Google Drive: Move beyond a mere Dropbox

Here's how to setup Google Drive for organization-wide file sharing.

Dropbox sets the current consumer standard for easy to use file synchronization. Install Dropbox on your work and home computer. Login to your Dropbox account on each computer and a file saved to the Dropbox folder on your home computer will be synced to Dropbox's servers, and then replicated to the work computer.

Think of Dropbox as a web-enabled flash drive. Dropbox provides locally installed applications with cloud-synced data storage. A Microsoft Word document saved to your Dropbox folder at home can be opened from your work computer's Dropbox folder.

Google Drive at first seems similar. Install Google Drive on your work and home computer. Login to your Google Drive account on each computer and a file saved to the Google Drive folder on your home computer will be synced to Google's servers, and then replicated to the work computer. A Microsoft Word document saved to your Google Drive folder at home can be opened from your work computer's Google Drive folder. Just like Dropbox.

But Google Drive also provides desktop access to cloud applications and cloud data. That's different.

More in the cloud

With Google Drive, a double-click on a Google Doc opens the document in a browser, ready to view or edit. As you'd expect, this works for Google documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

This also works for Google Drive integrated applications, such as MindMeister's online mind mapping application. Once enabled, you can save a MindMeister mind map with Google Drive. The file will appear in the desktop Google Drive folder. Double-clicking the file will open the file in the web application within a browser.

Google Drive supports viewing of more than 16 files types. You can view files from applications not installed on your computer, such as Apple's Pages (.PAGES) documents, Adobe Photoshop (.PSD) files, or even Autodesk's Autocad files (.DXF). You also can comment on files in Google Drive - without affecting the content of the file itself.

That's Google Drive's strength: providing desktop access to cloud applications and data.

Because the Google Apps administrator controls users accounts and logins, the administrator can transfer ownership of files and folders to other users should an employee leave. Dropbox exists outside this authentication framework. Administrators seeking additional file security and backup should look to third party solutions, such as CloudLock or Spanning Backup.

Each user receives an initial 5GB of storage, but both the Google Apps administrator and each user can purchase additional storage, if needed. Google native docs, spreadsheet and presentation format files do not count toward the storage limit. Storage as of May 2012 is priced at $5 per month for 100GB of storage.

Google Drive helps people transition from the "local app, local data world" to the "cloud application, cloud data world". Google Drive is also an excellent solution for organizations that use Microsoft Office documents and a local Windows Server to store and share Microsoft Office documents. People can continue to save and open files using the Google Drive folder on their desktop.

See How to enable Google Drive and set up a Shared Folder >>


Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.


Looking through the smoke and mirrors when it comes to "cloud" based solutions, I have come up to the conclusion that most people really do not think much past today to see the fallacy of relying on "cloud" based solutions. So called applications which attempt to provide equivalence with real applications just cannot provide the functionality of those local applications, nor do they provide the security of locally installed applications and storing the data on your local drives. Putting all of your data into Google's or any other's servers is like handing your wallet over to them. Only a brain dead moron would allow someone that they do not know very well to hold on to their wallet. As for utilizing cloud based storage, it is too expensive as compared to local storage, and with proper planning you can ensure that you have all of the files that you would need on a mobile device. I am looking forward to all of this hype to go the way of the netbook, dead and buried.


"With Google Drive, a double-click on a Google Doc opens the document in a browser" - Woopie. I can open a .DOC file and Word opens up on my desktolp or laptop. So? And it can view a bunch of type. I don't know when the last time someone sent me a Photoshop PSD file and no one ever sent me a PAGES file. Anyone actually use that? And as for Autocad, if you aren't in that business you don't need it. If you are, you already have Autocad installed. So again. Big woop. Finally do you wish to put everything in one basket? If Google Apps [or Google Drive] goes down - and it has enough times - that isn't good.


There is enough players in the consumer segment, but there is lack of focus on the business needs when it comes to file sharing and sync services. Are there better solutions out there in the market that is designed for businesses rather than compromising on a consumer service.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

CBS Interactive turned on Google Drive enterprise-wide this week. Have you turned Google Drive in your organization? Are your users taking advantage of it like you think they should?


I'd assert that a solution that EXCLUDES local file storage would actually be a better enterprise solution. That's why orgs move to solutions like desktop or app virtualization. My hunch is that Google's engineers think web-based apps and data are optimal. I think Google Drive is a concession to the way people -- consumers and business people -- are accustomed to working: with local apps and data. That may be why it took so long for them to get around to building Google Drive. My hunch is that the Google folks are building Google Drive in such a way as to provide people with a tool that minimizes behavior change. Even if the system works in a non-optimal way from a security, design and engineering standpoint. In my optimal world, there would be no need for file sharing or sync: you'd simply login, and the apps and data would all simply be available. The user shouldn't have to think about files at all. I think both Google and Apple are moving in this direction, but with somewhat different approaches! It will take a few years for this transition to take place. --Andy