Dropbox vs Google Drive vs Onedrive: Comparing the Big Three in 2021

Choosing the right cloud storage service is tough, especially when you have to pick between the most popular clouds in the world. In this Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive comparison, we’ll look at how these cloud storage services fare across several categories — including collaboration, file sharing, storage options, pricing and more — to determine the winner.

Ben StocktonAleksandar Kochovski
By Ben Stockton & Aleksandar Kochovski (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2021-06-28T06:36:30+00:00 Facts checked by Elisabeth Ivey

If you were to ask someone to rank and contrast cloud storage services, it would be a good bet that comparing Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive would get a mention.

It’s no surprise why. Dropbox is the cloud storage service that really popularized the concept, and Microsoft and Google are two of the biggest players in the software sphere. If you’re thinking about signing up for cloud storage, you might wonder who wins in a battle between Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive on pricing, features and more.

Key Takeaways:

  • In the battle of Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive, it’s hard to call a winner, as the best service will depend on your cloud storage needs.
  • Google Drive offers the largest free plan and the cheapest paid cloud file storage of the three.
  • None of the services are particularly secure, but OneDrive offers a secure folder locked by an extra level of two-factor authentication.
  • In the end, the results are a true toss-up between Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox, with each service scoring three points in different categories.
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    We’ll hopefully help you decide for yourself in this Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive comparison — three of the best cloud storage services available. If you want a snapshot version of this piece, check out our video below. For a closer look at each service, you can check out our full Dropbox review, Google Drive review and OneDrive review.

    • 06/17/2021

      Cloudwards.net updated the pricing information and images. The Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive comparison now correctly reflects the changes to Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

    • It’s a close call, and it really depends on what your needs are. OneDrive offers more value than Google Drive and Dropbox, as it comes bundled with the offline versions of the Office suite. Meanwhile, the other two only let you collaborate on files online. However, Google Drive is a cheaper option overall with a larger free plan, and Dropbox is more flexible.

    • If your budget isn’t restricted, file sharing is one of your priorities, and you really need to collaborate using Google Docs and Microsoft Word, then you might be better off using Dropbox. In most other instances, OneDrive should be a better option.

    • If you don’t need too much space, you could make use of Google Drive’s free account, which comes with 15GB of storage. As most folks don’t backup too much data to the cloud, there should be ample room for personal use and much more than what OneDrive offers for free.

    • OneDrive has a free account with 5GB of storage, but you can expand that storage with a paid plan.

    • While neither will win any security accolades, OneDrive is marginally safer than Google Drive and Dropbox, thanks to its private vault feature, which adds a PIN-protected folder to your cloud storage.

    Cloud Storage Alternatives

    Which Is Better: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive?

    These are three huge names in cloud storage, so which one comes out on top as the better cloud storage provider? The quick answer is a disappointing “it depends.” Well, at least of these three: Google Drive vs Dropbox vs OneDrive. However, Sync.com is our absolute favorite (read our Sync.com review to find out why).

    OneDrive for Ease of Use and Mobile App Support

    Microsoft OneDrive is easy to use and offers fast syncing — you can also manage multiple OneDrive accounts. Although it’s not the best cloud storage provider on the market, it still offers better security features than the other two providers.

    Dropbox for File Syncing and File Sharing

    Meanwhile, Dropbox scores very highly for features, especially if you’re looking for a product that’s ideal for collaborating on both Microsoft Office and Google Workspace documents. However, it does have some flaws, especially for Mac and iOS users, which we’ll cover in further detail.

    Google Drive for Features, Customer Support and Pricing

    Lastly, Google Drive offers the most free storage space and has better customer service, but there are well-known privacy issues (read our guide to Google Drive alternatives).

    Before we go into more detail, here’s a quick explanation of how this comparison will work.

