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. Read our full Google Drive review for the details.
With close to a billion users, Google Drive is the most popular cloud storage service in the world. If you’re a Google user or you have an Android phone, you already use the service, which certainly helps pad the numbers.
Google’s apps are renowned for their ease of use and Google Drive is no exception. It’s one of the best services for collaboration thanks to Google’s office suite and huge library of third-party apps. If that’s your business’s focus, consult our best enterprise file sync and share guide for services that fit the bill. Google Drive has good sharing capabilities and fast transfer speeds, too.
Google’s security and privacy aren’t as strong as you’d get from some of its competitors. You can find them on our list of the best cloud storage services. Google Drive’s pricing plans aren’t particularly competitive, either. We’ll talk more about security, privacy and other features in this Google Drive review.
- Google Docs integration
- Many third-party apps
- In-app collaborations
- Two-factor authentication
- Cost flexibility
- 15GB free storage
- Backup support
- Strong customer support
- Weak file-sharing security
- No private encryption option
- No block-level sync
- Cheaper options
- Google Drive
- Sync Folder
- File Link Sharing
- Folder Sharing
- Visit Google DriveGoogle Drive Review
- Sync.com★★★ Best Cloud Storage ★★★
- Sync Folder
- File Link Sharing
- Folder Sharing
- Visit Sync.comSync.com Review
- Sync Folder
- File Link Sharing
- Folder Sharing
- Visit pCloudpCloud Review
- Sync Folder
- File Link Sharing
- Folder Sharing
- Visit OneDriveOneDrive Review
Google Drive is good for collaboration. In fact, the only service that’s better for it is Dropbox Business. Read our Dropbox Business review to find out more about it. You can find the complete list of great collaboration services in our best cloud storage for collaboration piece.
The biggest contributor to Google Drive’s collaboration capabilities is Google’s office suite, which includes Docs, Sheets and Slides. Google Docs lets you create and collaborate with others on text documents, Google Sheets enables you to work with spreadsheets and Google Slides lets you create presentations.
Because those apps correspond to Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Google has a Chrome extension that lets you view, edit and convert between its office files and Microsoft’s. If you’re mainly working with documents and Google Drive doesn’t suit you, consult our best cloud storage for documents list for other options.
You can preview photos and play videos with Google Drive, too. The proprietary photo viewer can’t edit your photos, but you can connect with Pixlr Editor to do that. You can play videos using the integrated player, as well. Google Drive’s photo and video capabilities helped it rank second on our best cloud storage for photos and videos list.
The top-ranked service in that guide is pCloud, which you can learn more about in our pCloud review.
Google has many other apps, including Photos, Keep, Calendar and more. Google Photos makes it easy to manage your photos and lets you upload an unlimited number of them if you do so in “high quality” instead of “original.” It’s easy to use and lets you share your photos to social networks. It can edit them, too.
Google Keep is a note-taking app that is featured on our list of the best note-taking apps. Google Calendar can memorize your events and sync them across multiple devices.
Besides native apps, Google Drive has a third-party app library that contains hundreds, if not thousands, of software integrations that you can add. Most of them are free, too.
Those collaboration options helped it make our best cloud storage for teams list, albeit as the last pick on it.
File backup has also been an option since Google revamped its desktop client in June 2017. The client, now called “backup and sync,” lets you backup folders to Google Drive.
Backup is continuous, meaning as changes to files in folders tagged for backup happen, those changes get copied to the remote server. That’s handy, but it doesn’t provide the ease of use and speed of a dedicated online backup tool.
Google Drive Features Overview
Google’s plans used to be more expensive, but it recently updated them. They’re still not among the best deals in cloud storage, but what Google Drive doesn’t have in quality, it has in quantity. Its free plan is great, too.
The free plan provides you with 15GB of storage, which helped Google Drive earn a spot on our best free cloud storage list.
Google Drive offers a lot of flexibility with its six paid plans. You can get 100GB for $2 a month or $19.99 a year. If you need more than that, the 1TB plan costs $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year.
Higher tier plans don’t offer an annual discount. They start at 2TB for $19.99 a month and end at 30TB for $299.99 a month. None are among the best values in cloud storage. That’s best illustrated by the fact that pCloud offers a 2TB subscription plan for only $9.99 a month, half the cost of Google Drive’s.
You can access Google Drive using a web, desktop or mobile client. The web client lets you use a browser from any computer. Its design is minimal, clear and you’ll recognize it from many other Google apps.
The menu on the left lets you navigate your drive and create new folders or files. You can search your content using the search bar at the top. It performs a full-text search, meaning it will search through the content of your documents. That’s useful if you can’t remember where you’ve written something.
The quick access area below the search bar helps you open your recent files quickly. The content area can show your files and folder in a grid or list view. It’s easy to work with it because you can right-click to modify content or drag and drop it to move it. You can also drag and drop files to upload them, but we’d prefer if you could drop the content anywhere to upload it.
The desktop app consists of a sync folder and system tray icon. You won’t have issues using it because it’s straightforward and simple to navigate. It’s available for Windows and macOS. If you need Linux support, read our best cloud storage for Linux piece.
The mobile app is preinstalled on most Android phones and enables you to access your files on the move or offline. You can even edit them without downloading them first, which is something many other services require. The app is available for iOS, too. Google Photos, which shares space with Google Drive, has automatic upload for your photos and videos.
It’s easy to share files and folders with Google Drive. You can generate a link and copy and paste it or send it by email. You can also send it directly to Facebook or Twitter. People receiving the link can view, comment or edit depending on the permissions you set. There’s a table that shows you who has access to it, too.
