Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to double your Google Drive, and other tech tips from a lawyer

The cloud storage wars are on. The big players are Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, but up-and-comers like Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and SpiderOak are in the game as well. And I'm sure there are others.

As someone whose Christmas was once brightened by the gift of a 20 megabyte external hard drive (that was the size of a modern laser printer) I can't help but be amazed by the availability of all this online storage space. And much of it is free. Microsoft's SkyDrive gives away 7 GB for free—25 GB to existing hotmail users who upgrade. Other services tend to give away between 2 and 5 GBs, with lots of ways (mainly referrals) to increase your free allotment.

I use Dropbox to backup and sync personal files (including media files) and SpiderOak to backup and sync more sensitive files. But I have an affinity for Google products, so when Google recently released its Google Drive option—with 5 GB free—I was naturally curious.

Google Drive is similar to Dropbox, in that it creates a special folder on your computers, and then syncs everything you put in that folder with your Google account in the cloud. As I investigated the service, however I quickly ran into two potential issues.

First, I have two Google accounts that I use constantly. One is my personal Google account, which I've had for many years, and use for my primary personal email account. The other is my law firm's account, which is a Google Apps for Business account. The reason having two accounts is a potential problem is that the Google Drive utility only works with one Google account at a time. So, at least at this point, you can only sync one Google account with your computer. You can always break the connection and sync with another account, but that means downloading all the files anew each time you do it, so that isn't feasible.

Second, Google Drive does not work with symbolic links (at least not yet). Symlinks are a nifty feature I use with Dropbox to automatically sync files in folders other than the official Dropbox folder. In essence, the symlink creates a wormhole between two folders, and this allows me to use Dropbox without messing with the location of my files and folders. But it doesn't work with Google Drive.

I have provisionally solved both of these problems, and in the process I doubled my functionally free Google Drive storage from 5GB to 10GB.

To solve the first issue (multiple gmail accounts) I set up another User on my computer, so that I have a personal user and a work user. Both user accounts are set up with Google Drive, but the personal user syncs to my personal Google account and the work user syncs to my work Google account. Then I set up the permissions so that each of the two user accounts have full access to the other user account. That way, whichever user account I'm logged into, I can access the other "user's" Google Drive. (I even changed the name of one of the Google Drive folders; this temporarily broke the sync but you can reconnect it with the new name through the Google Drive client utility.) The result: I have two Google Drive folders accessible to me at all times, with a total of 10GB free storage. (Note: I use a Mac, but I believe you do the same thing on Windows machines.)

I used SpiderOak to solve the second problem (lack of symlink functionality). SpiderOak allows to you to set up folder syncs between separate machines. For example, you tell it that you want Folder A on your laptop to sync with Folder B on your desktop. What I discovered is that you can use this functionality to sync folders on the same machine as well. So I told SpiderOak to sync one folder in one of my Google Drive folders (accessible locally) with a folder on my hard drive.

There may well be downsides to both these workarounds. For one thing, I always have two versions of the Google Drive utility running on my computer, which is likely bad for battery life. The SpiderOak local-sync is also kind of an inelegant workaround—and I worry about the possibility of infinite feedback loops. But so far everything seems to be working, and I learned quite a bit about my computer in the process.

1 comment:

  1. And may be you can backup entire Gmail label to google drive using this google script.
    Gmail google drive archiver script


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