    Setting Up a Battle: Dropbox vs OneDrive vs Google Drive Comparison

    To try and make this comparison as fair as possible, we’ve divided it up into nine key areas that we feel are the most important when choosing a cloud storage provider. We’ll compare the providers across each of these areas: features, pricing, file sync, file sharing, ease of use, mobile app support, security, privacy and customer support.

    At the end of each round, we’ll declare a winner, if there is one. If the round is too close to call, it may end in a two- or three-way tie. At the end of the nine rounds, we’ll add up all the scores and declare an overall winner. Without further ado, let the battle commence.

    1. Features

    First, let’s take a gander at the features these cloud storage providers offer. We’ll compare them not only on the features each offers out of the box but also on third-party app integrations. We’re especially interested in how these cloud services can facilitate productivity and collaboration.

    Microsoft OneDrive Features

    OneDrive is a Microsoft cloud storage product, so it plays very nicely with other Microsoft apps. For example, if you receive an attachment in Outlook, you can right-click and save it directly to any OneDrive folder of your choice. As part of Microsoft 365, OneDrive comes with all the perks of integrating natively with both Microsoft’s apps, like the Office 365 suite, as well as Windows itself.

    microsoft onedrive features
    Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage integrates natively with other Microsoft apps.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t any third-party integrations to speak of unless you’re on the business version of OneDrive. While there are apps that work with OneDrive, it’s more of a case of the apps having integration with OneDrive, rather than the other way around. This is also the case with Google Drive and Dropbox, as you’ll see further down in this comparison.

    Google Drive Features

    Likewise, Google Drive works seamlessly with other Google Workspace apps, such as Google Docs and Google Sheets (find out how to change your default Google account). Integration with Gmail is also excellent. You can attach a file from your Google Drive directly from within the “compose” window.

    google workspace marketplace
    Besides integrating with Google apps, Google Drive cloud storage has an entire app store for third-party integrations.

    Where Google Drive beats Microsoft OneDrive is integration with third-party services, meaning you don’t have to rely on Google’s default feature set. You can use third-party media players, photo and video editors, accounting software and more in your Google Drive interface.

    Dropbox Features

    Unlike Google Drive and OneDrive, Dropbox cloud storage doesn’t have its own office suite or email client, but it does offer a note-taking app (see our Dropbox Paper review), as well as a document signer, a file transfer service and a password manager. It even lets you take and share screenshots and screen recordings.

    However, because of its lack of office apps, you might expect Dropbox to be less useful as a collaborative tool. In fact, the opposite is true, as Dropbox works with files from both Microsoft and Google. If you want to switch between services, Dropbox makes this easy. Rather than having to decide which service you’d prefer to use, Dropbox allows you to use both.

    dropbox cloud storage app center
    Dropbox offers a few features of its own, plus an app store to download third-party app extensions.

    As for integration with other third-party apps, Dropbox has its own app store where you can find add-ons for everything from project management apps like Trello and IFTTT to full-on design apps like Canva, Procreate and even AutoCAD.

    Collaboration: Google Drive vs OneDrive vs Dropbox

    All three of these cloud storage providers offer excellent collaboration tools, which is why we recommend each service on our best cloud storage for collaboration short list. This isn’t really surprising, as two of the cloud storage providers are responsible for some of the most popular office apps out there.

    Collaborating With Microsoft OneDrive

    OneDrive provides seamless integration with Microsoft 365 apps, as we’ve mentioned. If you share an Office document with others, you can all work on it simultaneously. You’ll see who else is working on the file, as well as any changes they make in real time. All changes automatically save to your OneDrive account.

    Microsoft 365 also gives you access to Microsoft Teams. This opens all kinds of avenues for collaboration, using OneDrive’s integration with the Office 365 suite of document editors in tandem with the robust Teams communication platform. OneDrive integrates with Skype as well, letting you share and preview documents directly within the app (though, why are you still using Skype?).

    onedrive office integration
    The online versions of Microsoft’s Office apps let you collaborate in real time, though each is less functional than its offline counterparts.

