Google Drive Review

Google Drive is probably one of the best cloud collaboration tools out there, but is lacking when it comes to syncing features, security and backup options.

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By Joseph Gildred
— Last Updated: 02 Aug'18
2015-09-14T05:23:05+00:00
Table of Contents Rating
Features
95%
Excellent
Pricing
70%
Decent
Ease of Use
75%
Good
File Sharing & Syncing
65%
Decent
Speed
70%
Decent
Security & Privacy Policy
60%
Fair
Customer Service
88%
Very Good

Good
Starts from $ 199 monthly for 100 GB (All Plans)
Visit Google Drive
Cloud Storage Reviews

In case you haven’t heard, Google Drive has a few fans: 800 million active users as of March, 2017. That 300 million more than Dropbox. Most of that popularity is deserved, too.

When it comes to productivity, many of the best cloud storage services skew towards falling short. Well, that’s usually the case if you’re not considering a more business-oriented cloud storage option like those mentioned in our best EFSS guide. Google Drive is an outlier: it’s a cloud storage tool aimed at home users that packs an arsenal of features that help you get work done.

Google Docs, an expansive third-party app library, collaboration features and great support are among the positive checkmarks we’ll discuss in this Google Drive review. You also get 15GB of free storage, which for many users will be plenty of space (others may want to check our article on the best free cloud storage providers).

We’ll also point out a few areas that those concerned about file security will want to be aware of. These include no passwords for file sharing, Google marketing practices and no native option for private encryption. If you do find those reasons compelling, don’t forget to check out our other cloud storage reviews for some Google Drive alternatives.

Also, Google Drive can now backup any folder on your computer. While that’s useful, it doesn’t come with the features like backup scheduling or block-level backup that you’ll find standard with the best online backup services. Meaning, we can’t advocate for Google Drive to replace your Backblaze (read our Backblaze review) account just yet.

Alternatives for Google Drive

Starts from$ 408monthly for 500 GB
  • Zero-knowledge
  • Fast syncing
  • Great interface
  • Secure link sharing
  • No 3rd-party tools
  • No monthly plans
Starts from$ 399monthly for 500 GB
  • Excellent value
  • Zero-knowledge encryption
  • Fast file sync
  • No document editor

Strengths & Weaknesses



Strengths:

  • Google Docs integration
  • Many third-party apps
  • In-app collaborations
  • Strong customer support
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Cost flexibility
  • 15GB free storage
  • Backup any folder

Weaknesses:

  • Weak file-sharing security
  • No private encryption option
  • No block-level sync
  • Cheaper options

Features

95% - Excellent

As a cloud storage service, the primary purpose of Google Drive is to save space on your computer and mobile device hard drives by letting you keep files on a server, instead. To that end, it succeeds thanks to 15GB of free storage (shared with Google Photos and Gmail) and key features like selective sync and automatic mobile uploads.

Google Drive moves well beyond simple cloud storage, though, with its integrated Google Docs office suite. Google Docs is a browser-based and includes word processor (Docs), spreadsheet (Sheets) and presentation (Slides) software. The suite, which is free to use, has emerged as a direct competitor to Microsoft Office.

Within Google Docs, you can collaborate with others in near real-time with options like suggested edits and comments. You can also view revisions that others have made and rollback to previous file versions if you don’t like something you see.

File versioning is available for non-Docs files, too. By default, versions are only kept for 30 days but you can choose to keep any specific version indefinitely.

Deleted files are also kept indefinitely, moved to the trash until you delete them there.

On top of Google Docs, Google Drive has a third-party app library that contains hundreds if not thousands of other software integrations that you can add. Most of those are free, too.

As with most cloud storage tools, Google Drive can also sync files across computers, using a sync folder added to your file system to make that happen. Desktop clients are available for Windows and MacOS. Browser-based access and mobile apps for Android and iOS are also available.

There’s no Linux desktop client, yet, which is a bit disappointing. Check out our pCloud review and our best cloud storage for Linux article for some alternatives.  There is a small workaround, read our guide on how to upload to Google Drive for more info, but may not be enough for most users.

There’s no question that collaboration is the killer value proposition of Google Drive and one of the big reasons people choose it over some of the options detailed in our cloud storage reviews library. However, all that said, when it comes to file sharing and security features, other options shine brighter.

With regard to security, the elephant in the room is the monkey on Google Drive’s back: its aversion to private, end-to-end encryption (or rather, zero-knowledge encryption). We’ll talk more about that — and Google’s approach to privacy in general — later in the review.

We’ll hit on file sharing, too, and why some missed features like link password protection make Google Drive less than ideal for that task.   

