It's essentially cloud backup and a multi-computer sync service. You install the Drive application on your desktop and then put files in the Google Drive folder that it creates. Those files are uploaded to Google Drive's online service and any additions, deletions, or modifacations are synced automatically. You can also view and edit these files via the web with any device. If you install the Google Drive app on another desktop, any files already in your Drive will be synced to that computer. This does not require a persistent internet connection, because the files are saved to your hard drive. But, obviously if you want anything to sync it's got to be connected.
I use this to sync some music files between my home and work computers. I also save all of my podcast downloads to Google Drive so I can listen to them or transfer to my mp3 player at either location and never get confused about what I've downloaded already.
There are also mobile apps for most platforms which allow you to access any of your files with an internet connection, and some limited ability to cache files for offline access.
Google has built in some sharing features between Drive and Gmail and probably some more stuff I'm not aware of because I don't use those features much myself.
Dropbox is the biggest competitor and it has a very similar feature set. I use Dropbox a ton more, but only because I got 50 GB of storage for free for having a Samsung Android tablet and installing Dropbox. Because of this I use Dropbox as an backup for a bunch of my more important files like personal photos, scanned drawings, and stuff I've written. There are some others too like Box and SugarSync which I assume are mostly the same but I've never used them.
The big advantages of Drive (over Dropbox and the other competitors) are
- you probably already have a Google account
- it's integrated with their Google Docs program.
So, you could view and (usually) edit any document you have on the Drive from any other computer with an internet connection.
The problem is Google Docs is not Office; it's slower and without some of the features you may be used to. It works in a pinch.
Everyone should probably have something like Google Drive/Dropbox/Microsoft Skydrive installed nowadays if they have high speed internet. At their core, they are free (up to a certain level) and very easy backup programs for your most important files. There's no remembering to sync or making sure a license doesn't expire - you just select a folder and the software makes sure the backup actually gets done. Even if you never ever access those files anywhere else, there's a copy of them out there for you to get back if your hard drive dies or your computer gets stolen or something else tragic happens.
In light of recent revelations, you should presume that anything you share with these services might be available in some form to governmental agencies, but I'm sure there are encryption methods or some work around. It'd still be better than losing your important files.
I just started messing around with this and have never used anything like it before. One question I have is that the Google Drive Folder that I have on my desktop is just kind of always there to be clicked on even if I am signed out on the computer. So, anything I put on there can be looked at by anyone who clicks it or is it just something you clear once you load up what you want? Like a temporary launching pad type of thing.
Originally posted by BigDaddyLocoI just started messing around with this and have never used anything like it before. One question I have is that the Google Drive Folder that I have on my desktop is just kind of always there to be clicked on even if I am signed out on the computer. So, anything I put on there can be looked at by anyone who clicks it or is it just something you clear once you load up what you want? Like a temporary launching pad type of thing.
(edited by BigDaddyLoco on 11.6.13 1759)
It's just like a normal folder - the files stay there, and anyone who has access to the folder can access the files.
Originally posted by thecubsfan It's just like a normal folder - the files stay there, and anyone who has access to the folder can access the files.
and they sync on to THEIR computers as well.
One thing I like - you could both be working on a file at the same time. I do that a LOT.
We'll be back right after order has been restored here in the Omni Center.
That the universe was formed by a fortuitous concourse of atoms, I will no more believe than that the accidental jumbling of the alphabet would fall into a most ingenious treatise of philosophy - Swift
This is super-catchy: http://www.somethingawful.com/articles.php?a=2906 For those that demand an explanation before clicking, it's a short flash movie set to a tune "remixed from actual cigarette commercials."