    Google Drive Collaboration Options

    Google Drive integration works in a similar fashion, using Google’s own office apps, such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. You can see other collaborators viewing the file, with their name appearing as a different-colored cursor as they add new text.

    Google also offers a communication tool in the form of Google Meet. Although it’s not quite as flexible as Teams, you can integrate third-party add-ons to expand its functionality. Plus, if you get Google Drive as part of Google Workspace, integration between services becomes even tighter, letting you collaborate on Google Drive documents from within other Google apps.

    google drive docs integration
    Google Drive lets you collaborate in real time via the Workspace app suite.

    Dropbox Integration With Google and Microsoft Apps

    Click on any Google document in your Dropbox cloud storage, and it will open it in the relevant Google app. You can collaborate in exactly the same way as you can with Google documents in Google Drive, but your changes will automatically save to Dropbox. The one niggle we have with this is that your Google email has to match your Dropbox email for the integration to work.

    Dropbox also lets you collaborate on Microsoft Office files in exactly the same way as you would in OneDrive. You can even open Microsoft file formats in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides and make edits. The files will still save in your Dropbox storage in the original Microsoft formats. You can even share files directly to Teams, just like you can with OneDrive.

    dropbox collaboration options
    Dropbox lets you use Microsoft or Google’s document editors.

    There isn’t much between OneDrive and Google Drive here. However, with support for additional third-party services, Google Drive pushes out OneDrive to be the overall winner here.

    2. Pricing

    All three providers offer some level of free storage, as well as various perks that come with a paid account. If you’re not looking to store a huge amount of data, then there are well-priced cloud storage options from all three providers. In fact, all three cloud storage services make it onto our list of the best 1TB cloud storage providers. First, let’s take a look at what each service offers for free.

    Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive: Free Storage Space

    Dropbox and OneDrive don’t really offer too much free cloud storage space. Dropbox offers a measly 2GB for free, while OneDrive offers only 5GB. Both services are similar in that they limit certain features from free accounts.

    The free version of OneDrive has limited sharing features and a limit of three files for your “personal vault” (we’ll look into these features in a bit). Similarly, a free Dropbox account has no advanced sharing features or access to the Dropbox Vault, and although Dropbox still keeps a 30-day version history of your files, you can’t use the full “account rewind” feature for free.

    Google Drive comes out the highest of our three contenders in our rundown of the best free cloud storage providers, offering a generous 15GB of free storage. Besides beating both OneDrive and Dropbox in terms of sheer free storage space, the free version of Google Drive has no limitations like the other two cloud storage services do.

    Paid tiers are where things get more complicated. Looking at prices alone, Dropbox is by far the most expensive cloud storage option in this comparison, while Google Drive is the cheapest, with OneDrive in the middle of the pack. All three cloud storage solutions offer a discount for a yearly subscription, so we’ll compare prices with the discount applied.

    Dropbox Pricing Plans

    Dropbox has only one personal plan, the Dropbox Plus plan. It costs $9.99 per month for 2TB of cloud storage space and adds all the perks missing from the free plan. There’s also the shared Family plan, which costs $16.99 a month for 2TB of shared file storage space. You can add up to six users to this plan and get a common “family room” for mutually accessed files.

    dropbox homepage
    Dropbox is the most expensive of the three options in terms of both personal and business plans.

    We won’t look too deep into how the business plans are priced, as those are targeted toward companies and, well, business users. Dropbox’s Professional plan is the only business plan that’s fit for a single user, offering 3TB of storage for $16.58 per month. The other business plans come with upwards of 5TB of cloud storage and advanced user administration features but aren’t fit for personal use.

    There’s also a Dropbox Enterprise plan, but this is a customizable solution for large businesses, so you’ll need to contact Dropbox for a quote. It may be worth your while to check out Dropbox’s business version if that’s your use case, as Dropbox Business is an excellent enterprise cloud storage.

