With Google Drive, 'personal cloud' will soon overshadow the PC

Google's new cloud storage service will change how we use the Internet, analyst says

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Gillett said he'd like to see tighter integration between Gmail and Google Drive, such as the ability to right click on a document and be able to automatically embed it in an email.

"This is pretty cool to have a Google Doc experience and your email in the same account and to be able to do file synchronization and have integrated search," Gillett said. "That's unique."

The launch of Google Drive puts the Google in direct competition with Apple and its iCloud offering, which ties a cloud storage and file synchronization service with its other services, such as its iTunes online music offering. The challenge Google has now is that it must evangelize its service to consumers just as Apple has with iCloud, explaining in common terms how it works.

"Apple has commercials running now about iCloud, and synchronization and how it moves from device to device and screen to screen and how your content can flow," Gartenberg said.

Smaller cloud services threatened

While Google Drive competes with Microsoft's SkyDrive and Apple's iCloud, the companies that are more at risk are smaller consumer service providers, such as DropBox, Box.net, SugarSync and YouSendIt. Those sites have appealed more to technology enthusiasts, not average consumers. But when it comes to adoption, relationships matter.

Hundreds of millions of consumers already have a relationship with Google through its email, document storage and search services in much the same way other users have relationships with Apple and Microsoft.

"They don't have much of a relationship with theses smaller [cloud] companies," Gartenberg said. "The challenge for these smaller companies is reaching out to consumers or shifting to somewhat of a different market; the problem is that Google also wants the business market, the small business market and ultimately the enterprise IT market."

Brad Nisbet, an analyst with market research firm IDC, said a business offering is the one place where Google Drive falls somewhat flat. What often happens is that employees begin using a consumer-class cloud service for storing personal photos, music and documents and then want to use it in their work place.

IT administrators have struggled in recent months with allowing consumer cloud storage services behind their firewalls because the offerings lack administrative controls, such as the ability to securely collaborate through encrypted documents, remotely delete files and control who can access what. In more recent months, consumer-oriented services such as SpiderOak and Dropbox with its Dropbox for Teams, have begun adding those capabilities.

Cloud-based backup services such as Mozy and Carbonite have also made strides in the business market.

"From Google's perspective, what I think is important to point out is they're going to need to develop those levels of control, which will be attractive to an IT organization," Nisbet said. "I think that's what's becoming more appealing to the IT organizations in all types of businesses. They want to maintain a level of control."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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