Today, Google announced that their existing Docs platform will soon open up to storage of all file types. This was widely anticipated, as Google evolved the Docs service over the past year and added references to “Files” rather than specific document types. This could be the next step towards the long-rumored “GDrive” storage offering.
Although Google insists that this is not GDrive, it provides the capability of this leaked concept:
- “… reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents …” – This new offering supports any and all file types, regardless of whether Google supports them. Further, users (and enterprise Apps customers) can purchase extra capacity with no upper limit. This sounds like “all of your files” to me!
- “… access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device — be it from your desktop, Web browser, or cellular phone” – Google Docs, as a web application, is already accessible from anything with a web browser. But Google has gone further and opened an access API, which third-party apps have slowly begun to support, and has built mobile phone-specific versions of the interface.
In my opinion, Google Docs will soon be a reasonable stand-in for GDrive, but it’s not really anything special. There are lots of services that support online storage of unstructured data, and many include impressive syncing, searching, and sharing capabilities that go well beyond what Google is offering. Third-party clients for Docs add much of this functionality, but they also add extra cost and complexity.
For example, Memeo Connect looks to be a nice front-end for Google Docs and will launch alongside this Google release, but Memeo tells me that this software will cost $9 per user annually. A small amount, to be sure, but a necessary expense to really make use of Google’s limited upload and access capabilities.
Cloud Storage On The Cheap?
One element of this release that did catch my eye was the pricing:
- Google Docs users will get one GB of capacity for free but can add additional capacity at the rate of $.25 per GB per year. This is an eye-opening rate, well below the established pricing of cloud storage and backup vendors.
- But this isn’t the whole story. Google wisely expects enterprise customers to require actual customer support and offers enterprise capacity at a rate of $3.50 per GB per year. This works out to $.29 per GB per month, much more in line with existing offerings. In fact, it’s more expensive than Rackspace Cloud Files, Amazon S3, Nirvanix (where I work), Zetta, and AT&T Synaptic Storage, though Google is bundling bandwidth costs.
Although the enterprise pricing of this offering is not compelling, it does illustrate two truisms of the cloud market:
- If you want support, you need to pay for it – Chicken Littles out there have been crowing that “the cloud is falling” after watching poorly-architected and -supported solutions fail, yet complain when service providers try to talk about TCO. Well, guess what: You won’t get enterprise-grade cloud storage for free.
- Disk capacity is a small component of TCO – Why does Google Docs cost 14 times more for business users? Because disk drives make up a very small part of the real cost of delivering storage services. If this doesn’t dispel the dumb disk fallacy, I don’t know what will!
So Google’s new Docs capability isn’t revolutionary, either in technology or cost. But I’m looking forward to trying it out over the coming months. It will certainly be interesting to see how this all resolves!