    Microsoft OneDrive Pricing Plans

    Looking at the OneDrive storage plans, you get cheap cloud storage, plus access to other Microsoft apps, but the cap for storage is low — only 1TB. There’s only one OneDrive subscription option, with 100GB for just $1.99 per month, although this doesn’t come with access to Office apps. To get more storage than that, you have to get a Microsoft 365 plan.

    onedrive homepage
    OneDrive cloud storage offers excellent value through Microsoft 365, though its storage caps out at just 1TB.

    Like Dropbox, Microsoft 365 offers a personal and a family plan. The Personal plan costs around $5.83 per month for 1TB of storage, plus offers access to the Microsoft Office suite. The Family plan covers up to six users for around $8.33 per month, with each user getting 1TB of OneDrive storage and full use of the Office suite.

    Microsoft’s OneDrive has two business packages that aren’t part of Microsoft 365 and come without any auxiliary apps. However, the Microsoft 365 Business Basic plan is much more attractive, costing only $5 per user and adding useful apps, like Teams and SharePoint, as well as the obligatory Office apps. In addition, it offers 1TB of OneDrive file storage per person.

    OneDrive Basic 5GB
    • : 5 GB
    OneDrive 100GB
    • : 100 GB
    Microsoft 365 Personal
    • : Comes with Office 365 Personal
    • : 1000 GB
    Microsoft 365 Family
    • : Comes with Office 365 Home
    • : 5000 GB
    OneDrive for Business Plan 1
    • : Price per user
    • : 1000 GB
    OneDrive for Business Plan 2
    • : Price per user
    • : Unlimited GB

    Google Drive Storage Pricing Plans

    Google Drive offers the cheapest file storage of the bunch, so it’s a no-brainer between Dropbox prices vs Google Drive prices. Plus, unlike Microsoft’s Office, Google’s document editors are completely free to use (though the less-capable online versions of Office apps are free).

    google drive homepage
    Google Drive has the most affordable plans and free storage.

    The simplest way to increase your Google Drive storage is to purchase a Google One plan. This lets you share your account with five other users, as well as access some bizarre offerings, like discounted stays at certain hotels. You can upgrade your Google Drive storage to 100GB for around $1.67 per month, 200GB for $2.45 per month or 2TB for $8.33 per month.

    For an improved collaborative experience, you can upgrade your Google account by grabbing a Google Workspace plan to share with co-workers. With Google Workspace, you can get 2TB of Google Drive storage per user for $12 per month per user. However, you can increase your storage to 5TB per user for $18 per month per user or get a custom Enterprise plan by contacting Google.

    Unlimited Storage Is Not All It Seems

    If you’re looking for unlimited cloud storage, we recommend taking a look at the best unlimited online storage providers. All three providers in this comparison offer what they call “unlimited storage,” but that isn’t necessarily the full picture.

    Google Workspace’s Enterprise plan promises “as much storage as you need,” but Google seems suspiciously obtuse about what exactly this means. The Dropbox Business Advanced and Enterprise plans use similar wording, with no clarity as to whether both offer truly unlimited storage.

    Likewise, the OneDrive Business (Plan 2) offers unlimited storage but with asterisks upon asterisks that indicate you’ll have to jump through several hoops before getting full use of that storage.

    Since Google Drive offers the largest amount of free storage and the cheapest 2TB personal option, Google Drive is the winner on pricing. 

    3. File Sync

    Dropbox is the company that first popularized the sync folder model used by all three providers. It sets up a sync folder on your computer for you to use, with any files or folders placed in that folder synced to the cloud (read our guide if Dropbox is not syncing).

    Selective Syncing

    All three providers offer selective sync. This allows you to choose which folders sync to your hard drive and which remain solely in the cloud to save space on your drive. Unsynced folders will not be visible on your computer.