You can go further by preventing editors from changing access and adding new people. You can disable options to download, print, and copy for commenters and viewers, too.
There’s no way to set an access password, though. You can’t send upload links or limit the number of downloads, either. What you can do is set an expiry date for each person with whom you’ve shared your content. You can tell what others have shared with you by going to the “shared with me” folder, but there is no such folder for content you’ve shared.
Sharing folders works in a similar fashion but with different options. People you invite can have permission to “organize, edit & view” or “view only.”
Google Drive takes a solid approach to sharing, but it’s not good enough to land on our best cloud storage for sharing list. At the top of that is Sync.com, our overall best cloud storage service. To learn more about what it does well when sharing, read our Sync.com review.
Google Drive’s sync function relies on a special folder in your file system called a sync folder. When you put a file in the folder, it gets sent to the cloud and other devices connected to your account. That way of operating is called the common model of sync, and it was invented by Dropbox. You can learn more about the popular service in our Dropbox review.
Google Drive’s “backup and sync” desktop app lets you sync specific folders to your computer, as well as any folder from your computer to the cloud. We selected a single folder, but the app started syncing everything in our Drive. Reopening the app fixed the issue, though. Overall, the sync process is smooth.
You can also backup folders using the desktop app. On Windows 10, “documents,” “pictures” and “desktop” are selected by default.
Google Drive has a network of servers around the world, so your transfer speeds shouldn’t suffer from your distance to a server. We did our tests using an Ethernet connection in Belgrade, Serbia, with an upload speed of 6 megabits per second and a download speed of 100 Mbps.
The average upload time was close to what we’d expect considering our upload speed, so Google Drive earns a top mark. The download took more than twice the time it should have, though, with an average of three minutes and nine seconds.
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Google Drive doesn’t use a block-level sync algorithm, which would speed up the transfer of files that have already been uploaded by transferring only the changed portions.
If Google Drive’s desktop app slows down your computer, you can go into the preferences menu and throttle the bandwidth.
Google undergoes several independent third-party security audits on a regular basis. G Suite and Google Cloud Platform receives SOC1, SOC2, and SOC3 audits for ISO/IEC 27001, 27017 and 27018. It also offers its Vulnerability Reward Program for Google-owned web properties if you’re feeling like a hacker.
Your data is encrypted at-rest by AES 128-bit, which is not as strong as AES 256-bit. It’s uncrackable for all intents and purposes, though. During transfer, your files are protected using the stronger version of the algorithm, along with the TLS protocol. Google also forces HTTPS for all transmissions between users and its services and uses perfect forward secrecy.
Google Drive isn’t zero-knowledge, though, because it lacks private encryption. That means it controls your encryption key and a rogue employee could potentially read your data. Providers on our best zero-knowledge cloud storage services list are better at protecting your files, so be sure to read it.
You can consult our most secure cloud storage service list to find a service that protects your files even more. If you want to dive in, you should know that Sync.com is the best service on the list.
Google Drive has been connected to the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM project. Though the NSA says the project is only used to target terrorist threats and Google has denied giving the NSA full access to private data, the presence of the technology and potential for greater reach is unnerving.
“We use automated systems that analyze your content to provide you with things like customized search results, personalized ads, or other features tailored to how you use our services. And we analyze your content to help us detect abuse such as spam, malware, and illegal content”
That said, Google takes care not to show you ads based on sensitive categories, such as race or health. It also doesn’t share information that personally identifies you, such as your name or email address, with advertisers unless you give your permission.
Though some people might like that aspect of Google, others will see it as a personal invasion and a reason to consider more secure services. If you’d like to stick with Google Drive, you can protect your privacy by using tools such as Boxcryptor (read our Boxcryptor review) to encrypt files on your computer or smartphone.
You can export a copy of the information Google keeps on you in your Google account. You can also request that it remove content from specific Google services based on applicable law.
Plus, Google offers a privacy checkup tool that helps you choose the privacy settings that are right for you.
That is all well and good, but, in the end, Google Drive doesn’t have private encryption, scans your data and has provided data to the government. If you want to keep sensitive data in the cloud, or you’re just worried about your privacy, you should go with a more private service. One such service is Tresorit, which you can learn more about in our Tresorit review.
Most services can’t compete with Google Drive’s technical support. When you encounter a problem, your first stop is going to be the help center. It lets you search for an answer to your problem or select from a number of categories.
The answers are clear and easy to follow, but they could be improved with the addition of video tutorials. Every answer has three tabs — “computer,” “Android” and “iPhone & iPad” — which makes it easy to find the answer for your device.
If the help center doesn’t solve your issue, you can ask a question in the user forums. The community is active and product experts answer questions on a regular basis.
If you’re still without an answer you can contact Google. Email support says it responds within 24 to 48 hours, but we got our answer in seven. That’s still slow compared to many services, though.
For a more immediate response, you can request a chat which takes two to three minutes to start. There’s even a callback option in which a Google representative calls you in under a minute.
Because Google Drive doesn’t offer zero-knowledge encryption and it has been connected to the NSA, it’s no good for users who need to store sensitive files. It won’t do if you need to store a lot of content for cheap, either, because the pricing plans aren’t good value. The free plan might do if you’re working with documents and storing a few things.
Its ease of use and speeds are great, though. If you’re working in a team, you can make use of its productivity and third-party apps.
It doesn’t shine in the security department, so if that’s a priority for you, check out our other cloud storage reviews.
Google Drive is great for users who need to collaborate on, share and work with documents. Will that be enough for you to try it or will you steer clear and choose a solution that has better security and privacy? Let us know what you think in the comments below. Thank you for reading.