Google Drive is one of the essential components that you get when you purchase G Suite. Where most cloud storage platforms help you sync work between your computer and the cloud, Google Drive is built to help you move all of your work onto the cloud. This platform is not only a central hub for everything you create with G Suite, but it also doubles as a cloud storage solution for your computer and mobile device.
So, is Drive truly one of the best cloud storage platforms on the market or is it just an add-on to the rest of G Suite? In our Google Drive review, we’ll take a closer look at everything this platform has to offer.
- Read our guide to the best cloud backup services
The majority of users will work with Google Drive primarily through the web client. The web interface is modern, sleek, and extremely easy to use.
To start, you can create an unlimited number of folders and subfolders to organize your cloud storage space just like you would the file system on your computer. You also have a specific folder for files that have been shared with your G Suite account. For quick access to frequently used files and folders, you can either favorite files or create shortcuts in the menu bar. Google also uses AI to move files that you regularly access or that were recently edited to the top of your My Drive folder.
The platform enables you to choose between viewing your files as icons or as lists of files. The icons are large, which can make it slightly harder to quickly sort through files. But, we absolutely love that Drive will display previews of not only images but also documents, spreadsheets, and even slideshows.
We also think the search bar in Drive is worth a special mention. You’re not at all limited to just searching for keywords. In fact, you can filter your searches by file type, location, or owner, or require or exclude keywords just like you can for a Google search. Google also applies optical character recognition to your PDFs automatically so that they, too, are searchable by content. The search bar will also auto-suggest files as you type, which can be useful.
The iOS and Android mobile apps are fairly straightforward and closely resemble the web client. It’s easy to save any files offline to your device simply by favoriting them. On Android devices, you have the option to send files from your phone to Google Drive with just a few taps.
It’s also worth noting that Drive comes with plug-ins for most Microsoft Office 365 apps. With these, you can access files in your cloud space and open them right in an Office program. You can also save files directly from Office to Google Drive.
Google Drive also does a terrific job with file sharing, collaboration, and productivity features.
Sharing files from your Drive is simple, fast, and straightforward. You can invite anyone with a Google account to copy your files into their own drive. Or, for collaborators with G Suite, it’s easy to create sharing links. You can grant view-only, comment-only, or edit permissions on a user-by-user basis. The only thing that we found missing was the ability to add passwords or expiration dates to sharing links.
Drive also offers Team Drives for collaboration. These are shared cloud storage spaces in which you can create entirely new folder structures. Unlike folders, Team Drives don’t have a single owner, so you’re not in danger of losing files if someone leaves your organization. In addition, creating a new Team Drive for every new project just makes it easier to stay on top of collaborations.
One thing we didn’t love about Drive, though, is how it handles file versioning. If you solely work in G Suite’s office tools and save those files to Drive, file versioning is no problem. The platform will automatically track the entire edit history of your files and allow you to revert to older versions at any time. But, if you edit files on your desktop and then sync them to Drive, the platform doesn’t support any file versioning at all.
That’s unfortunate because Google Drive otherwise does a relatively nice job of letting you move back and forth between your desktop and the cloud. For example, the platform can convert documents created in Microsoft Word to files editable by Google Docs. While it sometimes struggles with formatting, in most cases this conversion works without a hitch.
Tools and security
The Drive web client is part of G Suite, so it’s easy to create new Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. On top of that, you’ll find hundreds of extensions in the Chrome web store. There are tools for editing photos and videos, signing and editing PDFs, and converting between file types, all within Drive’s cloud space. Installing tools from the Chrome store is extremely simple, and the majority of extensions are free to use.
For your desktop, Google Drive offers the Backup and Sync tool. We liked that this client enables you to select any folder on your hard drive for backup to the cloud, without forcing you to rebuild your entire file structure. If you want to sync files, though, you will need to move them into a dedicated sync folder that Drive creates on your system.
Backup occurs continuously for the files you select, which is good and bad. If you back up a lot of folders, Drive can eat through quite a bit of bandwidth. Unfortunately, there’s no way to schedule backups—they’re either on all the time, or not at all.
It’s also worth noting that Google has a File Stream tool, which lets you work on files stored in the cloud from your desktop. With this system, nothing is saved locally, so you’ll never run into issues with file versioning. You can save files offline and keep them synced between your computer and the cloud. Still, we much preferred the Backup and Sync tool for having consistent access to our files regardless of our Internet connection.
Drive’s weakest point is probably its security. You can set up your G Suite account to require two-factor authentication, but that’s about it. Drive doesn’t offer client-side encryption or zero-knowledge encryption.
Pricing and verdict
Google Drive is bundled with G Suite and is impressively inexpensive. A Basic plan costs just $6 per user per month and comes with 30 GB of storage. Business plans, for $12 per user per month, and Enterprise plans, for $25 per user per month, each come with unlimited Drive storage.
It’s also worth noting that individuals get 15 GB of free drive storage when you create a Google account.
On the whole, Google Drive is a very impressive cloud storage platform. It may not be the most unique aspect of G Suite, but it’s a critical component and forms a seamless bridge between your desktop and the rest of this productivity suite. We especially like that Drive makes it extremely easy to collaborate through Team Drives and streamlined file sharing.
The only potential pitfall to Drive is its security. But even then, the platform is robust enough to trust with all but the most sensitive files.
If you’re still not convinced by Drive, the price may change your mind. Unlimited Drive storage with a G Suite Business plan costs as much as Dropbox charges for 5 TB. In our opinion, Google Drive is one of the best deals on the cloud storage market today.
- Check out our guide to the best cloud storage options for personal and business use