Google Drive a Viable Option for Businesses: Analysts

In real life, Google Drive doesn't suspend a glowing yellow icon over your devices.

Google Drive wasn’t exactly the best-kept secret on the Internet. Rumors of the cloud-based storage service’s existence and imminent release floated for years before Google finally whipped the curtain back on April 24.

In keeping with Google’s recent trend toward linking its products into an interconnected (and ostensibly simplified) whole, Google Docs has been integrated into Google Drive, with the platform relying on Google’s search technology to search by file type and other features. Google is offering 5GB of storage for free, with staged pricing beyond that—25GB for $2.49 per month, $100GB for $4.99 per month, and 1TB for $49.99 per month.

That pricing structure seems a proverbial shot across Dropbox’s bow. That rival service offers 2GB of space for free (with an additional 500MB per referral), followed by plans starting at $9.99 per month for 50GB. Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage offers 7GB free (25GB for existing users) with 20GB, 50GB and 100GB available for $10, $25, and $50 per year, respectively.

These services have an obvious appeal to consumers looking for a better way to store downloaded episodes of The Walking Dead and a billion vacation photos. But businesses also have a use for efficient cloud-based storage—and according to some analysts, Google Drive could present IT administrators with a viable option in that regard.

“Corporate emails systems are notorious for their measly storage quotas and message attachment size limitations,” Richard Edwards, principal analyst at Ovum, wrote in an April 25 research note, “and so the sharing and distribution of large corporate files, such as PowerPoint presentations, engineering drawings, and creative content, are an obvious use case for Google Drive.”

Edward believes that cloud-based storage, at least in its current form, is problematic for many businesses. “Concerned with data leakage and the loss of corporate intellectual property, the unsanctioned use of cloud storage services presents a real headache for corporate governance, risk, and compliance managers,” he wrote. “Many organizations already block access to popular file-sharing Websites such as Dropbox.” That being said, he claims the “inevitability” about these services’ use “warrants further investigation.”

Indeed, he’s not the only analyst bemoaning the current state of enterprise-acceptable cloud storage. “Users are becoming increasingly dependent on Dropbox for file synchronization, and IT is not always happy about it,” Rob Koplowitz, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in an April 24 blog posting. “IT, you don’t want me to use Dropbox. Watcha [sic] got instead?”

With Drive, he added, Google can become the “darling of IT for providing something users really want and will get value from” while placing “downward price pressure on the market.” However, he felt that Google should also “de-couple” Google Drive from the company’s other products, Gmail in particular. Not that Google has shown any interest lately in offering its products as separate, unconnected entities—just the opposite, in fact.

Whether or not businesses and consumers end up relying on Google Drive at the expense of Dropbox and other vendors, it’s clear that the market for cloud-based storage is about to graduate to a whole new level of competition.