April 25, 2012
Google Unveils Free 5GB Cloud Storage Service
Google launched its much-anticipated ℠Google Drive´ cloud storage service on Tuesday, which offers users the ability to store 5 gigabytes of information on the company´s servers free of charge.
Google account holders who sign up for the service would be able to store their personal documents, photos, videos and other digital files on Google´s vast bank of data servers, and access their data from smartphones, tablet computers, laptops and nearly any other Internet-connected device.
Users can sign up for the free service at drive.google.com. Those wanting additional storage space can upgrade to a 25GB plan for $2.49 per month, 100GB for $4.99 per month, 200GB for $9.99 per month or 16 terabyte plan for $799.99 per month. Google will also offer business plans with a different pricing structure and around-the-clock technical support, ABC News reported.
"The best way to understand Google Drive is to look at it as an evolution of letting people work successfully in the cloud. We have focused a lot on collaboration with Google Docs and we are doing the same thing now with Google Drive," said Google Drive's product manager, Scott Johnston, during an interview with ABC News.
Google Drive´s software will work for Mac or Windows computers, as well as smartphones and tablet devices powered by Google´s Android software. Once the software has been downloaded, users can drag their files into the Google Drive folders and they will automatically be uploaded to Google Drive.
A version tailored for Apple´s mobile devices will be released soon, said Sundar Pichai, Google´s vice president for Chrome and Apps.
"We want to make sure that all our users' data are available wherever they are," he said during a conference call with reporters.
"Google Drive is something we see as central to the online experience at Google.”
"The model is really designed at the core to help people live their lives in the cloud.”
Deleting Google Drive data from any single device deletes it from all. The service also allows scanned letters to be saved and Fax messages to be sent or received.
The service was designed with Google Docs as its online text program to provide an integral, easy-to-use way to create and collaborate on documents, Google said.
Pichai said Google drew on its search expertise to provide tools for users to quickly find files in their Drive accounts. For instance, Google´s technology that power searches using images instead of key words is included in Drive.
Autodesk and other third-party program developers have worked with Google to allow people to use their software in Drive accounts, allowing teams to collaborate online.
"We have only shared it with a few developers so far," Pichai told the AFP news agency.
"Over time, we want Drive to be thought of as a place where you can create anything and collaborate with anyone; and the devices or apps are up to you."
Although Google had been talking about a service like Google Drive for years, the skyrocketing growth of smartphones and tablets, along with the growing popularity of services like Gmail and YouTube hosted in the Internet cloud, made this the right time to launch Google Drive, company executives said.
"This is a natural progression," said Pichai.
"We are moving to a post-PC (personal computer) era where this is the cloud at work. Pretty soon you will be able to open a file from anywhere in Google Drive."
Within hours of launching the new service, Google fell under scrutiny by some in the wider tech community for Drive´s terms of service, CNET reported.
“What may hold back uptake [of Google Drive] is that as per the terms and conditions of using the product, the files you upload to the Google Drive product undergoes a rights transition,” said Ed Rhee of CNET,
However, Rhee also notes that the terms of service may simply be a precautionary measure to help protect Google from lawsuits, and will likely never be an issue with most users.
A review of Google Drive´s terms of service shows that Google does indeed claim to have license to the files users upload the instant they are submitted.
"Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content,” read Google´s terms of service.
“The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps)."
The last sentence implies there may not be a definitive boundary that keeps Google from using the files uploaded to Google Drive, CNET said.
By comparison, Dropbox and Microsoft´s SkyDrive -- the two largest online storage services on the Web -- allow users to retain their copyright and IP rights to any work uploaded to their services.
Dropbox´s terms of service says that users “retain full ownership to your stuff. We don't claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below."
Microsoft's SkyDrive terms of service state that: “Except for material that we license to you, we don't claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don't control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service."
Brad McCarty of The Next Web says the concerns over Google´s terms of service are overblown, since Google Drive is simply functioning as a storage locker, and isn't the type of service where work is displayed.
“We have to first look at what Google Drive is – a file locker, with a heavy focus on documents. Now what does it allow you to do? It lets you take your files with you, and access them anywhere that you have an Internet connection. Unless you specifically grant Google the right to host, store, use and reproduce those documents, it wouldn´t be able to do that,” he said.
“Google does a lot of work in making sure that you are actually you (you´ve noticed the IP logging in Gmail, no doubt), but the company understands that you´re going to want access to your files no matter where you are. If you don´t grant the company permission to do a public display and distribution, it becomes quite unsolid ground for Google and the company could find itself on the wrong end of another lawsuit by simply doing what you think it should do,” he wrote.
Google´s terms of services are “simply telling you that, if you want to operate Drive in the manner that you probably think it should work, then it needs a load of permissions in order to make that happen,” he said.
“Any time that you give a company permission to use your content, you run a risk. Here it would appear that the risk is minimal, but it´s up to you to decide whether you feel comfortable with the terms or not.”