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Will Google Drive cloud storage adoption or IT headaches?

Just because Google Drive is aimed at SMBs and consumers doesn’t mean the cloud storage service will have no impact on enterprises.

Google Drive will almost certainly add to the consumerization of IT that Randy Kerns recently wrote about because it will expand the number of users functioning as their own storage administrators. And the attention it has already sparked will make it more likely that most businesses will at least consider using the cloud for some of its file storage and data protection.

“On the face of it, this topic does not appear to concern the corporate IT manager or CIO, but chances are employees will start using this service to do more than share family photos and recipes,” Ovum principal analyst Richard Edwards wrote in an e-mail about Google Drive’s impact on the enterprise. “Corporate email systems are notorious for their measly storage quotas and message attachment size limitations, and so the sharing and distribution of large corporate files, such as PowerPoint presentations, engineering drawings, and creative content are an obvious use case for Google Drive.”

Edwards said Ovum recommends what he calls “business-grade” cloud collaboration services such as Box and Huddle because of their superior feature management and administration capabilities. Google Drive is seen as a prime competitor to these services as well as other popular file sharing clouds from Citrix, Dropbox, Egnyte, Nomadix, SpiderOak, SugarSync and Syncplicity.

Andres Roldriguez, CEO of cloud NAS vendor Nasuni, said Google Drive can go beyond the file sharing services already on the market because it controls the application stack and a mobile operating system. And while he doesn’t see Google Drive as a competitor to enterprise storage vendors, he does warn that enterprise vendors need to address data on mobile devices in a hurry.

“File storage and synchronization engines are changing storage as we know it,” Rodriguez wrote in an email. “Any large storage vendor that isn’t thinking about how to extend its current data center offerings to mobile is going to be unpleasantly surprised in the next 24 months as more workers shift to accessing data from tablets and smart phones. The pressure on IT is already intense. The control points for much corporate storage today are the Domain Controller (DC) and the CIFS protocol. No one wants to re-architect access control because of mobile users. What we need to figure out is how to extend the access control model we have today to include the new platforms.”

Ranajit Nevatia, VP of marketing for Nasuni rival Panzura, says Google Drive is a long way from becoming an enterprise service because adding features such as global namespace, file locking and enterprise encryption is “damn hard.” He said there is a big difference between file sharing and project sharing, which is what enterprise storage must support.

Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, iDrive, these are becoming a dime a dozen now,” Nevatia said. “Everybody’s coming up with file sharing with free amounts of storage associated with them. When you look at the target market and use cases they’re going after, it’s not overlapping with what we’re doing. It will put pressure on consumer level file sharing services, but it’s not meant for large enterprises. Our customers collaborate on projects like architectural engineer design or handle large amounts of research data. We’re not talking about two gigabytes or five gigabytes. We’re talking terabytes of data.”

Tom Gelson, Imation’s director of business development and its cloud strategist, said he has mixed reactions about Google’s entry into cloud storage. Imation’s data protection appliances are used by cloud providers and Gelson said the vendor plans on launching its own cloud service. And as an SMB vendor, that would make it a Google competitor. But Gelson agrees with Nevatia about the need for security in the cloud.
“Google rubber stamps cloud backup, because everybody knows Google,” he said. “It’s exciting, but we’re all concerned. Imation is focused on SMBs and if you talk to an SMB IT director, the biggest concern is security. That’s Imation’s biggest focus. We want to make sure data is secure once it sits on the cloud.”

Gelson pointed out Imation acquired three security companies in 2011-– Encryptx, MXI and Iron Key. He said Imation encrypts data in flight to the cloud, and also encrypts data on its RDX removable hard drive media.

Ethan Oberman, CEO of online file sharing company SpiderOak, brings up another potential sore spot for Google – privacy. Oberman wonders if Google will try to integrate Google Drive with Google Plus and if it will record users’ activities.

“Google has definitely been one of the more innovative companies since its inception, so the market will have high expectations for how Google Drive might change the way we work within the cloud,” said Oberman wrote in an e-mail statement. “There is obviously a very fine line between harvesting consumer data across Google platforms for a ‘richer experience’ versus the potential reality that every step we take on Google’s turf is recorded and analyzed. How Google addresses the 800-pound gorilla knocking on the door – privacy – will define how the company is widely perceived by the public. Google Drive will be a key part of this test.”

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