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Google Drive: Have Cloud Drives Lost Their Way?

 

With this week’s introduction of Google Drive,   the conversation about “cloud drives”  has significantly increased amongst the tech community…  But have we lost a bit of focus on what a cloud drive is ?

To me,   and granted, I might not be in the majority here, there is a simple definition:

To be able to securely store and retrieve files (of any type) on the Internet (cloud) , and be able to access them from a device using the device’s standard file system (drive). 

Any other characteristics and features are additional functions (bells and whistles) that should be able to enable/disable at will.

Please do not get me wrong.   I *love*  DropboxSkyDrive, Egnyte and use them all daily.   I was anxiously waiting for Google Drive I am sure I will be using as well, but,  it seems like none of these services hit on the basic definition of what a cloud drive is intended to be.    To me they are more file synchronization  tools and not really cloud drives…

It is so puzzling!  I am no developer, but it seems like it would not be a significant  programing challenge to enable this.  I know, this last comment, would probably lead you to thing “what a complainer”, but let me just say: Perhaps, but opinions and feedback drive product improvements right? Winking smile

 

Let me explain a bit more detail:

Background: Like most of us (well maybe not “most”)  I use a desktop, a laptop, a thin client device, a table device and have several virtual machines that I use for one purpose or another (work/ test /learn / play) daily.

Goal / Desire 1:   I want to make my file library available to all of *my* devices.

Options:

  Pros Cons
Web-based access
products like:
egnyte
zoho
SharePoint
SkyDox
fileshare
(so many others!)
No additional space required on device
Ability to share files private/public + user/group
connectivity required
web-interface
login needed
Not readily available
File Synchronization
products like:
DropBox,
Box.net
SkyDrive
livedrive
Google Drive
Available web interface
Maps to a system level drive
Library available offline
Ability to share files private/public + user/group
Needs the disk space for sync entire library
Files replicated across devices
Drive map to cloud storage
products like:
TNTDrive
webDrive
GroupDrive

maps a network based drive to a local drive

No additional space required on device

Always on connectivity required
permission management

 

Now let’s go one step forward:

Goal / Desire 2: I want to make parts of my file library available to other people/groups some public others privately.

Options:

Understandably, Of the above ones, today, web-based and file-sync are the best options.

 

There are two features which I think are driving the development of the current set of popular products, and thus the state of where we are.  they are:

  1. off-line availability
  2. User and group permissions.

What about the ability to securely map a drive to “the network”  and use it / go with it?  (a true cloud drive in my opinion)  — There has been multiple attempts to doing this over the years. and even a standard (webDAV) was created for it, but unfortunately nothing “really popular” – in Unix (and Mac) you can use native commands to map a drive.   Several applications are available which have different features and approaches including:

 

Product Brief Description
Gladinet Cloud Desktop This product mounts any number of cloud storage, (e.g. SkyDrive, Google Picasa, Google Docs, Amazon S3) as local folders  It is about $50bucks, but well worth it…Unfortunately, only available for Windows. 
TntDrive It allows me to mount Amazon S3 Bucket as a Windows Drive. This is a favorite of mine as it covers 95% of the Goal #1 above. Only available as a Windows client.
WebDrive & GroupDrive both products by SRT, it  allows you create a virtual drive that points to an ftp site (webDrive) or a GroupDrive Server. They now offer hosted version at groupDrive.net

[Side bar:  Licensing on the above products can get expensive, as they are all based on a per device bases.  Some offer free versions, but not all – or limited in capabilities)

Summary / Conclusion:

Will continue to use my TNTDrive / AmazonS3 as primary personal cloud drive and DropBox for sharing.  The others will continue to serve as secondary online tools.

I must confess, I was really hoping Google Drive would be different (adding links to my Google Docs is just not that compelling) .  I am still hoping community feedback would drive 

If just one of them would set a folder property that would set that folder to “cloud-only” that would be nice!   (I know easier said than done)

 

 

Further Reading on this topic: