THE long-awaited launch last April 25 of Google Drive puts into focus advances in consumer cloud computing, the term for remote computing and storage services accessible through the Internet.
Google Drive offers five gigabytes of free online storage space that can be synchronized with various devices in different platforms. This means that if you place a file in the Google Drive space in your laptop, is accessible from anywhere via your browser and in all other connected devices, even Android phones (the iOS app is still coming).
Google is late to the online storage space party — Dropbox, Box.net and Microsoft’s Skydrive predated it by years. But the stature of the search giant as well as the promise of tight integration with its already popular services and its mobile OS Android give it a key advantage.
I’ve been using Google Drive but I still rely on Dropbox because I work on three operating systems — Windows in the office, OSX on the laptop and Linux on my home desktop — and only Dropbox supports all three. Google Drive still does not have a Linux client and its iOS apps are still not available.
With all these offerings we are finally realizing what a Sun Microsystems employee said decades back, “the network is the computer.”
Our computing tasks are increasingly being performed in servers “out there.” In the cloud.
Free online services
In 2005, I experimented with doing all my tasks online, including work-related functions, through a patchwork combination of various free products and services. That experiment ended horribly for me in January 2007 when a quake in Taiwan took down my previous Internet service provider.
But since then, I’ve gone back to extensively using online services, almost all for free. Today, we have access to a lot of corporate-grade consumer cloud services that, years back, cost companies a lot of money.
Here are a few of the cloud services that I extensively use and recommend:
STORAGE. My main online storage solution is Dropbox but I have accounts with Box.net, Skydrive (25GB of barely used storage) and Google Drive. The Dropbox storage synchronizes files in my office PC, laptop, home desktop and mobile devices.
E-MAIL. I use a free Google Apps for Business account to manage my family’s @limpag.com e-mail. When I signed up, the free package offered up to 25 e-mail accounts (it was at one point increased to 50 and even up to 100 for non-profits. Now it’s limited to 10.) Despite being free, I get Gmail’s industrial-strength anti-spam solution, GTalk with my own domain, 10 gigabytes of storage and growing plus all the standard Google services that come with a Gmail account.
CALENDAR. My personal and business calendars are managed by Google. It is synchronized across all my computers and mobile devices as well as with my co-workers. The business section ditched our printed calendar for Google Calendar last year.
TASKS. I have more online tasks managers than I can remember but my current favorite is Kanban Flow, a lean and just-in-time production tool that integrates a Pomodoro timer. For collaboration I use Podio for my news startup. My previous collaboration tools were Asana and two self-hosted solutions.
NOTES. My notes are a mess because I love to continually play with various applications and services. My current favorite is Springpad, which hosts all my notes and synchronizes these with all my devices. I used to swear by Evernote but got turned off by limitations in synching of its free iPhone app and turned on by the Pinterest-inspired redesign of Springpad.
WRITING. For writing, my main service is Google Docs, which has since been upgraded to Google Drive. But my current app crush is Notational Velocity a simple writing tool in Mac that synchronizes with SimpleNote, which I use on the iPhone. I started typing this column on the iPhone while I was about to go to sleep, finished writing it on the Mac when I woke up before laying this out in Windows in the office.