(Update April, 2012: Google finally opened its GDrive service and promptly raised the price of storage. Doh!)
In a much-commented-upon announcement today that I first saw on Rex Hammock’s blog, Google said it would start selling online storage space for keeping any kinds of files. Previously, the company’s cloud-based storage was limited for use with specific Google apps Gmail, Google Docs and Picassa Web Albums. Here’s the explanation from the Google Docs blog of the new offering:
We’re happy to announce that over the next few weeks we will be rolling out the ability to upload, store and organize any type of file in Google Docs. With this change, you’ll be able to upload and access your files from any computer — all you need is an Internet connection.
Instead of emailing files to yourself, which is particularly difficult with large files, you can upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB. You’ll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year. This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone. You might even be able to replace the USB drive you reserved for those files that are too big to send over email.
Obviously, this is good news for digital packrats everywhere. But it may be even better news for digital cheapskates. That’s because the pricing isn’t just lower than what competitors were offering — it blows them out of the water, or maybe out of the cloud in this case.
Take a simple case of storing 50 gigabytes of data. That’s about the amount of space needed to hold a good sized library of digital photos and a couple of thousand MP3 tracks. Your mileage may vary (my music library is about 25 GB and my photo library is so big it’s embarrassing). In any event, on the new Google storage platform, that would cost just $12.50 a YEAR.
How does that compare to the competition? Start with Apple’s overpriced MobileMe service. Ignoring for the sake of simplicity that you get a few other services, you only get 20 GB of storage for $99 a year and another 20 GB is going to cost you another $49. And you can buy one more 20 GB chunk to hit 60 GB for another $49 or a total of $198. To get to 50 GB, which you can’t exactly choose, let’s interpolate and call it $174. That’s almost 14 times more expensive than Google. Or put another way, for that price on Google, you could store two-thirds of a TERABYTE. We’re getting up towards Library of Congress sizes now.
Okay, well everybody loves Amazon’s S3 service. How much does that cost? 15 cents per GB per MONTH. Whoops. So 50 Gb is $7.50 a month or $90 a year. That’s about 7 times Google’s pricing. S3 also charges an additional fee for transferring data of 17 cents a GB but they’ve suddenly decided to waive that charge for uploading at least through the end of June.
What about DropBox? It’s a majorly cool service with lots of good reviews. But again, the pricing can’t compete with Google. It’s $10 a month, or $120 a year, for a 50 GB allotment. That’s almost 10 times the price of Google’s new service. SugarSync is a little better but not much at $100 a year for 60 GB (equal to about $83 adjusted down to 50 GB).
To be sure, Google’s new service may turn out to have some limits or catches that haven’t yet been disclosed. For example, files can’t be bigger than 250 MB which rules out big media pieces. And taking full advantage of the space may require other software developers to jump in and write some middleware apps (as happened with Amazon’s S3).
But so far, it looks like Google’s new service is once again resetting the playing field and pressuring prices all throughout the clouds.
UPDATE: InformationWeek has Google product manager Vijay Bangaru quoted saying this is not the mythical “GDrive” service.