Google has finally taken the lid off of the long-rumoured Google Drive, giving you another option for stashing your stuff in the cloud. But what is it, exactly?
The Dropbox-dominated cloud storage space has become increasingly crowded. Microsoft's SkyDrive, Apple's iCloud, Evernote, and Box are all contending for your content. But Google Drive might just stand out from the pack.
Essentially, it's a beefed-up version of Google Docs. You can store your documents, photos, music, videos, etc. all in one place. It syncs with your mobile devices and your computer, so if you make a change from one gadget, it will automatically show up if you were to access it elsewhere. It relies heavily on Google search, with image recognition for browsing your photos and some OCR capabilities for sniffing out text in pictures.
You can get up to 5GB of space for free, after which it starts at £3/month for 20GB.
You'll be able to open things you saved in Google Drive using other services—it can handle 30 different types of files. So for example, if you squirreled away a music file, you could listen to it later on iTunes or whatever player you please. Drive also pretty much does away with email attachments, which makes sharing a lot easier. If you wanted to show a friend a video of your holiday, you could just pass them a link to that file, rather than adding it to a clunky message. You wouldn't have to upload it to a message and your friend wouldn't have to wait around to download a big file.
Though Apple's iCloud only caters to iOS users, the Google counterpart is open to all platforms. It's easily accessible from a wide variety of devices, like Android tablets and phones, as well as the iPad and the iPhone (though only through a web browser at the moment). Apps for Android, Mac, and the PC dropped today, and an iOS version is coming in the next few weeks.
With 45 million users, Dropbox has been the leader when it comes to cloud storage. However, it only gives you 2GB for free, and chances are you already subscribe to one, if not more, of Google's services. So when people are deciding on a destination for their data, they'll turn to Drive by default, rather than signing up for an outside service, especially if they're one of the millions already using Gmail, for example. And for most people, 5GB is pretty sufficient, meaning they're going to stick with Google.