Google Gambles on Gigabytes

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The storage industry is abuzz about an inadvertent posting on Google’s Web site that revealed the search giant’s plans to get into the online storage business.

Storage industry watchers are intrigued by Google’s possible entry into the online storage market, but they also have some concerns about security and compliance issues.

“I’m a huge fan of Google, and they continue to amaze me with wonderful new offerings like the GDrive,” said Curtis Preston, vice president of data protection at GlassHouse Technologies. “I like the idea from a personal use perspective, but the corporate use of such services brings up all sorts of questions.”

The news was contained in a PowerPoint presentation briefly posted on Google’s Web site last week, then removed and replaced with an edited version — with the juicy details removed. But that wasn’t fast enough for blogger Greg Linden and others, who had already read the unedited version and posted about it.

Being Google, the announcement quickly sparked questions about trust and privacy — and had others wondering if Google could make a business model work that others have struggled with.

The “Gdrive” service seems to be a storage service capable of, according to the deleted speaker’s notes, storing 100 percent of a user’s data on Google’s servers and turning personal computers into temporary data caches.

“With infinite storage, we can house all user files, including e-mails, Web history, pictures, bookmarks, etc., and make it accessible from anywhere (any device, any platform, etc.),” said the notes in the original Google PowerPoint presentation, according to Linden.

While not a new idea — online storage and remote access is offered by, AOL’s Xdrive and Yahoo, among others — Google has shown an ability to take tried and true ideas and remake them into cool new services.

“I’m not sure if it’s going to happen, but it’s a pretty smart move if done right,” said Steve Duplessie, senior analyst and founder of Enterprise Strategy Group. “Google is a real brand with muscle. Their brand will get them tons of visibility, and their economic advantage of the way they buy capacity is much better than you and I can do.”

It’s not clear what the pricing strategy or business model would be if the GDrive service becomes reality, but Duplessie said he might pay for it. “Will I pay to have my personal data stored on Google? Sure I would — at the right price, of course,” Duplessie said. “Why not keep all the pictures of my dog on their site instead of mine?”

It’s also possible that the service could find use as a backup option for small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) — and might even be marketed that way. The need for off-site storage — and growing mistrust of data tapes — could make SMBs a viable market for the GDrive service.

“The SMB may also be a market opportunity,” Duplessie said. “Those guys don’t like to manage IT stuff, so it’s possible. The consumer market for primary storage, and perhaps the SMB space for backup storage, sounds like Google all over the place.”

Still, Duplessie doesn’t see Google taking on more sophisticated online services such as Iron Mountain’s LiveVault and Connected offerings or SonicWALL’s Lasso Logic services.

For enterprises, off-site backup services pose troubling issues that the GDrive service might bring to the forefront.

GlassHouse’s Preston outlined a number of those concerns.

“What is their security model? I would be really surprised if they disabled plain text access to it, which means my password is sniffable,” he said.

“What backup and recovery SLAs will Google offer?” Preston asked. “Are they prepared to satisfy electronic discovery requests against the GDrive and any backups of it? If anyone puts confidential data on a GDrive, is Google liable in any way, or is it the person that used the drive in that way? Should corporations prevent GDrive access via its protocol, and would it be possible to do so? Will Google provide documentation to help companies do that if they want to?”

Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, said the GDrive service raises data privacy concerns in addition to regulatory compliance and security issues. “I’d be more worried about what Google does with the information they store,” Karp said, adding that it could be subject to government requests for information.

The move isn’t Google’s first into the data storage space. The search king has also made a couple of moves into the information and classification management (ICM) space that have raised speculation about the company’s enterprise data management ambitions.

GDrive, if it makes the jump from PowerPoint to reality, will only serve to heighten that speculation.

David Miller of contributed to this report.

Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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