    Dropbox gets around this with its Smart Sync option, which is available for all paid plans. It’s a great feature that helped Dropbox get to the very top of our list of the best cloud storage with sync. It allows you to set files as “online only,” meaning the files will show in your sync folder on your computer but won’t take up space on your drive (read our full guide to what Dropbox Smart Sync is).

    dropbox smart sync
    If you’re on a paid Dropbox plan, you can use its Smart Sync feature to free up hard drive space.

    OneDrive has a similar system called Files On-Demand. If you download an online-only file, it will remain on your hard drive after you close it. You’ll need to right-click and choose “free up space” to return it to online only.

    Disappointingly, Google Drive doesn’t offer an option like Dropbox’s Smart Sync. If you don’t want files taking up space on your hard drive, you won’t be able to see them in your Google Drive folder.

    Block-Level Sync

    One of the most important factors when choosing a cloud storage provider is the sync speed and whether or not the provider you choose uses block-level sync. This splits up each file into smaller pieces. When you make a change to the file, only the part that you change syncs, which removes the need to sync the whole file again.

    This can significantly speed up sync times, especially for large files. If you’re using your storage more for smaller files, then check out our list of the best cloud storage for documents.

    Both Dropbox and OneDrive use block-level sync. OneDrive used to only use this method for its own Microsoft Office file formats but now applies block-level sync to most major file types. Google Drive still doesn’t use block-level file copying, however.

    Version History

    Version history is another useful feature of cloud storage. It allows you to revert files to previous versions if you’re not happy with the changes you’ve made. Dropbox offers version history for up to 30 days on its personal plans, while its business plans get 180-day versioning. In fact, Dropbox makes our list of the best cloud storage for versioning, alongside Sync.com and Google Drive.

    google drive versioning
    Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive all let you keep old versions of files, though only Google Drive gives you the option of keeping a version forever.

    OneDrive limits version history to 30 days for personal accounts. For business accounts, the default is to store up to 500 versions. Google Drive keeps previous versions of files for up to 30 days or until you reach 100 versions. However, you can also select individual versions to keep forever.

    Account Rewind Options

    Dropbox also offers a feature called “rewind.” This allows you to revert to a previous version of your entire Dropbox account if you have issues, such as a virus. OneDrive has a similar feature called “files restore” included in personal and business plans, with a maximum limit of 30 days.

    Google Drive doesn’t offer the same capability. You can see a list of recent activity across all of your files and revert to earlier versions of individual files, but there’s no way to restore the entire drive to a previous state.

    onedrive rewind account
    OneDrive and Dropbox both let you rewind your entire account.

    Both Dropbox and OneDrive offer smart syncing and rewind features, which Google Drive can’t match, although it does offer versioning by file. Google Drive also fails to use block-level sync, unlike the other two providers. There isn’t much between them, but with a longer file history on offer, Dropbox is the better option.

    4. File Sharing

    All three providers make file sharing simple by creating shareable links. Dropbox and Google Drive even squeaked onto our list of the best cloud storage for sharing, although other paid providers like pCloud beat it.

    Each service gives you the option to determine whether the recipient can edit or view a file. Google Drive also allows you to set who can comment on the document. Check out our guide on how to share files in Google Drive if you want to know more.

    Dropbox and OneDrive also allow you to password-protect your links and set expiration dates to provide temporary access. This isn’t something that Google Drive allows you to do unless you have a paid Google Drive for Business account.

    dropbox sharing features
    Dropbox’s free plan offers only rudimentary file sharing features, but a paid account unlocks more advanced options.

    File sharing through links is a simple but effective method that makes things easy for the sender and recipient. This is one of the reasons why all three providers appear on our list of the best cloud storage for multiple users.

    Large File Sharing

    When it comes to sharing large files, there are some differences in the maximum file size you can upload. If you’ve got a lot of large files you want to store, then take a look at our rundown of the best cloud storage for large files.

    OneDrive will let you upload and share files up to 250GB in size (see our OneDrive file size limit guide). Your recipient won’t need a Microsoft account or have to sign in to see the file.

    dropbox transfer
    Dropbox Transfer is ideal for large file sharing.

