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• Users can edit and create documents within Drive using Google Docs, which provides a suite of programs including a word processing program and a spreadsheet program.

• The real strength of Drive is its potential to provide deep integration with other Google programs and services such as gmail, Android, Google+ and even the photo website Picasa. Google also promises to open up Drive to third-party applications in the future.

• Google offers users 5GB of free storage, which is enough for most users to store a couple hundred documents and photos (as a benchmark, 2GB is usually good enough to store about 400 photos).

• An additional 25GB can be purchased for $2.50/month or 100GB of storage (which is equivalent in size to the typical hard drive on a five-year old computer) can be purchased for $5 a month.

Why Google Offers Drive

In many ways, Drive leverages Google’s core technical capabilities. The company runs massive server farms and is able provide large amounts of storage at low cost. Google also offers the ability to index and search any personal files stored in Drive. The company provides this service because it wants to persuade people to store their personal information on Google's servers. Over the long term, Google hopes this will help bind people to the company’s many applications and services.

Google recently changed its privacy policy to allow different Google applications to share information across the Google universe. Google promises, however, that no human will be able to see a user’s personal information stored on Drive. Unfortunately, website privacy statements tend to be written in pencil. The company could always change its mind in the future.

Wait for the day when some court somewhere in the world successfully subpoenas Google for some personal document that someone somewhere stored on Google Drive. That is the day you can watch every user’s personal privacy disappear. So just to be safe, don’t store anything in Drive or in any other cloud service that you would not be prepared to share with the world.


Potential Shortcomings of Google Drive

Most of the features of Drive operate as promised. There are, however, two potential shortcomings:

• Google provides a service within Drive that allows users to search and tag their images based on the content of the photograph. For example, you could search for ‘mountain’ and the service should be able to provide every image that has a mountain in the picture. This sounds like a neat way to characterize all your photographs. Unfortunately, this feature is a work-in-progress and at the moment it does not work well.

antique writing desk
Don’t expect Google Drive to be able to find this images like this antique writing desk by searching for the word ‘desk’.

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