Google Drive

As you'd expect from the creator of the Chromebook, Google is taking a "100% web" approach to everything it does. Those aren't our words; they're from Robert Whiteside, head of Google Enterprise UK, Ireland and Benelux, and he told us that Google's uptime is 99.948 percent: that means just seven minutes of downtime per month.

Google has spent a lot of time refining its many cloud services, and there have been a few changes - so for example Google Docs has been rolled into the wider Google Drive service. Drive has three price plans: free, which gives you 15GB of total storage; $4.99 per month for 100GB; and $9.99 per month for 200GB.

That storage is shared across three Google properties, Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos, but it's only used for certain things: the documents, presentations or spreadsheets you build in Google Drive don't use any of your storage capacity, and neither do photos in Google+ if they're smaller than 2048x2048 pixels.

Google also offers a version of Drive for business users, Google Apps for Business, which starts at £3.30 per user per month plus taxes. That provides 30GB of storage, guaranteed uptime (99.9%) and you can upgrade the storage to as much as 16TB.

Getting collaborative

Google Docs - now integrated within Google Drive
Google's cloud apps are fast and make collaboration effortless

Google Drive is designed to do two things: create and share documents, and share files. By default you can create a new document, presentation, spreadsheet, form or drawing, and you can also connect third-party apps to add features such as note taking, mind mapping, diagramming and even interior design.

Files you store on Drive can be accessed from phones and tablets with the Google Drive apps, and there are also desktop apps for PC and Mac that can automatically synchronise files between your computer and your Drive.

Google's own apps aren't as comprehensive as, say, Microsoft Office, but they aren't supposed to be: they're fast, easy to use and make commenting and collaborating effortless, and if you team them up with Google Mail and Google Calendar you're covered for most everyday business tasks.

That's work taken care of. What about play? Google Play is the entertainment arm of Google's cloud offerings, and it has five types of content: Android apps, movies and TV programmes, music, books and magazines.

The movies section offers both purchases and rentals, and the music section enables you to upload your own library as well as listen to songs you've purchased from Google. You get enough room for 20,000 songs, and music you buy from Play isn't included in your total.

Google Music Standard is free, and you can add Spotify-style streaming music with Google Music All Access. That's £9.99 per month or £7.99 if you sign up before the 15th of September.

Google's cloud computers

Samsung's Google-powered Chromebook


We've already mentioned Google's Chromebooks, which are designed as thin clients for Google's many online services. Sergey Brin called them a "new model of computing", but are they ready for prime time?

Forrester Research says yes, especially for business users: speaking to business IT decision makers in the UK, Canada, France, Germany and the US, 28% of respondents said they were interested in Chromebooks.

The attraction is their simplicity: according to Forrester analyst JP Gownder, where deploying Windows PCs "requires time and effort from infrastructure and operations (I&O) professionals... Chromebooks require very little imaging; pilot users say any given device can be configured for a new user in under 15 minutes."

Low overheads, coupled with Chromebooks' ultra-low cost and their suitability for mobile working, mean they're ideal business machines - unless you're doing business in China, where Gmail and Google Apps don't work.