Google Wants Your Gigabytes

Wednesday Mar 8th 2006 by David Miller
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The company aims to be the world's better, bigger hard drive.

If you've been thinking about using online storage to backup your company's critical business data, but wondered if it's a good idea, take a look at what Google's up to. The 900-pound gorilla in the search space is apparently developing a service that will allow people to store every scrap of data from their computers' hard drives on Google's servers.

This information was contained in the speaker's notes section of a PowerPoint presentation posted on Google's Web site by the company after its Analysts Presentation Day event last Thursday.

But Google removed the presentation shortly after it was posted and later replaced it with an edited version in PDF format. The speaker's notes had been deleted from the PDF. Too late, Google.

Some quick-on-the-keyboard people, including Greg Linden, author of the Geeking with Greg blog, had already read the unedited version and released tidbits of information about Google's newest plans on their blogs.

The announcement sparked many questions about trust and privacy, as well as how Google would manage to turn a profit from offering storage to the masses.

The speaker's notes briefly mentioned three services that will play a crucial role in Google's "Store 100%" plan: "GDS," "Lighthouse" and "Gdrive."

GDS is apparently Google's Desktop Search and, in this context, most likely refers to "Search Across Computers," the just launched component of the service that lets you temporarily store copies of your hard drives on Google's servers and then search for information across all the computers you have access to.

For example, someone could use her desktop machine to search for a document created on her laptop.

Two weeks ago analyst firm Gartner warned enterprises to disable or establish strict security polices for the Search Across Computers application, citing security concerns.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also issued a warning stating that using Search Across Computers opened the door for personal or corporate information to be accessed by law enforcement via subpoena.

Lighthouse was referred to in the presentation's notes as an "access list," perhaps a security permissions application that determines who can access what information stored on Google's servers.

GDrive seems to be a storage service capable of, according to the speaker's notes, storing 100 percent of a person'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)," read the notes in the original Google PowerPoint presentation.

None of these are particularly novel technologies — online storage and remote access is offered by Box.net, Xdrive and Yahoo, among others. But Google tends to take tried and true ideas and remakes them into cool new services. Who else could have gotten us all excited about e-mail again?

"Google's offering could be interesting for two reasons," said Linden. "First, they have a tendency to do things at much larger scale than others; note the impact that GMail's 2G limit had on the existing online mail products," he said. "Second, GDrive appears to be part of a much broader and bolder plan to move all of your data online, as indicated in the other notes in the Google analyst day slide deck."

The announcement sparked some snarky comments on the wisdom of storing all of one's data on a commercial server.

People wondered whether the information would be used for marketing purposes or potentially turned over to law enforcement.

"I think, given all the recent publicity surrounding the National Security Agency's efforts to get at Google's search engine logs and the renewed interest in online privacy, the public would be wary and reluctant to fully embrace this service, " said Greg Sterling, an analyst with The Kelsey Group.

"Google would have to go to extraordinary lengths to reassure users that the data were going to be kept private," Sterling added. "Even then I think it would be a tough sell.

"That's not to say that it's an all or nothing proposition. Some version of GDrive/Google storage and related services might well appeal to people. It remains to be seen what the final offerings are."

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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