, are subject to data mining by the company, which means that users of the service are relinquishing a fair bit of privacy for access to free, reliable, online file storage. For this reason, at Hallnet, we still ensure that any sensitive data is kept away from Google Drive and is instead stored on servers that we manage directly.

Your Feedback

We’re be interested to hear about your Google Drive opinions and experiences so please feel free to join the discussion below.

Is your organisation looking to improve efficiency, enhance productivity or better engage your audiences? At Hallnet, we've been helping our clients do just that since 1998. To arrange a free web/software development consultation call 01942 418 919 or contact us here.