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Making the Most of Google Drive: Collaboration, Security, Mobile Access, Third-Party Apps, and More

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Patrice-Anne Rutledge shows you how to make the most of Google Drive’s many powerful features including real-time collaboration, mobile and desktop access, third-party Drive-specific apps, and Chrome extensions.
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With more than 250 million users—and more signing up every day—Google Drive is one of the Web’s most popular online file storage solutions. Although most users don’t go beyond storing files, Drive also offers much more. You can use Drive to access Google applications such as Docs, Sheets, and Slides; collaborate with colleagues in real time; and access files from a mobile device. Drive also offers numerous third-party apps and extensions, which greatly enhance its basic functionality.

In this article, I offer an overview of Drive options and pricing, tips on making the most of Drive, and recommendations for the best apps and extensions.

Getting Started with Google Drive

If you’re new to Google Drive or considering signing up for an account, this section will get you up and running quickly. There are several Drive storage and pricing plans, depending on whether you have a work account, an education account, or an individual account.

Google Drive for Work (http://www.google.com/work/apps/business/driveforwork), designed for work teams, offers unlimited file storage for $10 per user per month. If you have fewer than five users in your account, be aware that Google reduces this to 1 TB of storage per user, which is still ample storage for most people. It also includes access to Google Apps for Work, with popular Google applications such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, Calendar, Hangouts, and Google+. In addition, Drive for Work offers advanced security and encryption using ISO 27001-certified data centers. If your industry requires you to adhere to specific regulations, Drive supports ISMA, FERPA, and HIPAA and follows the Safe Harbor Privacy Principles. Figure 1 shows the main Google Drive for Work site.

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Figure 1

Learn more about how Google Drive for Work helps work teams.

If you use Google Apps for Education (http://www.google.com/work/apps/education) through a non-profit educational institution, you have access to Drive for Education, which offers free unlimited storage (at this article’s publication time, this feature was still in the process of rolling out to all users). These accounts also provide access to Google applications and offer state-of-the-art security.

If you’re an individual and don’t have access to Google Apps through work or school, you can access Drive (https://www.google.com/drive/index.html) through your free Google account. This version offers 15 GB of storage that you can share across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google+ Photos. Items you create in individual applications (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and so forth) aren't included in this storage limit nor are files that other people have shared with you. Optionally, you can purchase additional storage. 100 GB of storage, for example, costs $1.99 per month.

If you have a Google account (for example, you already use Gmail or Google+), you can access your Google Drive by clicking the Apps button in the upper-right corner of your browser (see Figure 2).

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Figure 2

Access Google Drive any time you’re logged into your Google account.

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