Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Top 5: Why you should use Google Drive

I'm a big fan of Google Drive. I've been using it almost exclusively ever since I learned about it a couple of years ago. In fact, I recorded all my Master's research data, and wrote my entire thesis using Google Drive, only turning to Microsoft Office once my writing was completed to comply with university requirements. And with 72 of the world's top 100 universities also using Google Drive, I'm sure many other students have used it the same way too. I've actively been sharing my experiences using Google Drive on social media, because I really do think it's a great productivity tool. It may have some limitations when compared to what Microsoft Office offers, but for the majority of people who create documents, spreadsheets, and presentation slides, I'm confident what Google Drive and the associated app suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides) offers is more than sufficient to meet consumer needs. And despite those few limitations, Google Drive has a lot more benefits which in my eyes, makes it a much better productivity tool than Microsoft Office. Here are five reasons why I think everyone should be using Google Drive.

You only need your browser
Unlike Microsoft Office which you need to install on a Windows computer, the only software you need to use Google Drive is an internet browser. That's because Google Drive is a cloud-based service that works online, and not a native program that you run locally on your computer. Another benefit of being web-based is that Google Drive doesn't really have "versions", like Microsoft Office and other traditional programs do. The service automatically gets updated throughout the year, and these updates happen regularly and always add new features to the suite of Google Drive apps. Everyone is always using the most "up to date version". Meanwhile, there are still people who use Microsoft Office 2003, 2007, and 2010, even though the latest version, Office 2013 is currently available. This of course, is largely due to the fact that Microsoft Office isn't free, like Google Drive is. The only time people update to a newer version, is when they buy a new computer.
With Google Drive, you neither need to install a program, nor buy a license.

You will never lose your work again
I'm sure everyone who has ever used Microsoft Office has experienced this - You've been working on a document, spreadsheet, or presentation for a few hours, a lot of work has been done, then suddenly your computer crashes, and you lose all that work you had done because you haven't saved your work. Frustrating when it happens, isn't it? Well if you use Google Drive, you'll never have to worry about losing your work ever again. It automatically saves your work as you type, so you'll never need to press "Save" ever again. And even if you computer crashes out of the blue, you can rest easy knowing your work will be saved right up to the point of the crash. And with everything in the cloud, you will never need to copy your work over to your external hard drive if you need to format your computer, or if you are upgrading to a newer one.

There's no "save" button on Google Drive (click to view full size). Source: YouTube
Real-time collaboration
More often than not, you will be working on a document in collaboration with your colleagues, supervisors, friends etc. Traditionally, this would be done using Microsoft Office by sending the file to each other, waiting for them to make the necessary changes and additions, and then they will e-mail it back to you. If it's a large file, uploading and downloading the file as an e-mail attachment can take quite some time, especially over a slow office network. And if the file is passed around several times to a lot of people, several different copies will exist and it can get really cluttered and confusing. But with Google Drive, the documents are all stored in the cloud, which allows everyone to access one solitary copy of the document, all at the same time. The only thing you need to share with your colleagues, is a link to the document. Everyone can view the document, add to it, make changes, and comment, all at the same time. Everyone can see what everyone else is doing to the document and work in tandem, which can increase productivity by a lot. No more waiting for others to do their part before sending the file to you, no more working on separate parts of a document and then assigning someone to compile everything. Just one copy for everyone to access and work on, simultaneously or otherwise.


Mobile integration
The world is getting more and more mobile each and every day. While PC sales are stalling, smartphones sales are still on the rise. And while a pocket-sized touchscreen will never be able to be as useful as a mouse and keyboard, there are times where being able to create and access files on the go can be very useful. I use Google Sheets to keep track of my daily spending for example, and a family can use Google Docs to create a shopping list. A student can get in some last minute preparation for a class presentation by reviewing the slides on his/her phone. With the Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps on your phone/tablet, you can have easy access to your files where ever you are. And just like their web counterparts, the apps are all completely free to use.

Free storage
Storage is a big issue when it comes to mobile devices, not so much when it comes to computers that have huge hard drives. But when you start to commit to cloud storage, it becomes an issue once again. There are various cloud storage options, each offering a certain amount of free storage, with options to pay for more storage on a monthly or yearly basis. The same goes for Google Drive. From the get go, you have 15GB of free storage that is shared across your Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos, and you can upgrade to get more storage for a fee. The important thing to remember however, is that Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides don't count towards that storage. You can have millions of Google Docs in your Drive storage, and it won't be counted towards your storage space. That is a huge benefit.
Documents, spreadsheets, and presentation slides don't take up your storage.
But if you want more storage for other types of files, extra storage is quite affordable.

Like I said in my intro, Google Drive may have some limitations compared to Microsoft Office, specifically in terms of tools within their respective productivity suites, which is why many people will still need Office. I needed to use Microsoft Excel to do my statistical analysis for my Master's research because Google Sheets just didn't have the tools I needed. But for every other time I need to create something, I use Google Drive. The benefits of Google Drive simply outweighs the limitations. Having everything in the cloud accessible to me from either my desktop or my smartphone, being able to easily share my files by sharing links with my colleagues, never needing to manually save my work, unlimited storage space, any many more. If you aren't using Google Drive, I strongly suggest you at least check it out.