Google Drive has long been rumoured and never seen, but that could all change in a few days. If done right, Google Drive could be huge. According to leaked screenshots you’ll get 5GB for free, and at their current storage pricing you can get 80GB for $20/year compared to $100 a year for 50GB with Dropbox. If Google Drive can provide the same, simple, automatic syncing as Dropbox for $0.25/GB instead of $2/GB, they’re bound to do well. This appears to be only a catchup move rather than a game-changing one like Gmail, but if they can provide a better overall experience there’s no reason they can’t take a chunk of the market.
The biggest hole in the current market is a low cost solution to sync a large amount of data (like my 70GB of music). Dropbox is great for syncing smaller amounts, but it can be pricey. FolderShare used to be the perfect solution to sync my 70GB music collection because it used P2P to sync files between my computers and didn’t store anything in the cloud. Then Microsoft bought them and screwed the pooch big time, removing so much functionality that now it doesn’t even work behind a proxy. And to go from bad to worse, Microsoft announced they’re doing away with a P2P solution altogether because “it’s a hard problem to solve.” Instead they’ll store all your files in the cloud, which is exactly what FolderShare didn’t do and why it was so useful. It’s sad that the reason Microsoft doesn’t have a solution to the hard problem is because they bought the perfect one then broke it over their knee.
Most cloud services have gone with the all-cloud solution as storage gets cheaper, and that’s fine as long as the price is right. I’ve used most of them, including Sugarsync, SpiderOak, Wuala, Syncplicity and AeroFS, but they all have their quirks and limitations on things like bandwidth, file size or how many devices you can use for free. After the test runs, I’ve always returned to Dropbox as my primary service. I admit, having 21.5GB of free space doesn’t hurt (5GB in beta, plus referrals and a bonus 5GB for testing camera sync), but the reason they’re so popular is because Dropbox is simple. You get one folder that’s synced everywhere.
Syncing really is the key feature, not just online storage, because Google already has a free solution to store 70GB of music with Google Music, but it’s useless for keeping my collection in sync, or when a device is offline. The beauty of Dropbox is that you always have your files, even if the service goes down. Of course you can’t still sync your files, but at least you still have them. The unfortunate Megaupload users can appreciate that.
What about privacy?