Google Drive is now one of those Google products that could potentially be of great value to small business… but it’s not really implemented in a way that would provide maximum usefulness to a business.
Google Drive is designed to be like Drop Box. You install a small client piece onto a computer, and then anything saved into its folder is quickly replicated to Google’s servers. From there it can be accessed via a web-browser, for remote document access, or even synced to the user’s home (or other) computer. Documents stored on Google Drive have versioning turned on as well, so you can easily access an earlier version of the document if you need to. In short, Google Drive can function as both an online backup system and a remote-access service. Not only that, but you can share documents with others, allowing them to read or even edit those documents, remotely. And the pricing structure is reasonable too. You can get small amounts of space for even $3.00 / mo. 200Gb only costs you $14.95/mo. That’s a decent amount of storage for a very small price-tag.
Security is… well, it’s as strong as your credentials. If you don’t share your username/password with others; if you don’t use easy-to-guess passwords, then the data is not accessible by the bad guys… unless, of course, they work for Google. Google’s servers, applications and ergo their system admins can technically get into your data and read your proprietary data. Their Privacy Policies say they won’t, but you ultimately have to trust them not to poke around in your data, or not be worried if they do. And if access to your data is subpoenaed, they can and will give it to the courts. So you have to be okay with that. If you’re not, this is certainly not for you.
But there are some other things about it that make it significantly less valuable to a small business, at least in my opinion. For one thing, the data must be housed in a \GoogleDrive folder substructure. You can point it at whatever base folder you like, but it will create a \GoogleDrive folder for its own use. That seriously limits some of the innate utility of the service, like using it to back up all your documents online. For many small businesses, 200Gb is plenty, and you can get more if you need it. But what difference does it make to Google whether I’m pointing it to C:\SharedDocs\GoogleDrive or pointing it to C:\SharedDocs? If the customers are paying for the data storage, they should be able to have it copy whatever data they want copied, right?
And then there’s the fact that it won’t run on a Windows Server OS. One of my clients has about 100Gb of data on his server’s data volume. He would like to have access to that data when he’s not in the office, and be able to allow some of his staff to access it remotely as well. We thought Google Drive might be a solution for him. But since we can’t run it on the server, we’re not really able to get this to work for him. Not only that, but when we try to run it from his workstation (WinXP SP3), and point it at the server shared drive, the client crashes. So it doesn’t work at all. I don’t know whether this would be more stable in Windows 7, but even so, he would have to leave his workstation on all the time, because we can’t run it directly on the server anyway.
So in summary, Google Drive has it’s place, but for many small businesses, it’s another almost-really-useful product by Google.