    Google Drive lets you upload files up to 5TB in size unless these are documents, spreadsheets or presentations, where other file limits apply.

    Dropbox has a special option for large file sharing, called Dropbox Transfer. It lets you send files up to 100MB in size by default or up to 250GB with the Creative Tools add-on. These files aren’t kept in your Dropbox account and don’t take up any space.

    Thanks to its extensive sharing features, as well as its file transfer service, Dropbox wins this round.

    5. Ease of Use

    OneDrive and Google Drive offer desktop apps for both Windows and macOS, but neither has a Linux desktop app. OneDrive comes preinstalled on Windows 10, but you’ll need to sign in to use it.

    No matter what operating system you’re using, you’ll find a Dropbox app for it. Unlike Google Drive and OneDrive, Dropbox also offers a Linux client, and it’s of the best cloud storage services for Linux users, alongside MEGA (read our Dropbox vs MEGA guide and our MEGA review).

    google drive web interface
    All three services present a clean and simple user interface.

    All three providers use the same tried-and-tested method to sync folders, with an accessible system tray or menu bar icon that allows you to quickly change settings. The experience is pretty similar across all three platforms.

    Usability Issues

    However, a small issue we have with this is iconography. In a stunning sign of originality, Google Drive and OneDrive both use icons in the shape of a cloud, and these look (to our eyes) fairly similar. If you use multiple clouds, this may cause a fair bit of confusion. Dropbox, at least, uses a fairly distinctive box icon.

    onedrive and google drive icons
    Google Drive and OneDrive’s icons are very similar, down to the shape of the cloud icon.

    Dropbox used to have an issue for Mac users, in that it doesn’t list folders first and instead listed every file and folder alphabetically, regardless of type. Luckily, Dropbox seems to have fixed this, so that folders show up first before files, and all are listed alphabetically.

    dropbox web interface
    Now an Apple user can use Dropbox the same way as a Windows user, with folders listed first.

    Still, you might still want to look elsewhere if you’re a Mac user. With near-flawless interfaces, OneDrive and Google Drive are better, although OneDrive wins here for its Windows integration.

    6. Mobile Apps

    All three providers offer mobile apps for Android and iOS. On the whole, these all appear fairly similar, although the Dropbox app has a serious flaw in the iOS version, as we’ll see shortly.

    We’ve seen solid performance from all three apps on Android, with all three making our best cloud storage for Android short list. All three cloud storage services also have stellar iOS mobile apps.

    In the Google Drive mobile app, the “home” tab shows suggested files, according to your usage. You can also view your My Drive folder, any synced computers, shared and starred files, as well as any shared drives if you’re on Google Workspace.

    The Dropbox and OneDrive apps are similar and include a photos page that allows you to search your photos. You can install Google Photos if you want more similar functionality for your Google Drive images. The OneDrive and Dropbox apps also include an account section, where you can see relevant information, such as how much storage you’re currently using.

    For general use, all three apps are fairly similar. However, Dropbox and OneDrive offer useful scanning features that Google doesn’t. With more functionality and slightly better features, OneDrive nudges past Google Drive to be the winner here, although all three apps offer a pretty good experience on mobile devices.

    7. Security

    We’ll start this round with a clear point: it doesn’t matter where you sit in the OneDrive vs Dropbox vs Google Drive debate because none of these services are brilliant for security. We’ll explain why (you can also read our piece on Dropbox’s security issues, though).

    The gold standard for security in cloud storage is zero-knowledge encryption. This type of encryption means that your provider doesn’t store a copy of your encryption key. So, the cloud storage service can’t decrypt your files even if it wanted to, which is the case with one of our favorite cloud storage providers, Icedrive.

    Sadly, none of these three providers offer zero-knowledge encryption. If you’re looking for additional security, check out our guide to the best zero-knowledge cloud services. Another option is to use third-party encryption software, such as Boxcryptor, which can encrypt your files before you upload them to the cloud. You can check out our Boxcryptor review to learn more.

