Report: Google gets Drive cloud storage ready to roll

Google(s goog) is finally about to big-foot its way into the cloud storage business, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

With its “Drive” or “G-drive” service — which has been talked about for some time — Google would take on some very popular consumer-oriented cloud storage entrants, notably Dropbox and Apple’s (s aapl) iCloud. People use these services as virtual closets for their digital photos, documents and music. Once their material is in the cloud, they can access it from many devices —  in iCloud’s case from Apple devices.

According to the report, posted late Wednesday:

The Google service, which is expected to launch in the coming weeks or months, will be free for most consumers and businesses. Google will charge a fee to those who want to store a large amount of files, the people familiar with the matter said.

Drive would be yet another in an array of new consumer services from Google which added Google+ web conferencing and collaboration in June to compete with Facebook and Skype and Google Music which stores users’ audio collections.  Google retains its lead in Internet search but has seen less success with these newer, ancillary services. Still, adding consumer cloud storage service is another way for Google to leverage its prodigious infrastructure.

Dropbox has seen huge adoption — it claimed more than 45 million customers last fall. Customers use it not only for archiving their pictures and documents, but to manage and sync those files between devices.

But it’s not just Dropbox and iCloud — there are  several competitive services like BackBlaze all of which offer free storage up to a point — in Dropbox’s case up to 2 GB. Users with up to 50 GB of storage pay $9.99 a month. There are also more business-oriented cloud services like Box, (formerly that are also gaining traction.

Given the proliferation of millions of camera-toting cell phones and the explosion of digital music, the appetite for cloud storage is likewise booming. It makes sense for Google to fight for its share of that action.

Update: As a commenter rightly pointed out, Microsoft has offered similar cloud storage with SkyDrive since 2007.  As of last October, Microsoft said 17 million people were storing content on it every month.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user brionv