Drive It or Shun It – The NEW Google Drive

BY Kerrie Spencer

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While it is exciting to try new products or services when they come out, it is always rather disheartening to discover that while the new gadget is kind of fun, it has potentially fatal glitches that may put you off using it. Such is the case with Google Drive. We took it out for a spin, fiddled with it for a while, but ultimately decided not to use it, at least not until they make some changes.

When reading about its potential, it sounded like it might rival similar cloud storage services. When trying it out, there are a few drawbacks that are apparent immediately, the first being users have to switch files to Google Doc format if they want to work with them. Perhaps not a deal breaker, but definitely not user friendly for someone who would like to just get on with it.

It’s not that users are not able to upload and store other file formats, such as MS Excel and MS Word. The fly in the ointment comes when trying to open those files from the Google Drive website; they open as read-only in an online viewer.

This new service is also considered to be Android-centric and does not provide the user with a mobile application for any of the other existing platforms. Again, perhaps not a deal breaker for some, but for those glued to the BlackBerry, iOS or Windows Phone mobile devices, this may be a serious issue. While Google Drive may be accessed by the Internet, it is just adds another step to the process.

When it comes to products and services, people want something they can use instantly. If they have to jump through hoops to get it to work, they will typically shun it in favor of another, quicker alternative. If you happen to be a busy attorney, you may not want to take the extra time to make something work.

If you want to edit a file, there is another moment of awkwardness, as the file then needs to be saved as/exported to a Google Document format. That means two identical files in Google Drive, the original and a Google Doc version.

If at this point another edit needs to be performed, the document remains open. The changes are saved to the Google Drive cloud and then synced to a Drive folder on a local system. The file synced to the local system has the changes in Google Doc format, which means, if going offline, the links in the Drive folder are useless. Again, this is an issue that can be worked around, if the user is to find the time to do so.

As for file reliability, if someone is working with just the basics (i.e., just text), the formatting may be fine. However, more complex documents run the risk of being garbled, which means manually fixing them when switched back to their original format. If Microsoft Office is standard issue in the office for all computers, this might not be a good choice, thanks to the need to fiddle with document conversions to edit online. Of course, there are always two sides to every story, and the issues with Google Drive are no exception. Some feel Google does it better in every way.

Is there another alternative? We tracked down one that has very good reviews and features more scope when it comes to cross-platform integration, such as SugarSync, Box and Dropbox and a more recent contender, Microsoft SkyDrive. It has a lot more to offer than Google Drive, but with any of these systems, take it for a spin and see if it fits your needs. It offers more free storage, easier document handling online, no required document conversions, better support for the mobile user, more competitive pricing and remote access to your home computer… for free.

Ultimately, what to use for cloud services is up to individual users, based on their working environment. However, for a hassle-free workplace, using a service that is actually user-friendly may score more points with staff and clients. Luckily there are a plethora of choices for a busy attorney to consider.

Kerrie Spencer

Kerrie Spencer is a staff contributor to Bigger Law Firm Magazine.

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