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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cloud gets a new Drive

The much-talked about Google Drive is here. If you have a Gmail account, you can request your Drive to be activated by going to drive.google.com. It’s roughly the same as Dropbox, as a storage platform. But Drive has, obviously, many Google features embedded in it.

Drive is one place where you can create, share, collaborate and store documents, worksheets, presentations, tables, etc. That’s pretty much like Google Doc. It has all the features of Microsoft Office as well. So, whether it’s an official team project, or planning out a vacation with friends, Drive comes handy.

All files like videos, photos, music, Google Docs and PDFs can be uploaded to Drive and stored. You can instal Drive on desktops and mobile devices, and all can be synced. This means, the contents of the Drive are accessible anywhere, at any time. If you change a file on one device, it gets changed on all devices.

There are some clear advantages, like you don’t need to send attachments: a video can be put on Drive shared with others. Another is that Search works for scanned documents as well. For example, if you scan a hotel menu and put it up in the Drive, you can retrieve it later by searching for one of the items in the menu. Google is also working on enabling image recognition for search, so that you can, for example, retrieve a photos of Taj Mahal, even though the photo isn’t named so.

Sharing options can be controlled by the owner of the account. For increased security, there’s an option for 2-step verification. Once enabled, the account holder will have to not only key in the password but also a code that’s sent to his or her mobile phone. There’s some talk about privacy and IP issues, but the debate goes on.

Up to 5GB storage is free, which Google says is “enough to store the high-res photos of your trip to the Mt. Everest, scanned copies of your grandparents’ love letters or a career’s worth of business proposals, and still have space for the novel you’re working on”.

Interestingly there’s an India link to Drive -- the management tools, security features and billing systems were conceptualized and built by Google's engineering team in Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Is Google Drive the first of its kind? Well the concept is nothing new. It has existed for many years. Microsoft has a good a platform called Skydrive that’s quite similar to the Google product. Dropbox is a hugely popular one. For Apple fans, there is iCloud. In fact, Google Drive has entered a segment that is crowded. The advantage is its seamless integration of all Google products.

But then, storage is never a problem in India. With our poor broadband connectivity and very few public wi-fi hotspots, success of all cloud-based platforms depends solely on easy accessibility.

(This article appeared in Wireless World column of The Times of India, Bangalore, today)

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