A few other features we like with Google Drive include music and video streaming from the cloud and the ability to preview just about any type of file, including images.

File backup is also an option now, ever since Google revamped its desktop client in June, 2017. The client, now called “backup and sync,” lets you backup folders to Google Drive.

Backup takes place continuously, meaning as changes to files in folders tagged for backup happen, those changes get copied to the remote server. It’s handy but doesn’t provide the ease of use and speed of a dedicated online backup tool. We’ll mark it as a work in progress.

Google Drive Features Overview

Starts from$ 199monthly for 100 GB

Sync

Sync Folder
Block-Level Sync
Selective Sync
Bandwidth management
Sync Any Folder

File Sharing

File Link Sharing
Link Passwords
Link Expiry Dates
Folder Sharing
Folder Permissions
Link Download Limits
Upload Links

Productivity

File Previews
Edit Files
In-App Collaboration
Office Online
Google Docs
Notes App
Media Playback
Mobile Apps
Deleted File Retention
Versioning
WebDAV

Security

At-Rest Encryption
In-Transit Encryption
Encryption Protocol
AES 128
Zero Knowledge
Two-Factor Authentication
Server Location
US

Support

24/7 Support
Live Chat Support
Telephone Support
Email Support
User Forum
Knowledgebase

Misc

Free Plan

Pricing

70% - Decent

Price flexibility isn’t an issue with Google Drive like it is with many cloud storage services. Dropbox, for example, limits home subscribers to a free 2GB account or Dropbox Plus, which gets you 1TB of storage for $9.99.

Google Drive starts you out with a generous 15GB of free cloud storage and has multiple options beyond that, all the way up to 30TB.



Plan15GB100GB1TB2TB10TB20TB30TB
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 1 99monthly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 99 99monthly
$ 199 99monthly
$ 299 99monthly
Storage 15 GB 100 GB 1000 GB 2000 GB 10000 GB 20000 GB 30000 GB
Details

Free plan.

Annual Discount: 16%

Annual Discount: 17%

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a



While the range of options is nice — especially the 100GB plan — you can do better if you’re looking for a deal. Sync.com, for example, gets you 2TB of cloud storage for just $7.99 a month. It’s also a bit strange that Google doesn’t extend its discount for signing up annually to plans larger than 1TB.

Ease of Use

75% - Good

Storing files in the Google Drive cloud is as simple as downloading the backup and sync desktop client and moving files into the sync folder created on your computer.

You can manage backup and sync settings by clicking on the backup and sync taskbar icon and using the settings menu to select “preferences.” This will open an interface to manage your account.

There are three tabs in the interface: my laptop, Google Drive and settings. Use the “my laptop” tab to add folders to your backup and use Google Drive to manage your sync folder. The settings tab has few basic options like running the client on system startup and a link to upgrade your subscription.

While the sync folder is critical, with its wealth of online application integrations available, there’s a good chance you’re going to spend more time accessing Google Drive through your browser than using the desktop client.

Google’s done a nice job refining its web experience over the years. While it contains many features, the browser interface is nicely designed and reasonably intuitive.

Navigation options along the left let you access your drive file structure, check what computer are synced, see what content has been shared with you and access your Google Photos account. There’s also a trash bin where deleted files go and a tab to access files that have been backed up, if you use that feature.

The Google Drive mobile app comes preinstalled on Android and is another convenient way of getting at your files on the go.

One of the nice things is that you can edit files directly from the Google Drive app. With other cloud storage tools, you have to download the file first and open it in another app.

File Sharing & Syncing

65% - Decent

Sync relies heavily on a special folder in your file system called a sync folder. Put a file in the folder and it gets sent to the cloud and any other devices connected to your Drive account. This same model is used by most other cloud storage services.

Sync is convenient for productivity, but it also works by storing files on both your computer and in the cloud. For many people, the goal of cloud storage is to save space on your hard drive by saving files on the cloud, instead. Google Drive fulfills this need with a feature called selective sync that lets you turn off sync for specific folders.  

We’ll take a look at file sync speed later. Overall, the mechanism is pretty smooth, which is true of most cloud storage services.

Google Drive file sharing, on the other hand, could use some improvements. The feature works simply enough: right-click on a file or folder and click “share” to open up your share options.  

You can email access to individuals or setup an access link. You can also set view, comment and edit permissions at the email or link level.

Where Google Drive falls short is with regard to features designed to help you keep control over your file shares. For example, you can’t set link passwords or expiry dates like you can with pCloud and Sync.com.

While you have a “shared with me” folder, Google Drive doesn’t provide a corresponding “shared by me” folder to see what files you’ve shared with others. That makes it easy to lose track of file links you’ve created. With no link passwords, that could lead to issues with unauthorized access.