    Encryption Protocols

    Although none of our providers offer zero-knowledge encryption, they do all offer industry-standard levels of security in other areas. OneDrive for Business uses AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest and SSL/TLS connections for data in transit. For personal accounts, data is encrypted in transit and at rest, but Microsoft doesn’t specify exactly what encryption it uses.

    Google Drive uses both AES 128-bit and AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest, although it’s not clear when it uses each protocol. In addition, data in transit is encrypted with the TLS protocol. Dropbox uses AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest and SSL/TLS for data in transit.

    Additional Security Features

    Even with services that offer zero-knowledge encryption, your account is only as safe as your password. We always recommend using strong passwords, which may be more difficult to remember, but you can keep them safe by using a password manager to save them. Take a look at our list of the best password managers for information on options like Dashlane.

    Another layer of protection you can use is two-factor authentication, which all three cloud storage services offer. When you log in, you’ll need to provide a second layer of proof that it’s really you to access your data.

    OneDrive’s Personal Vault

    OneDrive has recently introduced a new feature called “personal vault,” which forces you to use a PIN number, fingerprint, face or an SMS message to open it. It will also automatically lock after 20 minutes of inactivity. “Personal vault” files on Windows 10 sync to a BitLocker-encrypted area of your hard drive. There’s no similar protection for Mac, however.

    onedrive personal vault
    Although we wouldn’t call any of these services particularly secure, OneDrive’s “personal vault” gives it a slight edge.

    In terms of security, none of the providers offer zero-knowledge encryption, so neither is ever going to be the best cloud storage for encryption in our eyes. OneDrive ekes by with a win in this round, thanks to offering extra protection via its “personal vault” (read our piece on how safe your files are with OneDrive security).

    8. Privacy

    As with security, none of the providers here have a great reputation when it comes to privacy, either. If you’re looking for a cloud storage provider that respects your privacy, then there are better options out there.

    Google Drive Privacy Policy

    The Google privacy policy states that it will “collect the content you create, upload or receive from others when using our services” and includes emails, documents you create and comments you make on Google platforms like YouTube. Google states that it collects this data to provide better services as well as personalized ads.

    google drive terms of service
    Google collects the most data of the three services in this comparison.

    OneDrive Privacy Policy

    OneDrive is a little less intrusive. The Microsoft privacy policy states that it doesn’t “use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voicemail, or your documents, photos or other personal files to target ads to you.” Despite this, with no zero-knowledge encryption and files based in the U.S., Microsoft engineers can access your files if required to do so.

    microsoft privacy policy
    Satya Nadella’s smiling face atop Microsoft’s privacy statement doesn’t do much to assuage our concerns about its data collecting.

    Dropbox Privacy Policy

    Dropbox’s privacy policy states that it collects your data for a number of reasons, including “investigating and preventing security issues and abuse of the Dropbox services or Dropbox users.” It also admits that the data analyzed includes “your stuff,” which is “what you decide to store in your Dropbox account” — meaning your files.

    Not only that but it also discloses your data to “trusted” third parties that include Amazon Web Services, Google and Zendesk. Dropbox was also famously hacked in 2012, with a leak of nearly 70 million user passwords, although it has upped its game since then.

    dropbox privacy policy
    Dropbox doesn’t collect as much data as Microsoft or Google, but it’s had numerous leaks in the past.

    This means that whichever service you use, you might have a complete stranger sifting through your files, which is not an appealing thought.

    The PRISM Revelations

    In 2013, Edward Snowden disclosed classified NSA documents to The Washington Post and The Guardian. Part of the revelations included information about PRISM, an NSA surveillance program, and the companies that were part of the program. These companies included Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, YouTube and, most importantly for this comparison, Google and Microsoft.

    The leaked documents claimed that PRISM allowed the NSA to collect the contents of emails, calls and files stored in the cloud. All the companies named were quick to clarify the situation. Microsoft stated that it allowed access to customer data  “only in response to government demands, and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.

    Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, responded by saying he hadn’t even heard of PRISM, and that “we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process.” If that scares you, look elsewhere.

    Dropbox was not listed as one of the companies participating in the program, but the leaked documents did state that there were plans to add Dropbox as a partner. The company’s response was to say that it was “not part of any such program and remains committed to protecting our users’ privacy.”

    A Lose-Lose-Lose Situation

    Even without PRISM, American legislation, such as the Patriot Act, allows agencies to request data from cloud storage services. Since none of these providers offer zero-knowledge encryption, any information disclosed will be fully accessible by those agencies.

    Finding a winner is tough, as none of the providers paint itself in glory when it comes to privacy. Google and Microsoft are notorious for harvesting and using your data, and Dropbox is the only one of the three to have had a major hacking incident.

    This might just be the toughest round to call. We’d generally advise any privacy-minded individual away from all three services and steer them toward a safer choice, like Icedrive, pCloud or Sync.com. That said, we’ll call this one for Dropbox, simply because it doesn’t make a business out of selling your data to advertisers.

    Moral of the story: if you’re worried about privacy, encrypt your files with encryption software.

    9. Customer Support

    Dropbox and Google Drive offer email, phone and 24/7 live chat support. During tests, Dropbox live chat responded almost immediately (find out how to delete your Dropbox account).

    The quality of the support was reasonable, although they were unable to offer a resolution to the Mac and iOS app issues other than suggesting that we put it forward as a feature request.

    Google also responded in less than a minute. The responses were useful, in general, although they were unable to tell us what kind of encryption the service used. They also sent follow-up emails that offered some more useful information relating to the query, which was a nice touch.

    OneDrive’s Less-Than-Useful Support

    OneDrive is far less helpful. Your first port of call is a less-than-useful virtual assistant. When you request to talk to an agent, you can request a live chat.

    onedrive chat support
    OneDrive outsources its support to none-employees, so don’t expect a correct answer every time you contact support.

    During working hours, we had a response within five minutes, with a link to chat with a Microsoft OneDrive expert. According to the company, these are “skilled professionals” chosen to answer questions rather than Microsoft employees.

    The first time we tried this, we received a useful response. The second time, we received out-of-date information. You’re better off searching on Google.

    Both Dropbox and Google Drive offered round-the-clock live chat support, but trying to chat with a human on OneDrive was quite a challenge. With immediate support and helpful follow-up emails, Google Drive takes this round.

    The Verdict: Google Drive vs OneDrive vs Dropbox

    It was always going to be a decision based on the smallest of margins. If you’ve read this in full, you’ll see a pattern: almost all of our categories had near ties, and with a result of 3-3-3 for Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive, the situation is still unclear.

    Google Drive Won:

    • Features
    • Pricing
    • Customer support

    OneDrive Won:

    • Ease of use
    • Mobile app support
    • Security (barely)

    Dropbox Won:

    • File Sync
    • File Sharing
    • Privacy (barely)

    With three points each, the competitors of this Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive battle remain tied. In the end, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a cloud storage provider.

    Winner: Three-Way Tie

    If you’re worried about pricing, Google Drive is a great option, with more storage and services offered for the price you pay, as well as a good free plan at the bottom. In other areas, like file syncing and sharing, Dropbox and OneDrive shared the glory, with both providing full account versioning and easy link sharing.

    OneDrive offers block-level sync for files, with a “personal vault” for your most sensitive documents, which is why it nudged ahead in our security round. It also did well in plenty of other areas, including offering the best interface for mobile and desktop users, with Google Drive closely matching it.

    For customer support, Google was the winner there, with Dropbox offering a strongly useful alternative and OneDrive falling behind.

    We’re always keen to hear your thoughts on any of the providers in this Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive comparison. Which is your favorite? Do you agree with our judging, or would you rather see a different winner? Leave your comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.