by Matt Kapko

4 out of 5 Google for Work customers avoid Google Drive

News Analysis
Sep 22, 2015
Cloud Storage

Google released new statistics that reveal that only 20 percent of its business customers use its Drive cloud storage service each month. The company also announced that Ernst & Young has verified Drive's support for privacy standards.

(Editor’s note: This story has been amended to correct errors related to Google for Work and Google Drive user and subscriber numbers. The changes are marked below in bold text.)

Google launched its Google for Work suite of applications almost four years ago, and it now has 5 million monthly active users. A few years ago, Google said it had 5 million Google for Work business users. This week, the company announced that one million businesses use the Google Drive cloud storage option at least once a month. Based on those numbers, fewer than one in five organizations that use pay for Google for Work also use the Google Drive cloud storage option at least once a month, according to the company. Gmail use dominates the portfolio that also includes Hangouts, Docs and other Google apps.

Google hasn’t provided updated information on the specific number of businesses that use pay for Google for Work in nearly two years, but it says it maintains at least 5 million business customers overall. A Google spokesperson said Google for Work has seen “huge growth” in large, highly regulated industries and businesses outside the United States. At least 6,000 organizations have more than 1,000 employees who use Google Apps, and more than half of all Google for Work customers are located outside the United States, according to the company.

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“Usage [overseas] ranges from people that have embraced the entire suite to … people right now who are only using Gmail,” says Scott Johnston, Google Drive director of product management. “It’s one thing just to be paying for something — I think there’s a lot of software that just sits on the shelf — and it’s another to be actively using it.”

The company recently decided to identify the number of paid customers who use Google Drive each month. The cloud-storage solution now has at least a million customers every month, and many of them have hundreds, or even thousands, of users. So a single customer’s activity could be as minor as one file saved by one user every month, or as large as a business with thousands of employees constantly collaborating and accessing a trove of files.

Privacy in the cloud (really)

Google also recently announced that Ernst & Young verified the ISO 27018 cloud privacy standard for Google Drive. The standard stipulates that Drive customers exclusively own the data they store in Drive, and it may not be used for advertising under any circumstance. It’s also a mandate for Google to provide tools for customers to delete and export data, protect information from third-party requests and be transparent about where customer data is stored.

“The number one thing we hear now is security and compliance,” says Johnston, who called the independent audit a “validation of what we’ve been saying all along. It’s one thing for us to say it and another for us to follow on and have people come in and validate that.”