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You don't know Docs from Drive: Google's productivity apps, explained

Christopher Null | July 8, 2014
Google's recent upgrades to Drive have made clear the company's going head-to-head with Microsoft on productivity services. Unfortunately, in its efforts to emulate the industry standard, Google's made its cloud-based apps every bit as Byzantine as Office365.

Google's recent upgrades to Drive have made clear the company's going head-to-head with Microsoft on productivity services. Unfortunately, in its efforts to emulate the industry standard, Google's made its cloud-based apps every bit as Byzantine as Office365. 

Google's services overlap and their names aren't self-explanatory. This problem is aggravated by the company's propensity to change those names, consolidate services under one moniker, or simply discontinue them.

Fortunately, underneath the confusing nomenclature you'll find that Google is currently offering three major productivity services to the public. (While you'll find dozens of additional products on the company's master list of products , we aren't focusing on non-productivity business services like Google AdWords, Google Analytics, Google Payments, and so on in this story.) Here's an analysis of each to help you decide whether one (or more) is right for you.

Google Drive

Google Drive is an individual-level tool and probably the best-known of these services. At its heart it's an online storage system for everyone. Individuals can get 15GB for free, 100GB for $2 a month, or 1TB of space for $10 a month. (Additional plans stretch all the way up to 30TB.)

You can store just about anything on Google Drive (plug-ins let you work directly on Google Drive through Windows and other operating systems), but the real value from a productivity standpoint comes when you use Google's various business apps, which are integrated directly into Google Drive. Primarily, this includes the trinity of standard business tools: a word processor (Google Docs), a spreadsheet (Google Sheets), and a presentation tool (Google Slides). You can create these documents directly from within Google Drive. You can also upload documents from a device, convert them to the relevant Google format, and continue to edit them online.

Some of the confusion over what is basically a straightforward service comes from the colloquial way in which Google Drive is often referenced. Google Docs existed before Drive, and many users continue to refer to Google Drive by the old Google Docs name. Some are also prone to referring to the system as Google Apps, a term which technically does not describe any official product. Today that's more of a catch-all term describing a wide range of services and mobile apps that Google develops.

Google Drive competes directly with Microsoft OneDrive (formerly Microsoft SkyDrive), which also lets you store all manner of files, as well as create and edit files directly through the service, for free. OneDrive currently gives you 7GB of space for signing up.

Google Apps for Business

The name Google Apps for Business implies that there is a Google Apps Not for Business, but other than offerings for Education and Government, this isn't the case. Part of the confusion stems from a prior product called Google Apps Standard, a free and stripped-down version of Google Apps for Business. This was discontinued in 2012, when Google said users outgrew the service too quickly.

 

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