Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Storage costs soar on launch of Google Drive

The launch of Google Drive brought a great deal of excitement for many Google account users. It certainly provides stiff competition for Apple's cloud storage, Microsoft's Skydrive and smaller startups like Dropbox. But there are two major drawbacks that soured the razzmatazz surrounding Tuesday's launch.

Left waiting

Many people excitedly navigating to the Google Drive website found a message waiting for them that their drive was not yet available for them personally and were encouraged to show their interest. Many Android owners using Google Docs found their app updated with a new icon, but essentially little changed other than a change of logo, and slightly increased functionality.

Increased costs

The biggest drawback for some, when they are finally offered their Google Drive, will be the pricing. Google is offering 5Gb to users for free, a fivefold increase on what users previously had with Google Docs. But while this is generous in itself, those wanting to use more space now have to pay monthly and significantly more than before. Until now Google charged only $5 per year [£3.10 / €3.80] for an extra 20Gb of data storage. Now, with the launch of Google Drive, prices have increased to $2.49 per month [£1.55 / €1.90], or $29.88 per year for 25Gb [£18.50 / €22.60]. While thirty dollars is not a huge amount to pay it equates to a more than 500% increase in storage fees. The good news is that for those who already have storage plans may stay on them at the old prices, though any default in payment will result in the user being forced to take up a new plan.

Competitive pricing

While some may gripe at the price increases they are still way below some of Google's competitors. Dropbox, for example offers only 2Gb of space for free and charges $20 per month [£12.40 / €15.15] or $200 annually for 100Gb [£123.90 / €151.65]. Google offer 100Gb for only $5 per month or $60 per year [£37.20 / €45.50]. Apple's iCloud, which is confined to Apple devices, offers the same amount of free storage that Google are giving away but charge $100 per year [£62.00 / €75.80] for an additional 50Gb of space. Microsoft offers 7Gb of storage space for free, a drop from the 25Gb users had before the beginning of this week, though users who have previously used the service will retain their original allowance. Their data charges are in line with Apple at some $50 per year for 100Gb [£31.00 / €38.00].

Unclear advantages

It is, as yet, not entirely clear what big advantages there would be for someone to shift from Apple's iCloud to Google Drive, to take flight from Skydrive or drop Dropbox. There is certainly a cost factor, though this is not that weighty an issue. Google promise easier uploading, and even prior to Google Drive's launch whole folders could be uploaded to Google Docs rather than individual files. With Skydrive, rather than simply uploading a folder containing 50 photos files have to be uploaded separately into previously created folders in the cloud. Where Google does have a potential advantage is through search. The company promises to facilitate the searching of a user's pictures, documents and other files with the aid of facial recognition and OCR, or optical character recognition, making it potentially possible for scanned copies of text document be quickly found.


Where Google can improve is on the interface and organising of files and folders. Google account holders have been able to store any type of file or document in Google Docs for several years, and share the same with others. In what Google have announced concerning their latest venture appears to be, on the face of it, no different.

For example a better interface with a proper tree-like structure, perhaps replicating the way files and folders are organised on one's own computer would be far more user friendly. Currently, whether using either PicasaWeb or the Albums view in Google+, trying to find picture files is clumsy, especially if one has dozens or hundreds of folders. In fact the integration of Picasa into Google+ made sharing more difficult in some ways, especially for the downloading of a whole folder by the recipient.

Just like Dropbox, Google Drive allows syncing of files such that changes in one place occur everywhere. Google has already facilitated syncing with pictures and captioning for photos uploaded to PicasaWeb, but now anything uploaded to the Drive will be kept in sync.

It remains to be seen if changes will draw more people in or put some users off. Of course the biggest drawback at present is not whether its better or cheaper than the competition, but whether one can even access it. Apple users will have to wait a while to get their hands on the apps, and many thousands will have to wait for Google Drive to made available to them. For years people have been asking "when will Google Drive launch?" Now, after its launch, people are still asking a similar question, "when will I get to use it?"

[Reports: BBC / CNN / Telegraph / Guardian / Daily Mail / CNET / PCWorld / ZDNet // Videos: Google / CNET]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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