TECHNOLOGY SPECTATOR: Tempting CIOs onto Google Drive

Google's attempt to knock the stuffing out of its rivals in the accelerating ‘storage wars’ will raise security headaches for enterprises.

Technology Spectator

Google has unveiled its cloud storage service Google Drive and the search engine giant’s attempt to knock the stuffing out of its rivals in the accelerating ‘storage wars’ could end up raising security headaches for enterprises.

Google Drive will provide users with 5GB of free storage space while additional storage will cost users $US2.49 a month for 25 gigabytes and up to $US49.99 a month for one terabyte. Google has been quick to emphasise that the service is designed to work seamlessly with its overall suite of services, including Google Docs.

The real challenge for Google Drive is not so much about attracting a dedicated user base but rather the reaction of IT managers and CIOs, who will understandably be cautious about its use in their workplace.

According to Ovum’s principal analyst Richard Edwards, it’s only a matter of time before the service will start make its presence felt in the enterprise space and that will pose some knotty questions for management.

"'All your stuff – work or play – is in one place'. This is the commentary that accompanies Google’s YouTube video introducing its 'all-new' file sharing service – Google Drive,” Edwards says.

"On the face of it, this topic does not appear to concern the corporate IT manager or CIO, but chances are employees will start using this service to do more than share family photos and recipes.”

One key driver of the inevitable adoption in the enterprise space is the significant sharing and distribution capability that Drive provides, when compared to traditional storage quotas and message attachment size limitations seen in the corporate space.

The ability to store and share large PowerPoint presentations, engineering drawings, and creative content is a big lure for enterprise users but there is a catch.

Cloud-based storage services in general a source of grief for IT managers and their concerns will only be magnified given Google’s involvement.

Data leakage and the loss of corporate intellectual property are serious issues for an organisation and there are some out there who reckon that Google’s poor reputation for privacy may make some companies extra cautious.

Privacy advocates have already reportedly voiced their concerns about Google Drive and how data stored on the service may be used.

"The terms of service are bad, but even worse is that Google has made clear it will change its terms of service whenever it wishes," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Centre.

Whether the issue of trust will undermine the success of Google Drive remains to be seen. However, one thing we can be sure of is that while employees will be quite happy using the service without corporate authorisation, IT managers will be looking to build strict security protocols

Many organisations already block access to sites such as Dropbox, Box and SugarSync and the same may be the case with Google Drive.

Another challenge for Google is the fact that it’s late entrant in the personal cloud market and there is already plenty of services on offer.

Google Drive has been five years in the making and while it will take a little time for it gain the same sort of traction like Dropbox, iCloud or Microsoft’s SkyDrive, it does have the fire power to take the fight up to the competition.

Ovum analyst Mark Little reckons that Google has clearly recognised the potential of shared cloud storage as a consumer hub or open platform that can be central to developing third party apps such as video editing, sending faxes, and creating websites.

"For Google the platform potential of Google Drive is of strategic importance, leveraging its developer strengths and competitive pricing (50 per cent cheaper than Apple’s iCloud in some cases) to drive penetration of its cloud offering via both consumer and enterprise channels.”

Little adds that Google’s strategy to offer cloud storage as a core service and provide an ecosystem of applications to users sets it apart from the competition and could pose a threat to vendors who look to sell cloud storage as a "useful ancillary to using their applications.”

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