I’ve been a keen user of Gmail since its earliest days, and I also use Google Apps at work, so I’m not surprised by the excitement around the launch of what people are calling ‘GDrive’, which is actually just a new feature of Google Docs that allows arbitrary files to be shared.

What is a little disappointing is the 250MB file limit. Cory Doctorow speculates that this is ‘more to do with keeping the MPAA happy than any kind of technical limitation'[1]. Whilst 250MB is loads more than most of the file sharing services allow, it’s still a painful limitation. One of the challenges I face each year is sharing video of my kids doing their nativity plays etc. with far flung family members. This year I ended up with three files – 200MB, 243MB and 360MB (oops – that’s blown it). In the past I’ve used BitTorrent to share such files, but it’s no fun getting elderly internet civilians using things like Azureus (a client I gave up long ago in favour of uTorrent, which sadly lacks the built in tracker functionality that’s key to this use case).

This year things were much easier, as I used SMEstorage, which is a cloud storage overlay service. The first two files went up with no problems at all, and I think the various grandparents were much happier when they got a simple email with a URL. The third file gave me a bit more trouble, but the outcome was a really cool new feature…

SMEstorage lets you use many of the cloud storage providers as a back end, but comes with some of its own storage so that you can get going (I think this is hosted on Amazon S3). It turns out that I’d blown right past my quota of 250MB with the first two files, but it’s great that they’d let me overcommit by ~190MB without complaining. Initially I put the last file onto S3 (luckily I already had an AWS account), but I was keen to see if there was a better way of using the free storage services. What the SMEstorage guys then came up with was a chunking mechanism, so that a file can be divided up into small enough pieces so that the back end doesn’t complain. With the launch of their revamped site happening today I’m led to believe that chunking will be available to everyone.

There’s lots of talk about how much cloud storage costs, and most services offer some initial capacity free, but here’s one idea:

  • Google Apps standard edition with a domain registration costs $10/yr.
  • Standard edition allows up to 50 accounts to be created.
  • Each account comes with 7GB of storage for email, which SMEstorage can use (in 10MB chunks).

That’s 350GB for $10/yr, which is 63x cheaper than S3 (before we start counting transfer fees). Also I’m not counting the 50x 1GB that the new Google Docs feature would give, so that should really be 400GB for $10/yr, which would cost $720 on S3.

Maybe Google will close the door on this if it gets too popular, but I would speculate that by then the marginal cost of cloud storage will be low enough for few to care.

[1] It astonishes me that the media distribution industry continues to fail to grasp that making life inconvenient for the masses has no impact on ‘piracy’. Whilst this measure may be pretty effective at stopping somebody less technical from sharing their kid’s nativity play it fails to appreciate the asymmetries involved. It only takes one technically savvy person to work around this limit and share Avatar (or whatever is flavour of the month).

2 Responses to “GDrive”

  1. Thanks for the plug Chris. I’m one of the developers at SMEStorage and we’ve worked really hard on bringing some unique functionality regarding cloud storage to users.

    We support many provides which include Amazon S3, RackSpace Cloud Files,, Apple MobileMe, Microsoft Skydrive, Microsoft Live Mesh, the use of GMail as a cloud, the use of any POP or IMAP email account as a cloud, and the use of any WebDav resource as a cloud.

    We add a lot of services over ad above what the original cloud provider adds such as encryption, file splitting to support files uploads larger than providers allows, myriad ways to files share (Twitter, RSS etc) and lot of other useful / cool stuff such as hooking into GEO Location services that prove where you were when you uploaded the file for legislation purposes, and also a means of syncing between two clouds so that if one is down you will always be able to get hold of your files when you need them.

    We’ve also got lots of cool tools which include a full windows suite which provides a virtual drive, sync tools, shell integration and a dedicated cloud explorer that works over all the clouds I just mentioned. There are also plug-ins for MS Office, Open Office, WordPress and much more, and we’ll be releasing virtual drives for both Mac and Linux before the end of January.

    If anyone wishes to try the service please head over to as there are many free packages.

  2. 2 Zach

    There is a way to map GDrive to local drive now. via ReadWriteWeb

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