Sharing/Team FeaturesSending large files directly to the inboxes
of friends and colleagues can often irritate them - assuming it's possible at
all, given the size restrictions available on most email services. With
ISP-provided FTP space a distant memory, and file-hosting sites like MediaFire
and RapidShare an ad-infested mess, cloud storage may actually be the best way
to share a file with a friend.
There are two types of sharing: public,
which creates a download link allowing anyone to download a copy of the file in
question, and private, which makes a file or folder available to be viewed,
copied, edited or even deleted by a trusted friend, who shares access with you.
The former is good for sending files to people, while the latter is primarily
useful for collaboration. The question is which service lets you do it best?
is the only cloud storage service with an Outlook plugin
SugarSync definitely has one of the
strongest ranges of sharing feature-sets. In addition to its public sharing,
folder collaboration, and password-protection controls, SugarSync is the only
cloud storage service with an Outlook plugin, which automatically converts file
attachments into downloads hosted on your storage. A great idea, and a shame
it's restricted to Outlook users.
Other services come off looking almost lazy
by comparison, but Google Drive has the worst time of it. At present, the
system mainly relies on the existing Google Docs sharing features (which are
less than stellar) and takes the irritating step of merging with and
rearranging your Google Docs file system when you sign up, shuffling existing
shared documents into a sub-folder without quite explaining the process to you.
Many a heart-stopping moment will presumably be induced by this behaviour, as
people wonder where their important shared file has suddenly disappeared to and
how much trouble they're in if they can't find it.
Worse still, public sharing is only
available through the web interface, which means that unlike in, say, Dropbox's
desktop client, you can't get a shareable link to a file without firing up your
browser, logging in and finding the share link there. It takes at least six or
seven steps, which compares incredibly poorly to the likes of Dropbox's
two-step 'Right Click > Get Link' process. Google apologists are quick to
point out that features such of this will be added before Google Drive is out
of beta, but we know from experience that getting a Google product out of beta
could take years.
So, as it turns out, even though Google
Drive has the world's most recognisable and beloved web brand behind it, the
product itself is a muddled affair, strong in a few areas but excelling in
none. Given that the excitement that greeted the appearance of Dropbox has long
faded, it's safe to say that Google Drive has a difficult time ahead if it
wants to convince people that it's a serious product and not some token entry
into the scene. We hope, for Google's sake, that it finds a way.
As a fledgling service, there are plenty
of areas where Google Drive hasn't quite got things right. Here are two major
things you should be aware of if you're planning to hop onto Google's latest
Google Drive doesn't encrypt the files
stored on its server, so the only thing between you and someone snooping
through your stuff is a password. By comparison, Dropbox, SugarSync, ADrive,
Box and many others offer access to encryption and/or secure connections
(sometimes only on paid accounts) - although SkyDrive, at least, is in the same
boat as Google.
The reasoning is fairly flimsy. If your
files were encrypted, it would mean Google's content-scanning advert
algorithms wouldn't be able to look at your files and target adverts at you
(which, lest we forget, is most of Google's reason for existing). Hardly
comforting. It's a bit like your landlord explaining that there's no lock on
your door so that salespeople can drop by...
2. Terms of Service
As is traditional for the launch of any
new product from a web giant, the debut of Google Drive was quickly followed
up by the discovery that the terms of service asserted unreasonable levels of
ownership of any file uploaded to the service.
In all likelihood, the intention is that
the ToS is supposed to allow Google merely to apply its services to your
files (e.g. copy them between devices, rename them, move them) but, as
written, the terms appear to mean that Google could use your source code,
publish your novel as its own, and sell your photos without paying you a
There is a clause stating that "you
retain ownership of any intellectual property right you hold", but
that's directly at odds with the offending segment, which states "When
you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google a
worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative
works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and
distribute such content." As it happens, that all seems rather vague, in
Google's favour. It's unlikely to change (it's actually all in Google's new unified
ToS), so if you want to use it, you're just going to have to trust Google.