Google Drive could be a boon — and a headache — for IT

With the launch of Google Drive this week, IT managers can look forward to a potential new productivity tool — and some significant headaches, analysts say.

On Tuesday, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) took the wraps off Google Drive, a cloud cloud storage service that will provide users with 5GB of free storage space, or more at monthly fees of up to US$50 for 1TB.

IT managers are already facing user questions on how Google Drive can work with the company’s other cloud services, particularly the hosted Google Docs office applications, and whether it can be safely fit into the enterprise.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, said the new storage service could provide some quick advantages to corporate users.

“Enterprise [Google Drive] users can more easily keeps files in sync between their personal computers, tablets, and phones via the cloud,” he added. “This means computing anytime and anywhere. The missing piece previously was keeping the personal computer synced, since the Android phone and tablet always had access to synced Google Docs.”

In addition, he noted, “Google Docs doesn’t disappear. It just has a new primary front door called Google Drive. The big technical change is that it adds cloud file sync for the personal computer. Customers can still directly access Google Docs.”

In a blog post yesterday, Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice-president overseeing Google Docs, said Google Drive is designed to work “seamlessly” with the company’s hosted office apps and other services, allowing users to work with colleagues in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

“Once you choose to share content with others, you can add and reply to comments on anything (PDF, image, video file, etc.) and receive notifications when other people comment on shared items,” wrote Pichai.

Moorhead and Rob Enderle, an analyst at the Enderle Group, did note that IT operations must deal first with security concerns that come along with cloud-based storage services in general, and with such Google services in particular.

“The difficulty with any Google storage solution is their poor reputation with regard to privacy,” Enderle said.

“It’s hard to imagine a company that would trust Google to keep their information safe. Both Apple and Microsoft have better reputations when it comes to privacy. Until Google closes that gap, this will be mostly for consumer Android users, or the few ChromeOS users,” he added.

Enderle said that many IT managers are likely to find employees using Google Drive without corporate authorization. Such use of the technology will require a quick IT response, which could mean implementing strong processes, preventing users from accessing the service, or some other measure.

Enderle noted that storing corporate information in an external cloud service likely breaks a lot of corporate rules.

“Storing data on a non-corporate device goes against every company’s official policy,” said Moorhead.

“Users will still do it, however. As users start using Google Drive on their own, companies will face security and legal problems. I expect many IT shops to block Google Drive’s IP address just as they attempt today with Dropbox and SugarSync,” he added.

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