Google Drive is growing up a little bit today. At its enterprise-focused Cloud Next conference, Google is announcing a set of changes that will make the product more palatable for businesses — and potentially more interesting for regular consumers as well.
The top of the new feature list starts with “Team Drives,” which amounts to a shared cloud folder that employees can put their files into. That’s something you can do now, but the permission and ownership structure on those files can get kind of hairy pretty quickly: if somebody leaves the company, their files might disappear. Team Drives ensures everybody with access to the folder is essentially a “co-owner” of the files.
There are a couple other enterprise announcements, Google is making its “Vault” feature more widely available, which makes it easier for administrators to manage and export Google Drive data. It has also acquired AppBridge, a company that helps companies migrate to Google Cloud from Sharepoint, or whatever else they might be using. Now Google will offer those consulting services directly.
Google is focusing on addressing some of the biggest pain points in Drive
That’s the main business-focused feature. For consumers, the most interesting new feature is something Google calls “Drive File Stream.” Essentially, it’s designed to make it easier for you to choose to install Google Drive on your PC or Mac, because it won’t download all of your files — instead it will try to intelligently guess which ones you need and make the rest available on-demand. It’s similar to Dropbox’s “Smart Sync” feature. Unfortunately, it’s only available as part of Google’s “early adopter program.”
The other consumer feature is something called “Quick Access” and was previously only available on Android. Here, Google basically tries to predict what file you’re looking for when you open up Drive and then present it to you on the main screen before you search for it.
None of these things are precisely revolutionary features — and in the case of Drive File Stream in particular, it feels like table stakes. But taken together, they show that Google is perhaps getting serious about developing the G Suite again. Starting with some of the biggest pain points is a good idea — the precise details of file ownership and storage on your PC are the kinds of things that you don’t want to deal with managing constantly.