Remember the chatter about Google’s rumored “G-Drive”, the company’s supposed push into the online backup space? The G-Drive itself hasn’t materialized, but Google has made the first steps in that direction with an update to Google Docs & Spreadsheets (docs.google.com) that allows users to upload files of all types (music, photos, video), not only office files. It’s free, offers cheap storage upgrade options, and is easy to use, but the absence of a file syncing feature keeps it from competing with the big boys.
To access the Google uploader, you sign into Google Docs & Spreadsheets as you normally would. Once inside, you’ll notice an “Upload” button next to the “Create New” drop-down box in the left-hand side of the screen. Clicking it takes you to the file upload page where you’ll see how much of the 1GB of file space that’s available (you can upload a file up to 1GB in size; files converted into Google Doc have smaller, undisclosed limits).
Clicking the “Select Files To Upload” button lets you select files from your hard drive. It initially appears that you can only pick one file at a time, but you can choose multiple files if once if you hold “Ctrl” and click on the files that you want to send to Google Docs & Spreadsheets. You have the option of checking a box that lets you convert documents, presentations, and spreadsheets into their Google Docs & Spreadsheets equivalents (the benefit of doing so is that they can be edited online). Next, you pick the destination folder where the files will be stored from a drop-down box, and click “Start Upload.”
In our tests, we uploaded a photo file (14.1KB JPG), an audio file (11.8MB WMA), and two video files (16.6MB MP4, 53.4MB M4V) to Google Docs & Spreadsheets in just under 10 minutes. When we returned to the Google Docs & Spreadsheets main page, we clicked the 53.4MB video file and the service began a virus scan as it would with any office file. This time, however, we received a message saying that the file was too big to be scanned (the other 3 files were scanned without a problem). Google also offers a variety of sharing options including the ability to invite people to check out the file, e-mail it as an attachment, or get the link to share with others.
Google vs Dropbox
We couldn’t help but compare Google’s file uploader to Dropbox (www.dropbox.com), a file backup and syncing program that’s available for Linux, Mac, and Windows PCs. The service offers 2GB of free storage, but is far more expensive than Google if you go beyond that. Dropbox charges $9.99 per month for 50GB, and $19.99 per month for 100GB–there are no incremental amounts. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, on the other hand, demands an incredibly low 25 cents per GB per year for extra storage. This allows you to purchase the exact amount of extra storage that you want. Should you want to match Dropbox’s 50GB and 100GB offerings, it will cost a wallet-friendly $12.50 and $25.00, respectively.
Despite its higher price tag, Dropbox is a much better solution for users with multiple computers. Unlike Google, which forces you to upload and download files manually, Dropbox takes the contents of a special folder on your hard drive and syncs them with the Web and any other computers you have automatically. Every time you start up one of your computers, it downloads the latest versions of your files from Dropbox’s servers and populates your local Dropbox folder with them.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets’ new ability to store any form of data is quite useful, as it gives users the chance to save and access their content from virtually any web-connected device. We prefer the simplicity of Dropbox (and its ability to sync data across multiple notebooks and operating systems), but Google Docs & Spreadsheets offers a fluid (and dirt-cheap) capacity upgrade scheme for those that desire a specific amount of storage and the ability to share individual files.