Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Google Drive for Desktop.

Google have given their popular Backup and Sync Software an overhaul and it's much more than just a facelift.

Once installed I found the transfer from Backup and Sync to the new app pretty stress free. The odd 'login' bug, (after I'd already logged in), but otherwise the installation process is fairly painless, it even uninstalls backup and sync when you're finished. However, it doesn't remove the contents of your OLD Google Drive folder, and the way the new program works is significantly different. We'll come back to this later. 

The old Backup and Sync created a duplicate folder on your device, simply called Google Drive. Everything you synchronised with Drive was available no matter what you were doing, if you were connected to the internet or not. What was Sync'd was available. Of course if those files were Google Sheets, or Docs, you'd need an internet connection to open them in Chrome (or Safari). 

Your other docs, such as PDFs Word, powerpoint and Excel files would all open because a copy actually existed on your machine. 

This type of backup is now known as 'Mirroring'. The space drive uses on your computer is the same size as your Google Drive. If you have 1Gb of PDF's on Drive, you will need 1Gb of space on your computer to Mirror them. 

The other choice you have is to 'stream' your Drive. This takes up significantly less space on your computer as all you will see on your computer are shortcuts to your files; which, for clarity, are stored on your Drive online. 

There is a third way to do things though. You will likely have some files that are significantly more important than others, in this case you can stream your drive, but choose to mirror, some of the more important files or folders. On your computer you can select an important folder, right click it and choose Offline Access> Available offline. This will create a backup on your machine. 

What is odd though is that if you stop the software, the 'drive' (much like a Network storage device) will eject and your folders and files will not be visible. They're still on your machine, but you just can't access them. I've tested this, and when this happens, you can go offline, start the software and your 'mirrored' files all reappear again. This is where the software differs significantly from Backup and Sync. If Backup and Sync wasn't running, your files and folders were all still available. To be honest, I think I preferred it that way. 

To be clear though, if you are working somewhere new and you don't have internet access, if the software is running, you WILL have access to your mirrored files. But NOT your Streamed files. This has always been the case of course with Google Sheets and Slides, if you created a presentation in Slides, you'd better hope where you're working has internet access as you could not present if you did not. Downloading a powerpoint copy before you leave is good backup prep, if you're on a Mac, make sure you have powerpoint, or Keynote installed. 

Back to the software, what if the drive ejects (the software crashes) and I cannot restart the program? I guess the files will be relatively easy to locate somewhere in the systems folders in finder. But that's not as simple as having an offline copy in my Google Drive Folder, like I used to have with Backup and Sync. 

This new program doesn't fill me with confidence, in all honesty, there was nothing wrong with Backup and Sync, it only really needed the visual overhaul. In backup and Sync, you could choose to only sync specific files and folder via the preferences. It worked the same way this does, apart from the Storage 'Drive' effect that can be ejected. The new terminology makes sense, whether it's necessary or better or if it's just keeping people working at Google in a job, I am not sure. However my gut is telling me I will need to think about additional backup options; but that may just be a new technology anxiety thing. 

I just don't understand why the Folder needed to change to an ejectable 'Drive'. It makes no sense and is of no benefit that I can see. 

So back to the old Google Drive folder that was left behind after the upgrade. This is my last backup of my old drive and it's significant in size. Technically I should just delete it, as everything is safe on Drive and available as a stream to me, apart from my personal and accounting files, which I chose to mirror. 

But selecting my old stuff and just deleting it all? Maybe I'll shift it to an old encrypted pen drive for now until I've more faith in Drive for Desktop. 

What do you think about the new Drive for Desktop Software, have you used it, do you prefer it?

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