When you sign up for G Suite from Google, Google Drive is the tool that handles all the cloud storage and file syncing for your users. As with Google Drive for personal accounts, you can get at your cloud locker on the web and through mobile apps for iOS and Android.
As a file storage and syncing solution (we'll cover Google Docs, Sheets and Slides in a separate article), Google Drive has grown from a shaky start to be a genuine competitor to the likes of Box and Dropbox. Every user in your company gets 30GB of cloud storage space on the Basic plan, which gets upped to an unlimited amount of storage for the Business and Enterprise plans as long as you have five or more users (otherwise it's capped at 1TB).
Google Drive for G Suite: interface
Like the other G Suite apps, what the Google Drive interface lacks in sophistication it makes up for in intuitiveness. Finding files is quick and simple, whether you're searching for keywords and file types from the top search bar, or browsing through folders and shares from the navigation bar on the left. Google Drive automatically applies some Optical Character Recognition (OCR) magic to PDFs and images, which means you can search through the text they contain as if they were any other document.
Files can be easily copied, moved, starred, and arranged however you like – you can make use of a thumbnail view or a more conventional list view on the main web interface, and files can be shifted around via drag-and-drop just as if you were using a regular desktop app. It's all very straightforward, even if you are working inside a browser rather than a more conventional file system.
Google says that Drive uses some AI processing to bring documents and shares you're likely to want next up to the top of the file list – we found this a bit hit and miss overall, but it's easy enough to sift through the folders you've created or search for something specific. The view we use most often is Recent, which just lists files in reverse chronological order, and works pretty well in most cases.
In the mobile apps for Android and iOS, files can be instantly accessed and cached for offline use as and when necessary – the interface design very closely mirrors that on the web, so you don't have to swap between different mindsets as you swap between devices. It's also worth mentioning the plug-ins that Google makes for the Microsoft Office desktop applications, which let you open files from and save files to Google Drive right from inside the Office programs.
Google Drive for G Suite: features
Google Drive impresses in most of the key areas you look to a cloud storage solution to provide. The web interface and mobile apps mean you can get at your files (and edit them) from just about anywhere, while the sharing options hit the right balance between functionality and ease-of-use – sharing permissions can be set at the admin level of course, allowing different users access to different Team Drives (shared storage spaces), but it's also possible to share files and folders as needed with regular links or email invites.
The Team Drives component is actually very well done (though only available on the Business and Enterprise plans) – customized spaces where groups of colleagues can collaborate on files and folders together. It's really simple to manage access to Team Drives, and to see who can and can't get at (and/or edit) the files contained within. The feature has some nice touches too, like the way you can theme each Team Drive differently, and email all the members of a Team Drive at once.
Google Drive also does an admirable job of converting Microsoft Office files into their Google Drive equivalents – it's not perfect, especially not with more advanced layouts and designs, but it's certainly usable. If you don't want to convert Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, you can just store them in Google Drive instead, syncing them between computers and devices as needed.
We also like the easy way you can manage version histories of files, so rolling back to an earlier version only takes a couple of clicks. On an individual user level, the Google Drive settings allow for notifications to be set up for changes to files and folders, notifications which can be mirrored inside Gmail or Hangouts Chat if necessary (another example of the G Suite components working well together).
Google Drive for G Suite: tools and security
Of course you don't want anyone from outside your company getting access to your Google Drive, and to that end everything in Drive is stored and transferred in encrypted form. The default sharing state of files and folders can be set in the admin panel, and the sharing tools are simple and specific – it's difficult for someone to accidentally share a file or folder with someone who shouldn't have it.
Upgrade to the Business or Enterprise plans rather than the Basic one (see below for pricing), and you can analyze Google Drive usage through some comprehensive audit logs so you know every 1 and 0 is accounted for. You can also do more with customized admin alerts for specific Drive events on the more expensive plans.
Special mention should go to the Backup & Sync tools for Windows and macOS, which are much more comprehensive than the old Google Drive clients: they make it much easier to use Google Drive storage to backup local files, even if you don't actually want to see those files in the Google Drive apps. The Backup & Sync applications can also selectively sync Google Drive folders to your local storage, so you can keep some files close by for easy access and leave some in the cloud.
There's also the option of File Stream, which users can choose instead of Backup & Sync – everything is streamed from the cloud, as the name suggests, with nothing stored locally (except file placeholders). File Stream supports syncing individual files for offline use, as well as a few other extras, but overall we prefer the capabilities of Backup & Sync.
Google Drive for G Suite: pricing and verdict
If you're convinced that G Suite is for you, there are three different plans to pick from: Basic ($5/£3.30 per user per month), Business ($10/£6.60 per user per month), and Enterprise ($25/£20 per user per month). As we mentioned above, users get 30GB each on the Basic plan, or an unlimited amount of Google Drive space on the Business and Enterprise plan (though capped at 1TB for companies with fewer than five users).
Google Drive benefits from having got into the cloud storage game a lot earlier than rivals like Microsoft and Apple. Dropbox was one of very few services ahead of Google in this area, and when it comes to the fundamentals of cloud storage and file syncing we still prefer the interface, functionality and feature set of Dropbox. However, the extras you get with Drive (like Docs, Sheets and Slides) have to be weighed up too.
Google Drive may not be the reason you splash out on G Suite in the same way that Gmail or Google Docs might be, but it's still an integral part of the overall package. While it lacks some more advanced features (maybe some kind of PDF editing would be nice), all the basics are well covered, in an interface that's clear and clean.
Unlike some of its competitors, Google lives and breathes the web, and that translates into a file storage that's robust and reliable. Throw in the well done apps for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and it's a comprehensive package. If you're getting a shared cloud storage service for the users in your organization, then you want it to be secure, simple to use, and easy to access from just about any device – and Google Drive in G Suite delivers all of this in spades.
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