If you’re looking for tighter control over your file shares, our best cloud storage for file sharing article reviews better options.

Speed

70% - Decent

Google Drive works best as a collaboration platform and key to that is file-copying speed. Faster speeds means faster syncing. Overall, we found Google Drive works quickly enough to get things done, though there’s one way it could be faster.

Before we get to that, let’s look at our speed-test results. We performed these tests using a 1GB compressed folder and timing uploads and downloads. These tests were conducted over a WiFi connection with 50/22 Mbps speeds. Here are the results:



 Test One:Test Two:Average:
Upload:11:1110:2310:47
Download:4:564:544:55


The results are comparable for file upload times with other cloud storage services, so no problems there. In most cases, you won’t be working with 1GB files, so expect much lower times in general.

The opportunity for improvement would be to offer block-level file copying like Dropbox and Egnyte Connect do. With block-level file copying, only the changed parts of files are transferred instead of recopying the whole file. The advantage is that it pushes collaborations closer to near real-time.

Google Drive does have speed-throttling, which you can use to slow file transfers if sync’s hogging system resources. In most cases, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Security & Privacy Policy

60% - Fair

For some people, Google Drive will forever be connected to the NSA’s PRISM project. While the NSA states that the project is only used to target terrorist threats and while Google has denied giving the NSA full access to private data, the presence of the technology and potential for greater reach is unnerving, at best.

Google also scans data, both in Gmail and Google Drive, which is mostly used for marketing. From the company’s terms of service:

“Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

While some people might like this aspect of Google, others will see it as a personal invasion and a reason to consider more secure services.

The simple answer would be for Google to offer private end-to-end encryption like those providers in our best zero-knowledge cloud storage roundup. However, while there’s no native E2E option, Google is compatible with Boxcryptor, one of the better private encryption applications (read our Boxcryptor review).

Scanning aside, your files are encrypted while in transit between your device and the Google data center using transport-layer security and AES 128-bit encryption.

As a result of the PRISM fallout, Google took the hint and started encrypting files stored at rest on its servers (before they were left in plain text). Granted, that’s something it should have been doing from the start.

Google has a two-factor authentication option, which is something we’d like to see more cloud storage services make available. 2FA gives you some measure of protection from password theft by requiring an additional access code when logging into your account from an unfamiliar machine.

Customer Service

88% - Very Good

Google has a generally very good support network with many different avenues to find answers to questions. Not many cloud storage services can compete with Google Drive in this regard.

If you’re looking to contact customer service, clicking the “contact us” at the top of the Google Drive support page will launch a wizard that Google uses to help you find the fastest contact option.

Generally, that means launching a chat session, which is available 24/7. Email support is also available. Telephone support used to be an option for personal users, but looks now like that’s a channel now restricted to G Suite subscribers. Many cloud storage services stick to email support, so we won’t complain too much.

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In terms of online resources, Google maintains a Google Drive help center to look up common questions. The Google Drive user community might be an even better resource. Crowdsourcing solutions to issues can be a pretty effective approach and Google Drive user forums are more active than any other cloud storage user forum that comes to mind.

The Verdict

We use Google Drive frequently here at Cloudwards.net to collaborate internally, taking advantage of the fact that Google Docs is great for producing content (also, free). It’s fair to say we’re fans. Even if we weren’t, Google’s a bit hard to get away from these days.

Respect aside, there are compelling reasons to consider Google Drive alternatives.

Large corporations, even those founded with certain principles in mind (“don’t be evil” is Google’s corporate motto), have developed appetites for consumer data. If you don’t want your files, photos and other content to be used for marketing and want to be sure that data doesn’t make its way into a government surveillance database at some point now’s the time to start taking prevent measures.

We’ve got suggestions for 99 free tools to protect your privacy. However, one of the easiest steps is to store your files in a cloud built around consumer privacy. To that end, we have recommendations for the best zero-knowledge cloud storage options.

Going with an alternate option might save you money, too. While in line with Dropbox, there are better deals to be found. As mentioned earlier, 2TB of cloud storage with Sync.com costs two dollars less than 1TB of Google Drive. That means you’ll be saving money and getting more storage. You can still take advantage of Google Docs with a free 15GB account, too.

That’s all we’ve got on Google Drive for now. Be sure and check out our cloud storage reviews more options, and don’t forget to leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!

