Friday Thought: Google Drive – Yield Before Your Leap

Google (finally) announced and began releasing Google Drive.  For those not in the know, Google Drive is cloud storage available as a stand-alone service or as a component of Google Apps.  The stand-alone version included 5GB of storage for free with affordable plans for more space — a direct competitive threat to services like Dropbox and Box.  Both versions include sync clients for PCs, MACs, and iPhone/iPad that give you standard desktop/folder access to your data in the cloud.

Google Drive for Business

Google Drive for Business is a new component to Google Apps for Business that will roll out to customers over the next several weeks.  While the business version shares the device sync tool with the consumer version, it offers much more to the business customer:

  • Control over which users can use the service and which users can download and use the sync clients.
  • Control over which, if any, users can purchase additional storage independently
  • The ability to centrally purchase storage and allocate storage to users as needed

Benefits

  • You can now more easily use and integrate Google Docs as your file service; users can more easily collaborate and share information.
  • Users can work locally using their current desktop applications and files will be saved and shared in their Google Docs folders.
  • Users can have secure access to files from computers, tablets, and smart phones without the overhead of a VPN service.
  • Storage for uploaded or sync’d files in “native” formats has increased to 5 GB per user.

Challenges

  • Unlike an on-premise file server, Google Drive does not lock open files.  While you have version tracking, if two individuals are locally editing the same file, the most recent copy to sync will be the current version.
  • Users may quickly fill up their 5GB of space; additional storage is affordable.
  • Because sharing is easy, businesses should have policies and processes in place to oversee and manage permissions.

Deployment Strategy

In our experience, your Google Drive deployment strategy will focus on how you decide to manage your storage.  While nice, 5 GB per user will not be sufficient for most businesses, particularly since the space is user-specific.  Adding space is affordable, and will be necessary.

When you add space to Google Docs and Drives, you are actually subscribing to the additional space on a per user basis.  Licenses range in size from 20 GB to 16 TB at a monthly cost of $0.10 per GB or less (with no bandwidth and get/put charges).  While this strategy works, it will require monitoring space usage on a per user basis.

Another approach is to add a user account to serve as your file service.  In doing so, you purchase additional storage only for this “user” and configure the space along the lines of a traditional file server.  You have the freedom to create and share your top level folders and folder trees, and users will be able to see the file service as “Shared with Me”.  Users can then move folders to “My Drive” if they want the information available locally on their PC or Mac.

A central storage strategy also enables additional storage management options.  Tools like CloudLock Vault — a tool to monitor permissions and create tamper-proof and protected folders — run best when the space is owned by a generic file service administration account.

Alternatives

Almost always, there is more than one option.  As an alternative to Google Drive, tools like SyncDocs provide the ability to sync Google Docs (with or without extra storage) to a local file structure.  In some ways, SyncDocs offers a better user experience.  SyncDocs has more options with respect to folder location, the ability to select which Google Doc folders to sync locally, and the ability to specify conversion preferences.

When looking at Google Drive and its alternatives, we recommend walking through a few use cases to see which piece of software best meets your needs.

Conclusion

Google Drive, combined with Google Docs and additional space, provides Google Apps users with more opportunity to simplify file services.  Moving file services to the cloud is a logical next step for many businesses, as it can further reduce and simplify your IT footprint well beyond replacing a file server.  The need for VPN and expensive remote access servers can be greatly reduced or eliminated.

If you want to learn more or join us for a demo, please let us know.

 

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