Google recently announced some ridiculously low-priced Drive storage options : $US2/month for 100GB or $US10/month for a whopping terabyte. What could you do with all that storage space, though? Well, for starters, you could turn Google Drive into your own personal media server.
Chances are, if you're into rolling your own media machine, you've checked out services like Plex -- our favourite media server -- that allow you to stream from one of your devices to another. This is an excellent solution, but it also means you're limited by your own hardware and bandwidth. The neat thing about Drive is that Google handles all of that for you. You get your own space on the internet where you can access your media from anywhere you want. You'll just need a few tools to help you out.
First: Upload Your Files To Google Drive
Before you get started streaming files from your Google Drive storage, you'll need to put something there. There are a few ways you can easily get your media into the cloud.
Use The Google Drive Client
If you decided to use Google Drive without installing the desktop client, we understand. While it works a lot like Dropbox, the syncing client was slower and less reliable than Dropbox when it first came out. However, if you want to upload your files en masse, it's a pretty easy option. You can also add Google Drive to your right-click menu so it's even easier to send files to Google's servers.
Save Files Directly From The Web To Google Drive
If you find files on the web you'd like to add to your collection, you can use Google's own Save to Google Drive extension to move files directly from websites to your storage. You can use it for individual files or images of whole web pages.
What About Music?
For storing video or photos, Google Drive is the way to go. However, for music, you also have the option of uploading your music to Google Play. The upside to using Play Music is that you can store up to 20,000 songs and they don't count against your storage limit. The downside, though, is that you're pretty much limited to Google's own app.
Google Drive offers you a middle ground. By storing your music in a Google Drive folder using the client mentioned above, you can sync your media to other devices or access it from the cloud without being shoehorned into an app you might not like. You can use your own local music player and just point it to the Drive folder.
View Your Files
So, hours later, you have the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe uploaded to your Google Drive storage and you need to get your Avengers on. Depending on how you want to view your videos, you have a wide variety of options to choose from.
Watch Your Movies in XBMC
If you're using XBMC on your HTPC, you can use the gdrive add-on to connect your Google Drive account. Load up the add-on and you'll get a list of all the videos uploaded to your storage and click on them to stream them over the internet. You can check out our guide on XBMC add-ons for installation instructions here.
To make it a little bit easier to access your Drive storage, you can add a shortcut to the Videos sub-section of the main menu. To enable this:
- Go to System > Settings.
- Select "Appearance".
- Under "Skin" select "Settings".
- Select "Add-on shortcuts."
- Under "Home Page Videos Submen" select "Add-on 1".
- Select the "gdrive" add-on.
Note: Depending on your custom skin, this option may be in a different location or might behave differently. These instructions are for the default "Confluence" skin.
Now, from the main menu, you can select the gdrive add-on from the Videos section at XBMC's main menu and play your videos right away.
Stream Your Videos To Chromecast
The Chromecast started out as an OK streaming device. Now that the app floodgate has opened, though, there are lots of things you can do with it. One of those is streaming your video directly from Google Drive via Koush's AllCast app. In addition to streaming local media from your phone to your Chromecast, you can also pull up videos, photos or music from Google Drive (or Dropbox, if you prefer).
Send To Your Gaming Consoles/DLNA TV
One of the most versatile ways to send media between devices is DLNA. With a DLNA streaming service, you can send your media to your Xbox, Playstation or any number of supported televisions. To do this, you can use Plex Media Server -- which, combined with Google Drive, will let you stream videos from your Drive storage right to any device in your home.
To use Plex to stream your content, first you'll need the premium service Plex Pass ($4/month or $US30/year). Once you have the upgraded account, open up the Plex web server and create a videos library (click the + button next to your server name and follow the wizard to add at least one folder from your computer). Once that's done, here's how to add your Google Drive content:
- Go to Plex.tv and log in.
- Click your Username in the top right corner.
- Click Cloud Sync.
- Authorise any accounts you want to access via Plex (for this article's purpose, Google Drive, but Dropbox is also available.)
- Click "Launch" to open the Plex/Web server.
- Open one of your video libraries in Plex/Web.
- On the left side of the screen, click Sync.
- Select "Cloud Sync" from the "Choose Destination" box that pops up.
- Choose a title for this collection and click "Sync".
Now these videos will be added to your Plex library. This means anywhere you could stream your other media to is now a target for your cloud media. The process to stream content to your DLNA-enabled console will depend on the device. At the start of this section, you'll see a video on how to stream to an Xbox 360, but you can check out our full guide on turning your video game console into a streaming media center here.
Listen To Your Music (Without Google Play)
As stated before, if you want to use Play Music for your music library, all you need is the Music Manager app and Google's own services. However, if you elected to go the Google Drive route, there are a few apps you can use to access your music remotely without having to sync your entire library.
DriveTunes for Chrome allows you to play all the music tracks in your Drive storage in a proper music player app. This would be particularly handy if you want to use an app like MusicBee for your home library, but still use Drive sync to your laptop without taking up extra space. Android app Beat (not to be confused with anything by Dre) can similarly stream music stored in Google Drive.