Google last week announced its long-awaited Google Drive, which lets you store files on it servers, sync them to other PCs or Macs, and open them on Android devices and — soon — on iPhones and iPads.
It’s similar to services such as Dropbox, SugarSync and Trend Micro’s SafeSync, but it’s also integrated into what used to be called Google Docs, which makes Google Drive a hybrid between a cloud storage service and a cloud computing platform.
While other services mostly store your files, Google Drive — with some file types — also allows you to view and edit them because of the Google Docs integration. Google Docs was Google’s Web-based computing platform for creating, editing, storing and sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms.
This integration can lead to a bit of confusion. To the extent that Google provides cloud-based software for such tasks as word processing and spreadsheets, it’s actually functioning as a remote computer. But when it’s just storing files you create on your PC, it’s acting as a network storage device.
Just as with Dropbox and most competing products, Google Drive’s installation software creates a folder on your machine’s hard drive called Google Drive, and any files that you store in that folder are synced to Google’s servers. If you have Google Drive on more than one computer, the files are synced to that machine too.
To test it out, I started writing today’s column using Microsoft Word on my Mac. I saved the Word file to Google Drive and then walked over to my Windows PC where the file was already waiting for me in that machine’s Google Drive folder.
I then walked over to my wife’s PC, which doesn’t have Google Drive software installed, and accessed the file by logging into the Google Drive website. I was immediately able to read the file. But to make changes, I needed to either export it into a Google document or download it to her PC to open with Microsoft Word. Either way, I had immediate access to the file, but the process was far from seamless because now I had two files — the original Word file and the Google document that I had just edited.