This week Google launched their long awaited Google Drive service that offers cloud storage of images, videos and documents. The service is free for up to 5 GB of storage, with paid plans offering from 20 gigabytes up to 16 terabytes of storage for a monthly fee.

If you’re familiar with Google Docs you’ll feel right at home with Google Drive since the new offering is essentially a replacement of the Google Docs service. In fact, Google considers Drive to be an “upgrade” of Google Docs. Previews of images, videos and documents are loaded within the Google Docs editor where users have access to all the collaboration and sharing features Google Docs offers.

What it Offers

Just like the old Google Docs, Google Drive users can create new documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Users can work together on documents at the same time and see changes from other users as they occur. Anyone who needs to share large files with other users will love the ability to share files using a link as opposed to an email attachment. Recipients simply click a link within the email to view the file via a web browser -- no more attachments limits or email bounce backs.

Major improvements to the service include the apps available for use with Google Drive. The official Google Drive apps for Windows, Mac, Android and (coming soon) iOS enable folder synchronization between devices and drag-and-drop desktop access to files -- functionality very similar to Dropbox and Microsoft’s recently launched SkyDrive. Third party developers can also write their own Google Drive apps that work with the service and distribute them on the Chrome Web Store.

As Google’s core business is all about search, it’s no surprise that some interesting search tools are available with Google Drive. Google has integrated their Google Goggles technology for automatic image recognition as well as OCR technology for searching text content.

Is this a DAM Solution for the Enterprise?

However, if you’re considering Google Drive as a digital asset management tool there are some limitations to be aware of. The usual concerns about DAM cloud computing apply, including security issues, slow bandwidth and latency compared to in-house solutions, and complying with privacy and industry regulations.

Google Drive’s tagline is “Keep everything. Share anything,” however you won’t be able to preview everything. Google Drive offers support for 30 file formats, such as JPEG and Adobe Photoshop but lacks support for many commonly used formats such as camera raw, bitmap and thumbnails of EPS graphics.

Video files can be up to 10 gigabytes in size, which is more than enough room unless users are dealing with uncompressed or HD video clips. In addition, output options are limited to downloading certain formats to ODT, PDF, Text, RTF, Word and HTML formats. This means users wanting to batch process multiple files into a particular format -- for example, convert 100 PSD files into JPEGs -- will need to use another program.

Like many of Google’s services, access to Google Drive is centered on a personal Google account. If an organization is already using Google Apps for Business, the Drive product will fit right in. However, if you’re using your own corporate directory service, such as Active Directory, users without Google accounts will need separate accounts to use Google Drive -- accounts beyond the control of the IT department.

A similar inconvenience applies to contact lists used for sending and sharing files, as the user’s email contacts will not automatically appear unless they are added from their mail service (for example, Microsoft Exchange).

While the Google Drive desktop and smartphone apps are a great synchronization solution, they are not a comprehensive storage solution. Except for organizations working entirely in the cloud, most companies using traditional desktop software will still need to buy and maintain local storage solutions such as NAS and SAN devices.

Last but not least, the biggest barrier to using Google Drive as a DAM is the lack of metadata and taxonomy customization. Since the product is designed to appeal to a mass-market, and not to the specific needs of digital asset management users, Google Drive lacks the flexibility of custom metadata schemas. The product includes built-in search options for “type,” “visibility” and “ownership” but offers no way to specify additional criteria like “project name” or “expiration” custom metadata fields.

Although Google did not classify Drive as a beta product as they’ve done for similar services in the past, this is certainly a version 1.0 product and it will be interesting to see how the product evolves and if and how organizations can find a use for it within their digital asset management arsenal.

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