Want an app where you can access all your files and edit them too? Welcome to Google Drive. With more than 240 million active users a month, Drive is like cloud storage space Dropbox and productivity suite Microsoft Office rolled into one.
Google first launched its public online storage to the public (in what is known as beta format) in 2009 with a set of free tools known as Google Docs that could be used within the Drive: Docs being its equivalent of Word; Sheets its very own Excel; and Slides its PowerPoint-style program.
It was overhauled as Google Drive in 2012, dumping the Google Docs name and creating a cohesive hub for them. With the rebrand of Google Drive has come some confusion, however.
While on a browser Drive provides edit access to the full Google “software as a service” suite, it’s not quite the same experience on mobile. On your smartphone, Google Drive the app only opens a window to the cloud storage platform.
If you want to edit files on a phone, you’ll need to separately download the Docs, Sheets and Slides apps (all still free).
While it seems complicated, there’s a straightforward way to use the app suite. If you only need to access stored files, just have the Google Drive app on your phone. If you need to edit on the go, download the others.
If you find a file in Google Drive, it will automatically open into the correct tool for editing on your phone.
For instance, an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheets file will open into Sheets.
Any changes you make automatically update in the cloud, and on all other devices you have connected to the drive.
You can upload any file to Drive directly from your device – images, videos, audio and downloads. Files stored on iCloud Drive or Dropbox can also be uploaded.
The suite also contains Google Forms for surveys, Google Drawings for diagramming and Google Fusion Tables for database management, but none of these is available as mobile apps.
Google Drive scores 4.5 out of 5 from a solid base of one million votes in the Play store. It’s a vote of confidence for a good reason – this is a seriously handy set of apps to keep on your phone for quick access to budget sheets, presentations and the like.
q&a security and storage too
Suzanne Locke expands on the uses of the app Google Drive:
What about storage and file sizes?
Google gives each user 15GB of online storage space, but this is shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos. No one file can be more than 5TB – but Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings files and files shared with you do not count towards your limit. Users can upgrade to a paid monthly subscription plan for more storage. 100GB costs US$1.99, 1TB $9.99, 10TB $99.99, 20TB $199.99 and 30TB $299.99.
Is there an enterprise version?
PwC, the Roche Group, Virgin and Motorola use Google’s enterprise solution, Google Apps For Work. A basic product costs from $5 per user per month and gives 30GB storage and access to Calendar, Docs, Sheets and Slides. The premium version gives unlimited storage, although for small organisations storage is capped at 1TB per user. Google says 5 million businesses have signed up.
How safe is it from hacking?
Google states it does not own the customer’s data and does not share it. Files uploaded to Google Drive are encrypted and spam blockers are integrated. There have been security issues with Google Docs and with Gmail passwords, but there have also been security upgrades: two-factor authentication can be used and, on Ios, you can use a separate password for Google Docs. You can set the amount of data the app caches, enable or disable encryption of offline documents and set the device to only upload or update files over Wi-Fi.
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