Google has unveiled its new customer service that offers up to 16TB (yes, terabytes) of virtual storage space for online content such as photographs, music and films.
Labelled Google Drive, the product will challenge the supremacy of established cloud service providers; Dropbox and Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
Google Drive initially offers 5GB (gigabytes) of free storage space to users. Customers can then pay for more space on a rising scale.
And although experts have questioned Google’s late arrival in the market, they are still expected to mount a huge challenge to established companies already providing this service.
16TB of storage can hold up to four thousand DVD quality feature length movies.
Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of [Google] Chrome and Apps, released a blog post stating: “Today, we’re introducing Google Drive – a central place where you can create, share, collaborate and keep all of your stuff.
“Whether you’re working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé or tracking a budget with roommates, you can do it in Drive.”
Users will be able to upload, manage and access photos, videos, documents and all other forms of digital paraphernalia to the virtual cloud.
Google Drive can be installed onto a PC or Apple Mac or downloaded to an Android phone or tablet. Google is working on an iPhone app for the Apple mobile operating system. They anticipate it being ready within weeks.
Users who are visually impaired can access Google Drive with the aid of a screen reader.
Hanns Kohler-Kruner from tech research company Gartner said:”Google Drive will hit some competitors very hard and shake up the market.
“It will also create another stream of more focused and potential ad revenue for Google around the content of personal files on Google Drive.”
Movies that have been uploaded to Google Drive will become available on Google+ boosting the appeal of the fledgling social network.
Drawing on its search engine expertise, Google will hope to differentiate the service from others.
The Drive will be fully searchable by keyword and file type, activity or user. The service will also use OCR (optical character recognition) to recognise text in scanned documents.
This will allow users, for example, to search a scanned newspaper clipping for specific words in the newspapers articles.
Image recognition will also be possible in Google Drive.
“If you drag and drop photos from your Grand Canyon trip to Drive, the next time you search for Grand Canyon, photos of it will pop up,” said Sundar Pichai in the blog.
A user will get the first 5GB of storage free of charge.
After that customers can upgrade to 25GB for $2.49 (£1.50) a month, 100GB $4.99 a month, 1TB for $49.99 or 16TB for $799.99.
When users upgrade to a paid account, their Gmail account storage will automatically expand to 25GB.
Microsoft offers maximum yearly subscriptions of $50, this will buy 100GB of storage.
Dropbox customers can purchase up to 100GB at a rate of $19.99 per month or $199 per year. They also offer larger amounts of storage to groups of people. The amount of storage and costs are determined by how many users share the space.
As people look to access their digital content from a variety of places and devices the cloud service market place is likely to become ever more popular.
Dropbox pioneered the storage cloud concept, but now runs the risk of being undercut by its competitors.
Principal analyst at research company Ovum, Richard Edwards, commented that Google was “very late” to get on board but that its move could encourage others.
“Facebook doesn’t have a cloud service but this may prompt it into an acquisition,” he said.
“If Facebook was to buy Dropbox that would be a game-changer.”
As news of Google’s intentions spread, existing cloud providers overhauled their own systems.
Dropbox began to allow its customers to grant non-members access privileges to their files via email links. Before this both parties would have to be signed up to its service and share common folders.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive has now integrated the virtual drive into Windows Explorer and Apple’s Finder so that it can be used as an extension of the desktop.
Microsoft has also improved the capability to access content stored on the drive from iPads and iPhones as well as Windows Phone-based handsets.