SOME folk might not realize that they have 15 gigabytes of free and reliable online storage just waiting to be tapped. That’s because every Gmail account uses Google Drive, a cloud storage service that allows you to store your documents, photos, videos and other files online.
Google Drive also incorporates Web-based applications for word processing (Google Docs), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), and presentations (Google Slides). Files you create using these applications are saved in your Google Drive, which you can access from any device with an Internet connection.
You can use any browser to view your Google Drive (https://drive.google.com); just sign in as you would in Gmail. Using the Web-based interface, you can upload or download files much like you would if you were using an external drive. Once the files are saved to your Google Drive, you can access them from pretty much anywhere as long as you have a browser and an Internet connection.
But there’s more to Google Drive than that. Here are some of the things you can do with it:
1) Use Google Drive to share files. You can share your photos, videos or documents with your family, friends and contacts. Just right click on a folder or file and choose share. This offers you a convenient alternative to e-mailing large files. Just save them to a folder in Google Drive then share them with whoever you want.
2) Use Google Drive to work collaboratively on a document. Google Drive allows you to specify if the persons with whom you are sharing a file or folder can edit it, comment on it, or simply view it. This capability is particularly useful if you are working cooperatively with a team on a document through Google Docs (or a presentation on Google Slides). As the author of the document, you can do anything to it, even delete it. But editors can only add to it; and viewers can only see what’s going on. Commenters can leave comments, but cannot edit the document. While working collaboratively on a document, you and the members of your team can communicate with each other in real time by clicking on the word balloon icon.
Remember, though, that any of the access levels will enable the recipient to download a copy of the document, so if confidentiality is paramount, don’t share it.
3) Use Google Drive to disseminate a document. If you want to publicize or share a document with the world, you can save it to Google Drive and make it a public document. To do this, right click on the document in Google Drive, choose Share and click on the Advanced link. This will take you to the document’s Share settings. Under “Who has access,” change Private to “Public on the Web.” This will enable you to share a link to that document that anybody can view. Public documents are available to search engines, including Google, making it more likely that they will be seen.
4) Use Google Drive to back up important files ala Dropbox. If you are running on Windows or Mac OS X, you can download the free Google Drive application that works much like Dropbox does. Once installed, the program creates a special folder in your directory called Google Drive. Anything you put into this folder will be automatically saved to your Google Drive in the cloud and synchronized with any other devices on which you have installed the Drive application. Like Dropbox, Google Drive puts an icon on the task bar, which gives you quick access to your local Google Drive or Google Drive on the Web.
Versions of the Google Drive application are also availble on Apple iOS and Android.
Sadly, although Google promised to come out with a Linux version “soon” after it launched Google Drive in 2012, nothing has happened on this front two years later. This is one area where Dropbox clearly trumps Google Drive.
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Google Drive gives you 15GB of storage free, but if you need more, you can always pay for it. Paying $1.99 a month gets you 100 GB on top of your free storage. Paying $9.99 a month gets you 1 terabyte more.
For a limited time only, you can also add 2GB for free. All you have to do is perform a security check (http://goo.gl/ccgyV0) on your Google account by Feb. 17 – a process that takes only two minutes. One gigabyte free for a minute of work isn’t bad at all—but you better hurry as the deadline is today. Google says in a blog post that the 2GB bump will be granted to those who performed the security check on Feb. 28. Chin Wong
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