After a somewhat rambling precursor to a subjective analysis of various cloud offerings, we arrive at the first real section, focused purely on Google Drive and the omnipotent internet company’s cloud services. Possibly best optimised through their own Chrome web browser, Google offers a suite of tools accessible through any window on the web and an array of excellent free mobile applications too.
One of the beautiful aspects of Google Drive that has kept me with the service so long is, surprise surprise, the ability to organise your files and retrieve them pretty quickly (dependent on your internet connection). This makes sharing files a breeze too, especially as most people have Google accounts, and allowing you easily to save email attachments to Drive from Gmail and other email apps (my personal favourite being Outlook) for later consumption from anywhere.
A standard free account gives you 15 GB of Drive storage to play with which is ample to get you hooked on the service, especially if you take advantage of Google Docs and Google Photos which take up no extra space. More on Photos later. Cross-app functionality is great too, with Smartsheets, another favourite of mine, even giving workshops this very week on how to work smarter with Google Doc integration. Working exclusively on Google Docs is a real possibility, and the cloud-based Sheets, although many would argue is not an Excel replacement, is increasingly feature-rich with new iterations and functionality appearing with some regularity. Docs and Slides are ample lite versions of the corresponding Office Word and Powerpoint, but not really built for power users – although the convenience of sharing and collaborating via Google Drive is highly alluring, especially when all edits can be clearly seen. Great for transparency and project management.
The Google Drive iOS app (I cannot speak for other mobile platforms as am an Apple Chap) is a winner, and offers great flexibility as to how much you want to have access to offline and also for sharing. The desktop OS X app is also handy although I have noticed overall performance issues with it running in the background. As with OneDrive and Dropbox you can choose which folders are synced on your laptop too, so that your entire cloud-life doesn’t clog up your machine on earth.
Since Google launched Photos as a spin-off from Plus, I adore it. You can search for sunset and the app knows, without your tagging, what to serve up. It groups pictures of the same person together through facial recognition. You can upload full quality or, if you aren’t too precious about file size and want to preserve your Drive storage, you can upload a reduced file size of photo or video without a digital footprint. Albums can be shared privately, posted on social media or left open for collaboration. And from time to time Google will surprise you with what they used to call Auto Awesome, i.e. a video they created from a day trip, an automatic slideshow with music, but generally it is a pleasant surprise. And saves you the hassle of getting all creative.
Last year Google slashed Drive monthly subscriptions which prompted me to opt for 1 TB. I use it a lot and have around 200 GB “up in the air” right now. So what has prompted me to look around at other options when I am so happy? Keep your eyes on the blog to find out in the next chapter….
Image courtesy of Martha Dominguez via Stocksnap.io