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When you need a cloud storage service, you need precisely that: storage. Unfortunately, this seems to a point lost on many of the services available today. Google Drive is one of the few exceptions, offering generous storage and a whole lot more.

It’s no secret that Google essentially owns the internet. It makes sense, then, that the industry giant would offer one of the best cloud storage services, free or paid.

It’s evident that a lot of thought went into crafting Google Drive, so let’s unpack its many features to give you a better idea of what makes this storage option such a great one.

What Is Google Drive?

At its core, Google Drive is a storage app based on the cloud. Right out of the gate, you get 15GB of free storage – more than what most of the competition offers. What’s more, you can store, create, edit, and share documents without ever paying a dime.

Collaboration is another major factor in choosing Google Drive. Individual users can select any folder for backup, while businesses can backup and share files among their employees.

So instead of duplicating various types of documents and taking up unnecessary storage space on company computers, you can use Google Drive to share a single file among multiple people.

The potential benefits are seemingly endless, both for consumers and businesses. And if you need more than the 15BG offered in the free plan, Google has paid subscription plans that give you substantially more cloud storage space.

Ease of Use

Back in the day, file sharing was a laborious affair. Most people either forget how far we’ve come or weren’t around back then to appreciate how far we’ve come. With just a few clicks, you can share files with whomever you please.

And unlike the days of old, you’re not limited in the size of the file you share. Thanks to the conveniences of Google Drive, you can upload and share files of virtually any size and type. And that’s just the beginning of Google Drive’s ease-of-use.

As with all of Google’s applications, you can look forward to a slick user interface that’s a breeze to learn and operate. And if you’re one of the 1.5 billion Gmail users, you’ll feel right at home with Google Drive.

Once you’re in the app, managing the files you’ve saved and uploaded is painless and straightforward. It isn’t much different from most operating systems, as you can create folders, drag and drop files, and things of that nature.

Even better, you’re not limited to dragging and dropping files within Google Drive. On the contrary, you can simply drag a file from your computer directly into Drive to quickly and effortlessly copy it over.

It’s this kind of accessibility that makes Google Drive such a home run. Whereas other apps tend to be quirky and cumbersome, everything just flows with Drive. This user-friendliness carries over the mobile app, as well.

That’s right; if you need to access your files on-the-go, you can download the Google Drive app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.

Google has continually improved Drive’s online design over the years, making it more intuitive than ever. From the main page, you’ll see thumbnails of your documents in the center of the screen. Along the left side is a menu that includes:

  • Shared with me
  • My Drive
  • Starred
  • Recent
  • Trash

On the right side are buttons for your calendar, Keep Notes, Tasks, and any additional Add-ons you’ve downloaded. You’ll also find buttons for changing the view of your files between grid and list, as well as details, settings, and help.

When you right-click on any of your files, you get a full drop-down menu that’s loaded with options, unlike other web pages that only bring up the standard fare, such as back, forward, reload, save as, etc.

Until fairly recently, Google used to call folders “labels.” Not only was this confusing to newcomers, but it was unlike any other system. Fortunately, Google has fallen in line with the norm and now calls folders “folders.”

Creating things is one of Drive’s strong suits, allowing you to manage the standard fare, such as Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. But then there are also Google Drawings, Google Maps, Google Forms, and even the ability to implement web apps for music or CAD files, for example.

Google offers a litany of Google Drive Apps for you to fortify your cloud storage experience. After selecting “Get Add-ons,” you’re presenting with a pop-up that lists the top apps. From there, you can search specific terms to bring up even more options.

When you need to check out your documents, you can do so under three different modes. “Editing” does just that, allowing you to make changes; “Suggesting” shows you any changes your fellow collaborators have made, and “Viewing” gives you an overview of the document after all changes have been made.

As the document owner, you have the authority to accept any and all changes made by collaborators. What’s more, you can see who is working on your documents at the same time as you.

If there are several people working on the same document simultaneously, Google was forward-thinking enough to include color-coded sections. In doing so, you can readily see where each user is within the document.

It’s a minor yet highly-effective touch that adds incredible efficiency to Google Drive. But the benefits don’t end there. As you’ll see, features abound in Drive, giving users one of the most versatile cloud storage solutions available today.

Interface

You either love or hate Google’s proprietary interface. If you are a staunch Apple user, you might feel a bit lost with Google Drive at first. But as we mentioned earlier, if you are a regular Gmail user, you likely won’t miss a beat.

Since we’ve had substantial experience using Google systems, Drive was a walk in the park. That’s not to say that it’s perfect; we just don’t have any qualms about using it. If you’re a newcomer to the Google platform, stick with it.

We assure you that it gets easier quickly. In a business capacity, employees and teams will likely get acclimated in no time.

On the outside, Google Drive looks a little plain, if not downright boring. There’s nothing that jumps out at you, and it could probably use some character. In the Settings section, you’re severely limited in what you can do with your Drive.

This is a shame if you’re into deep personalization. But alas, that’s nowhere to be found in Drive. But that’s where much of its charm comes from. The simplicity on the surface covers a wealth of robust options underneath.

