June 12, 2012

Google Drive: Online Office Suite

Did you know that you store a lot of your personal and official information on a cloud? Where do you think all the attachments in your web mail accounts are stored? However, when it comes to consciously storing data and accessing it, most of us prefer a USB flash drive or, if the data is sizeable, a portable hard disk drive (HDD). Now, Google Drive aims to change this since it is not just a warehouse, but also offers a bunch of applications.

An office suite 

At first glance, Google Drive seems just another storage service; all you see is a series of files that you would want to share. However, when you visit the Google Drive website ( drive.google.com), you will also see a 'create' option, which lets you use Google's online office suite, Google Docs. This allows you to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, drawings, even presentations, providing you with an online office suite. It's almost like having a computer in your browser.

To use Google Drive, all you need is a Google ID. If you have a Gmail account, it will suffice. You can also download the Google Drive app on your computer, be it a PC or a Mac, as well as Android phone and tablet. Though you can create and edit documents through the app on your Android phone, this facility isn't available offline if the app is downloaded on to your computer.

Google Drive offers 5 GB of storage for free. If you need more, you will have to shell out a monthly fee, which starts at $2.49 (Rs 137) a month for 25 GB, and goes up to $800 (Rs 44,000) a month for 16 TB. Upgrading to a paid account will also expand the storage of your Gmail account and Picasa web albums as the storage is shared among these.

Share and sync 

The search feature is very good as you can hunt not just for document names but also terms used in them and, in a neat touch, even for words used in scanned documents. In fact, you can upload PDFs and scanned documents and Google Drive will translate them into Google Docs using optical character recognition. However, this aspect requires some fine-tuning. Google Drive keeps most of Google Docs' sharing options intact. So you can share documents and files from Google Drive either by sending them as attachments or simply by sharing links.

This is where we discovered another impressive feature of Google Drive. If you share a document with someone else, they will be able to view it even if they do not have the software you used to create it. For instance, if you share an image you created using Photoshop, it can be seen by recipients even if they do not have Photoshop. What's more, they will be able to comment on it.

The best part is that all the files you store on your Google Drive will be synchronised automatically across different devices, allowing you to access the same files from different computers, phones and tablets. You can even see live updates of changes made by you or anyone you have shared a file with. All you need is an Internet connection, so you don't have to worry about carrying your pen drive.

Is it RIP, thumb drive? 

Does the plethora of sky drives mean that it's time to ditch the traditional thumb drive? If you don't carry loads of data, and your portable needs are less than 5 GB, Google Drive is suitable for you. However, if you have high storage needs, this can prove to be an expensive proposition. Even at the lowest subscription of $2.49 a month, you will end up paying about Rs 1,650 for using 25 GB for a year, which is more than the cost of most 32 GB flash drives. Another problem is that network access is erratic in many places in the country. If you do manage to get hooked up, the speed could be very slow and downloading or uploading large files could take hours. 

A good option is to upload important or frequently used files to Google Drive and store the ones that are rarely used on an HDD. This will save you the effort of having to plug a thumb drive in and out of multiple USB ports in computers. Another advantage is that unlike a thumb drive, cloud storage won't get damaged or become unreadable, which minimises the chances of losing valuable data.

Courtesy: Tech Gig

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