With Google Drive desktop officially on its way out, per a Google blog announcement in September 2017, G Suite users are wondering what’s next for their favorite business solutions and data backup.
Though full end-of-life is slated for March 12, 2018—there’s been a fair amount of panic among users, so let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Google Drive isn’t going anywhere. You’re just losing one of several ways to access these files. If you primarily access Drive at work through web browser or mobile app, this announcement will not impact your UX.
Wave goodbye to Google Drive desktop
G Suite has some 3 million paying customers, which is pretty good for a collaboration and productivity suite that’s always been cloud-first. With the death of Google Drive desktop, users are officially losing the ability to physically store files on their desktop and simultaneously sync these files with cloud storage.
While the announcement from Google didn’t delve into the deets of why they’re doing away with the Drive desktop app, their announcement on Drive File Stream may offer some insight into a need for speed and less physical storage usage in the enterprise:
Drive File Stream allows you to quickly access all of your Google Drive files on demand … meaning you use almost none of your hard drive space and spend less time waiting for files to sync.
Consumer users of Google productivity tools are being steered toward the Backup and Sync as a replacement for Drive desktop, which still enables files to be stored locally and synced to the cloud. However, Google says Drive File Stream is the best choice for most businesses and you’ve got to pick a lane—only one of the two is allowed.
Streaming is the new local storage
Cloud file streaming is the sleeker, less hard drive-greedy alternative to file download, allowing you on-demand access to what you need without any lag time. Google’s gone all-in with this technology, introducing Instant Apps services for consumer mobile that preserve your phone’s storage limits. There are limits to streaming app content to your mobile device, but they’re not all bad; streamed apps can’t work in the background or modify your phone content without consent.
While Google may be one of the most visible proponents of cloud streaming, they’re not the only ones. One cloud tech firm wrote a literal manifesto on why streaming is great, which included the bold phrase, “We believe instant access of apps, delivered wherever and however users want it, is the next necessary phase of mobile.”
The new Drive File Stream service enables you to stream files directly from the cloud, without having to download content unless you want to. Google says the benefits of choosing a sync solution include:
- Less demand on disk space
- Decreased network bandwidth load
- Less sync time
- Minimal company data stored on hard drives
Meet Drive File Stream business solutions
For end users of the productivity suite, the impact of streaming technology should be minimal. Early testers on Quora report the Drive File Stream desktop app “looks a lot like another folder on your machine.” When coupled with sophisticated permissions features within G Suite for enterprise, data owners can now even prevent individuals from downloading content, while still providing these users with the ability to update and edit files.
Drive File Streaming also has a major security benefit: Your users aren’t walking around with sensitive data on their hard drives. Since files are stored exclusively in the cloud, users can make files available for offline updates without downloading content.
A laptop is stolen every 53 seconds, and more than 4 percent of the mobile devices issued to employees each year are lost or stolen. Think of file streaming as insurance against the truism that people are at least sometimes irresponsible with their office technology.
Of course, no security is flawless. Even though Drive File Stream files are in the cloud, researchers report they’re still susceptible to corruption if a physical machine gets infected with ransomware. It’s a risk that also existed with Drive Desktop, and it’s just more proof that you should never put your entire security strategy in any one basket.