Frankly, we appreciate that Google eliminated convoluted menus and options. But we do miss not having the ability to spruce things up a bit. Mobile app users get a Dark Mode option, while PC users are, well, left in the dark.

Fortunately, you can find a sensible workaround for this in Night Eye, one of the many apps available in the Play Store. It should be noted that this app works with (almost) all other web pages, not just Google Drive.

Light or Dark Modes aside, Google Drive may look simple and unassuming on the outside, but it’s incredibly deep on the inside. Play around with it for a bit, and you’ll find yourself taking advantage of its many features.

Google Drive Pricing Overview

If you want to upgrade your Google Drive account, you’ll have to do so through Google One. As you have probably already concluded, there are a lot of “Googles” to remember – Google Docs, Google Play, Google Drawing, Google Drive, and now, Google One.

Google One is simply Google’s subscription service, where you can choose which plan best fits your needs. As we’ve already covered, the Free plan gives you 15GB of storage and doesn’t cost you anything. After that, you have a few storage spaces to choose from.

The next option from there is 100GB. You can choose to pay for this data by the month or annually. The monthly fee is $1.99, while the annual package costs just $19.99. Both options are reasonably priced, and 100GB is a pretty substantial amount of storage.

If you require even more storage, you can double that with the next plan. With similar payment options as above, $2.99 a month gets you 200GB of storage. Or, you can just pay $29.99 a year and be done with it.

If 200GB still isn’t getting it for you, Google’s last and most comprehensive plan gives you 2TB of storage for $9.99 a month. Conversely, you can pay $99.99 and get it for a full year.

A nice bonus that comes with the latter two plans is store credit on Google’s Store. The 200GB plan gives you 3% store credit on your purchases, while the 2TB plan gives you 10%.

Other perks include access to Google experts and the option to add family members. And if you have an Android smartphone, the 2TB plan gives you a VPN. Not a bad little bundle.

Security and Privacy

One of the biggest complaints about Google Drive is its security. It’s kind of hard to knock Google for this, as anything online-based is going to be susceptible to attacks to some degree. And if you just give it time, someone’s always trying to find a way to exploit online security measures.

That said, you’ll be happy to know that Google Drive stores and transfers every single one of your files in a format that’s encrypted. However, it’s not end-to-end encryption. If it were, Google’s techs would be able to access your files. While this should never be a concern, they could if law enforcement compelled them to.

Besides, Google’s track record for securing files is pretty good. And when you use advanced security measures like two-factor authentication, it’s going to be tough for even cyber-geniuses to breach your account.

And if you’re using Google Drive’s business plans, you’ll have even more tools at your disposal to protect your files. For example, you can manage which employee has access to what, and you can monitor activity to see who’s doing what.

Moreover, you can choose to get custom alerts sent to you whenever certain events take place that interest you. It’s an excellent way to stay on top of your files when you have a team of employees accessing them.

Customer Support

With Google Drive, you get Help Center. This is Google’s comprehensive support platform for most of your needs. There, you will find a wealth of information covering just about anything you can think of.

Help Center is ideal for software-related issues. But if you need support for other matters, Google’s robust Help Community has you covered. It’s truly amazing the level of support found there.

Users from all over converge in the Help Community to assist with anything and everything. But just in case they get stumped with a unique issue that hasn’t already been addressed and solved, you can always use Google’s live chat or email support.

Both are available 24/7 and are pretty quick at getting back to you. Tech support is particularly snappy and a world of help when you need it. If you’re a G Suite customer, you automatically get phone support added to your list of support options.

If you want the absolute best support that Google has to offer, you can pay $25 a month for an Enterprise plan. With this, a designated Google Advisor is assigned to you. And if your business runs into a critical issue, you can look forward to a target response time of just one hour.

Pros

  • Robust platform for sharing and creating
  • Plenty of customer support options
  • Generous 15GB of free storage
  • Simple yet rich user interface
  • Lots of add-ons and apps
  • Great pricing structure

Cons

  • Possibly more security features

Alternatives

Microsoft’s OneDrive is easily the biggest competition to Google Drive. If you’re an avid Windows user, OneDrive may very well be the better choice. But be warned, you only get 5GB of cloud storage with OneDrive.

Still, for those who need seamless Windows integration, the loss of storage space is worth it. What’s more, OneDrive has a 365 Family Plan that gives you 6TB of storage for $9.99 a month – the same price as Google Drive’s 2TB plan.

If you’re not a fan of Google for any reason and want to break free from the Google machine, OneDrive is a viable alternative that is worthy of your attention.

Conclusion

It’s tough to find anything negative to say about Google Drive. It just offers so much for so little. The casual user will have a hard time filling up the free 15GB, but there’s always plenty of extra cloud storage should you need it.

And best of all, it won’t set you back much. Plus, you get a veritable boatload of features and add-ons, all in a neatly-designed user interface.

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Anthony Cornell

Anthony Cornell is a freelance technology journalist. He reviews educational software and writes in-depth online course reviews from popular e-learning platforms. You can reach Anthony at anthony@learnacourseonline.com

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