Starts from$ 199monthly for 100 GB

Sync

Sync Folder
Block-Level Sync
Selective Sync
Bandwidth management
Sync Any Folder

File Sharing

File Link Sharing
Link Passwords
Link Expiry Dates
Folder Sharing
Folder Permissions
Link Download Limits
Upload Links

Productivity

File Previews
Edit Files
In-App Collaboration
Office Online
Google Docs
Notes App
Media Playback
Mobile Apps
Deleted File Retention
Versioning
WebDAV

Security

At-Rest Encryption
In-Transit Encryption
Encryption Protocol
AES 128
Zero Knowledge
Two-Factor Authentication
Server Location
US

Support

24/7 Support
Live Chat Support
Telephone Support
Email Support
User Forum
Knowledgebase

Misc

Free Plan

Google Drive Review

A great collaboration tool that is lacking in other areas.

Google Drive is probably one of the best cloud collaboration tools out there, but is lacking when it comes to syncing features, security and backup options.
Starts from$ 199monthly for 100 GB
Visit Google Drive

8 thoughts on “Google Drive”

  1. google same as all sites in that you get what you pay for and free don’t get much

    google has hard on 4 adobe and virtually destroys any pdf you store there insofar as they create a picture file of each page and that becomes the new pdf that you are left with

  2. It’s awesome

    You can share everything with everyone, sync folders among users and computers, I use it to share pictures, movies, etc, with my family on the other continent, 11k KM away!

  3. It sucks in its sync-algorithms. I dont know how google managed to write such a crappy algorithm. It doesnt sync stuff many times, I cant rename any folder when it is syncing, it creates temp files first before syncing and then refuses to sync. I was always scared of losing my files using google drive. Reverted back to onedrive.

  4. Google drive is really useful for my profession. I can access and store my data via google drive from anywhere I am.

  5. The 2017 drive update makes no sense! The mobile app stays the same, but the PC client app is taken away! Why?! Replaced by a non-decriptive programme called “Backup and Sync” – Google marketing needs their head examined! Is there only one IT company left on earth now?

    When installed, the Backup and Sync is nowhere to be found! Google’s capability to grab money from its search engine may be great but it does not understand consumer needs!

  6. Google’s backup and sync ate ALL my monthly data allowance IN ONE DAY!!! I was syncing just 2 folders, one 6 gigs, one 8 gigs. So why did it use ALL that data, and I wasn’t making ANY changes to those files AT ALL. Apparently this crappy app just churns away in the background, loading, uploading, re-uploading, re-re-uploading, and re-re-re-uploading unchanged files literally ALL day long. When I manually tried to upload one small 100mg file to dropbox, it told me it would take 5 hours. Upon further investigation it was because Backup and Sync was hogging all the bandwidth. This app is not just worthless, it is VERY HARMFUL. I now have to pay my provider for additional data for this month, because Google has ruined EVERYTHING!!! COSTLY and CRAPPY!!!

  7. 1. Google Drive – The software backup and sync sucks, the online browsing sucks they seem to have forgotten what a file browser looks like and works. If you have a lot of files to sync the software will crash and you have to keep constantly re-starting it till it works again, this is after it does a re-scan of all the files, and sometimes it crashes on that. It’s completely unusable for me now. Worst of all no .ignore file processing. I even tried to write my own software using the google drive api and that has been built in a way that makes it terrible to use. 1000 query results on your files at a time, throttled, meaning it would take a considerable amount of time to just get a dir structure of my data HD.

    2. So I tried onedrive, worse. You can’t select which folders you want to sync they must be placed inside the onedrive folder, just not practical and again doesn’t support .ignore files. However the online experience is the best of the 2 (google & dropbox).

    3. So I tried dropbox, worst of all. 2.5GB. And just like onedrive you can only sync what is inside the dropbox folder.

    To sum it up, Google, Microsoft and DropBox have the resource to build a decent cloud sync service but choose not to. Google has known for a long time (years) their software crashes all the time and there is no fix. Microsoft and Dropbox know that their users want to be able to select folders to sync and not put them in the share folder setup with their software but they dont care (very old request since their services were released). And all 3 don’t care about the .ignore feature everyone has been requesting for god knows how many years (same as github .gitignore). If google drive had this feature it would have cut 100,000s of files out of my cloud sync. Imagine that for everyone using it.

    None of them are any good. If you have too many small files to sync use Google Drive with backup and sync it will work till you have too many files and then one day for no reason it will start to crash for no reason and when you google the error code you will be in there with 1000s of others with no answer. If however you don’t need to select specific folders to cloud sync I would recommend Microsofts OneDrive, however note the price plans are rubbish. I nearly bought the 1TB but they sell office 365 with it, I’m fine with my free libre office and / or open office and gmail.

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Google Drive Review

A great collaboration tool that is lacking in other areas.

Google Drive is probably one of the best cloud collaboration tools out there, but is lacking when it comes to syncing features, security and backup options.
Starts from$ 199monthly for 100 GB
Visit Google Drive
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