When you want to go beyond your company’s internal servers or your own computer’s existing hard drive, and external drives aren’t quite enough, cloud storage can be an attractive alternative that promises access from virtually anywhere.
Take the time to choose the right one, and you could save money while gaining access to a whole host of features you wouldn’t typically get with a standard hard drive or other physical storage device.
Dropbox vs Google Drive: Features
Speaking of extra features, Dropbox is chock-full of them, making it a well-rounded offering for individuals and businesses alike. Of course, its main function is to store files in an online storage. Browser access is available, and this is where you’ll find things like admin settings and subscription management. We also found it easier to share files from here, with a more user-friendly interface for managing permissions.
However, the desktop clients do an excellent job of syncing everything in the background for most day-to-day tasks involving opening and editing files. With the client, files are automatically synced with your computer’s native file management system (like File Explorer or Finder), so you barely have to go into the actual Dropbox app. If you do, you’ll find additional controls for things like bandwidth throttling, which is a nice addition, but for most users it’s an unnecessary addition that they never need to use.
There are also mobile apps that can automatically back up your camera roll when you need to free up space on your device. As with the desktop versions, you can mark files as available offline if you expect to be without internet or need to have a copy handy.
For sensitive files, Dropbox recommends storing them in its “vault,” a password-protected area within your storage space that can be handy for family accounts.
The company’s password manager is bundled with every free and paid account, but free accounts are limited to 50 passwords. It’s arguably a better system than Apple’s keychain and Google Chrome’s built-in tool, as it’s available on most devices, regardless of OS or browser, as it works through its own app.
Paid accounts get access to three e-signatures per month with the company’s HelloSign service, and while the Paper word processor app is somewhat limited, there are plenty of third-party integrations with direct access to things like Microsoft Office from the Dropbox interface.
Google Drive works very similarly to Dropbox, but is arguably better when accessed through a browser. The browser gives you access to the entire Google ecosystem, including the free Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps, as well as other apps like YouTube, Maps, and Calendar.
If you prefer to work with other apps, e.g. B.Word (opens in new tab)Excel (opens in new tab)and PowerPoint (opens in new tab), the easiest experience comes from using the desktop client, which saves your files in File Explorer or Finder. This allows you to drag and drop your files and sync them in the background without having to wait for an upload or download in the browser.
Google Drive takes a similar approach to managing files in its storage space, but its proprietary suite of word processing apps (Docs, Sheets, and Slides) is among the best in the business. Unlike Microsoft Office and Apple offerings, Google’s apps are online-only: there’s no desktop software.
Because of this, we believe the best way to access Google Drive is through its browser portal. It’s a good thing that the experience is smooth then; The familiar-looking interface supports drag-and-drop from your desktop and is easy to navigate.
However, if you’d rather work with other non-Google apps, the desktop client might make more sense. It syncs files in the background and places them in your native file management system – like File Explorer and Finder – so you barely have to open the Google Drive app.
Like Dropbox and Microsoft One Drive, Google Drive has numerous settings to adjust things like bandwidth usage and proxy selection, which is more than can be said about iCloud Drive.
Business users will be particularly drawn to the variety of third-party integrations that Google Drive supports, including mind mapping tools and document converters, but Box supports a lot more.
Dropbox vs Google Drive: Performance
To find out which cloud storage drive is the best, we took more than 20 of them and compared their features, value, and performance. For the latter, we used the same 1GB test file to verify upload and download speeds, which gives an indication of whether the company is applying throttling behind the scenes.
Both Dropbox and Google Drive handled the upload in just over four minutes, which is no better for our broadband connection. The download took less than a minute for Dropbox and a minute and a half for Google Drive, which we think is one of the best. For reference, throttled services generally took about 10 minutes to download 1GB in our tests.
While these times are only a guide and are specific to our own machines and internet connections and should not be used to represent any company, they do serve as a solid basis for comparison.
Dropbox vs Google Drive: Support
Since Dropbox was one of the first cloud storage companies to break into the mainstream, it has had plenty of time to release and refine its extensive catalog of self-help articles. There are also email and live chat channels for more responsive, real-time support, but only business customers are entitled to phone support.
Google Drive offers almost identical services, but it’s a bit harder to get access to real human support as the company seems to be pushing its self-help articles, presumably to reduce operational costs.
Dropbox vs Google Drive: Pricing
Free Dropbox accounts get 2GB of storage and access to most features, but the experience is somewhat limited, leaving users asking for more. The handful of personal plans offer ample storage, but we’d like to see cheaper options and scalability for even more storage.
The Personal Plus plan comes with 2TB and costs $11.99 (£9.99) per month. This can be upgraded to 3TB for $19.99 (£19.99) per month, which offers some extra features like longer file versions and more personalized sharing options. The family plan costs $19.99 (£16.99) per month and offers 2TB of total storage that up to six users can share. Aside from that, its features mirror those of the most affordable personal plan.
As well as the 3TB Professional plan, which Personal Plus users can upgrade to, there are Standard and Advanced plans ranging from $18 (£14.50) per user per month to $24 (£21.50 ) cost, starting at 5TB and up to a custom amount (e.g. cost). All accounts get three free e-signatures per month as part of Dropbox’s HelloSign, but the Professional plan can be upgraded to unlimited e-signatures for an additional fee.
Google Drive has a wider range of plans, starting with its free 15GB of storage, which is among the best you can find among any cloud storage drive. The basic tier comes with a total of 100GB for $1.99 (£1.59) per month, while 200GB costs $2.99 (£2.49) per month. The largest 2TB plan costs $9.99 (£7.99) per month, which is cheaper than Dropbox but not as cheap as iCloud Drive at £6.99 per month (although US users still pay £9.99 $ will be paid).
Google’s business plans – dubbed Workspace – start with a fairly small 30GB pot that costs $6 (£4.60) per user per month. The $12 (£9.20) per user per month 2TB plan sounds a lot more appealing, while the $18 (£13.80) per user per month 5TB plan doesn’t either looks shabby. A definitive Enterprise membership offers individual pricing for as much storage space as required.
If you’re willing to make a long-term commitment — and we reckon most people looking for online storage do — all Dropbox plans are eligible for annual memberships that save up to 20%. Google Drive’s personal plans offer a similar scheme for a smaller savings of 16-17%, but the Google Workspace membership works on a monthly basis.
Dropbox vs Google Drive: Verdict
As with everything in life, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, we think Google Drive offers the best combination of features in most cases, whether it’s its large free storage space, its endless sharing and collaboration options, or its free online word processing apps (which rank among the best). While Dropbox can prove to be a bit more expensive, its features can easily outweigh Google Drive if you’re a business user looking for specific things.