Google Drive goes live. Is it worth a look?

Google Drive, the new cloud storage system from Google, launches this week. 

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    Google Drive debuts this week.
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Today Google took the wraps off Drive, its new cloud storage system. Starting this week, users can stow away up to 5GB of data on Drive for free. After that, a tiered fee system kicks in: You'll pay $2.49 a month for 25GB of storage, $4.99 a month for 100GB, and fifty bucks monthly for a whopping terabyte (that adds up to 1000 GBs, which should be satisfactory unless you're James Cameron or something). 

In a post on the Google blog, engineer Sundar Pichai called Drive "a 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. You can upload and access all of your files, including videos, photos, Google Docs, PDFs and beyond," Pichai added. 

Happily, Google Drive allows you to search your files by file type, owner or keyword. Moreover, Google has incorporated image recognition into the mix – meaning you can upload a photo of your pooch, and later dig up the photo by typing the word "dog" into the filter. Pretty cool. 

Recommended: Five things you need to know about 'the cloud'

Of course, as Mark Hachman of PC Mag notes today, Drive won't have the market to itself. Instead, it will "compete with offerings from Box and Dropbox. Box also offers 5GB of storage for free, while Dropbox's free plans start at 2GB, with 500MB added for free with each referral," Hachman writes

So what does Drive have that its competitors don't? In a word, integration. Like Gmail or Google Documents – or somewhat less successfully, Google+ – Drive is intended to seamlessly sync up with the Google experience. Sign onto your Gmail account, and you'll see a link for Drive, right up at the top of the screen. Never underestimate the average Web user's predilection for an orderly, streamlined experience. 

Users will need to consider their own comfort level when it comes to choosing convenience over privacy. Streamlining also means consolidating your life under Google's empire. Weigh the concerns for yourself. 

Google Drive, writes Andrew Nusca of ZD Net, is a "customer lock-in device. The more stuff you cram into your five-gigabyte corner of Google’s Internet, the less likely you are to leave it. You know why Facebook is so interested in photos of your friends, family and colleagues?" Nusca adds. "It’s not because it likes paying to keep all those servers online. It’s because a precious few people are willing to leave all that behind."

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