Google has launched new cloud data storage options for its Google Apps customers. Storing terabytes of docs and data online has its advantages, but there are also some key issues with the new Google storage offering.
User Managed Storage, the name Google adopted for the new cloud storage service, enables users to purchase additional online data capacity when their Google Apps allotment is full. With additional capacity ranging from 20GB for an additional $5 per year, up to 16TB of space for $4096 per year, there are capacity allotments available for just about any need.
The concept is nice, and the pricing for the various data storage plans seems quite reasonable. But, there are three problems that jump out when I look at Google's User Managed Storage. Two of those concerns are highlighted in this quote from the Official Google Enterprise Blog announcing the new service: "Additional storage added using User Managed Storage cannot be pooled or transferred to another Google Apps user account and cannot be used for Gmail."
First, the additional storage can not be applied to Gmail. The storage capacity allotted for Gmail is pretty substantial, so it is unlikely that a user would really need more space, but they might. Google provides 7GB of capacity for Gmail, but my Outlook PST file is currently almost 10GB, I have emails going back to 2006 still. There are other ways to organise and archive older email data, but I like the system I have.
Second, and this is a big one, is the part about how the data can't be pooled or transferred. It may not be a big deal for a user that just adds 20GB of data storage for $5 a month, but an organisation that spends hundreds or thousands for terabytes of space may want to get broader and more collaborative use out of it.
It is hard for me to imagine a scenario where a company would want, or allow, a user to purchase 16TB of online storage for $4096 a year when that data would only be accessible to the individual. Alternatives exist, like Box.net, that integrate with Google Apps as well, allow for unlimited online storage, and provide tools for sharing and collaboration.
The third issue I have with Google User Managed Storage is how to get the data there. This is an issue for all cloud based backup and data storage solutions, it's not unique to Google per se. But, have you ever downloaded a 250MB file, or waited while a 5MB file attachment is transferred to your email Inbox?
Now, imagine trying to upload 64,000 of those 250MB files to fill up your 16TB of storage. You don't need to just go get a cup of coffee while you wait, you need to take a trip to Columbia to hand-pick and roast your own coffee beans, and you still might have time to make the coffee as well.
Google expects that customers will use the new Google Cloud Connect for Office to sync files, including Microsoft Office documents, to the cloud. However, a hands-on review of the service by Ars Technica demonstrates that Google Cloud Connect for Office still has some maturing to do.
Google has the right idea. Users are accumulating data and consuming storage capacity exponentially and will need access to more storage. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details, and Google User Managed Storage needs to go back to the drawing board.