Best of The Big Three: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs Onedrive

obrBy Joseph Gildred — Last Updated: 19 Sep'17 2017-03-28T05:47:21+00:00

Trying to decide between Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive? That’s a tough one: while we certainly like the niche players here at Cloudwards.net (as you can see in our chart of best cloud storage providers), we can’t deny that the three biggest names in the business have each earned their standing in one way or another.

All three provide strong platform support, device sync and file sharing capabilities. Perhaps most advantageous of all for stomping on the little guys is that Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive all have very good application integrations to facilitate productivity and collaboration.   

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To help you choose between them, we decided to compare all three in a head-to-head matchup. While your specific needs may push you in a different direction, and we’re bound to ruffle some feathers, in the end we’ll show you why Dropbox gets our nod as the king of the mountain.    

If you’d like more detail on any of these three services before we start, make sure to check out our Dropbox review, Google Drive review and OneDrive review. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

Rank Company
Score
Price Link
1 Winner

Dropbox
$ 13.25 per month 1024 GBStorage All Plans
Visit DropboxDropbox Review
2
Google Drive
$ 1.99 per month 100 GBStorage All Plans
Visit Google DriveGoogle Drive Review
3
OneDrive
$ 1.99 per month 50 GBStorage All Plans
Visit OneDriveOneDrive Review

The Battle: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive

Picking between these three services is far from an easy task. In one way or another, each has a claim over the other, including Dropbox’s superfast sync, OneDrive’s inclusion of Office 365 and Google Drive’s diverse third-party app library.

To help provide some much needed clarity and to help our readers focus on the cloud storage features that matter most to them, we decided to breakup our analysis into five rounds of glorious, nerdy battle.    

Round One: Storage Cost

One of the first thing buyers look at when evaluating cloud storage options is value, so that’s as reasonable as any place to begin. During this round we’ll check out free storage offers and available subscription plans to try and figure out which service shines most when it comes to the bottom line.   

Dropbox

Sign up for Dropbox and you can get 2GB of storage for free with a Basic plan. If that’s not enough, you can upgrade to Dropbox Plus (formerly Dropbox Pro), the service’s only subscription plan for individual users.

PlanDropbox Basic Free PersonalDropbox Premium Personal / PlusDropbox Standard BusinessDropbox Advanced BusinessEnterprise Business
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 13 25monthly
$ 99 00yearly
$ 17 50monthly
$ 150 00yearly
$ 25 00monthly
$ 240 00yearly
Freemonthly
Storage 2 1024 2048 Unlimited Unlimited
Details

2GB, with referrals adding up to 15GB.

1TB plus additional file sharing and collaboration tools.

Prices quoted are per user, with a minimum of three. 2TB for entire team, regardless of team size, plus additional file sharing and collaboration tools.

Prices quoted are per user, with a minimum of three. Unlimited space, plus advanced collaboration tools.

Same as "advanced business" but with unlimited 24/7 phone support; pricing is agreed per customer.

In addition to jumping from 2GB to 1TB of storage, a Dropbox Plus subscription gets you additional features like password-protected links, offline access for mobile and priority support. You can save $20 by paying for a year in advance.

The fact that Dropbox only offers one consumer plan is a bit surprising. The lack of flexibility certainly limits value for users who don’t need that much storage. The reason for that may be that Dropbox has historically focused more on its business users.

There are two Dropbox business subscription plans available, both of which bill per user and require at least three licenses. Note that the 2TB of total storage you get on the Standard plan are shared. Enterprise pricing is also available, but you have to call for a quote.

Google Drive

Google users automatically get 15GB of free cloud storage. While that’s quite a bit, keep in mind that it gets shared between Google Drive, Google Photos and Gmail.

For individual users who need more space, Google Drive offers multiple subscription options, providing much better flexibility that most cloud storage services. There are no discounts for signing up annually, but the monthly costs are pretty reasonable.

Plan15GB100GB1TB2TB10TB20TB30TB
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 1 99monthly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 99 99monthly
$ 199 99monthly
$ 299 99monthly
Storage 15 100 1000 2000 10000 20000 30000
Details

Free plan.

Annual Discount: 16%

Annual Discount: 17%

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a

Annual Discount: n/a

Google also has a set of plans for business users with its G Suite service.

Plan:Total Storage:
Cost Per Month:
Basic:30GB (per user)$5 per user
Business:Unlimited$10 per user

The 30GB is per user for the Basic plan. Both G Suite plans offer additional benefits like business email, video conferencing, shared calendars and admin controls.

OneDrive

Microsoft starts you off with 5GB of free cloud storage. Beyond that, there are three different subscription options for individual users listed on the OneDrive website.

PlanFree50GB1TB5TBOneDrive BusinessOneDrive Business AdvancedOneDrive Business All-In-One
Price Plan
Freemonthly
$ 1 99monthly
$ 23 88yearly
$ 6 99monthly
$ 69 99yearly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 99 99yearly
$ 60 00yearly
$ 120 00yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 150 00yearly
Storage 5 50 1000 5000 1000 Unlimited 1000
Details

Comes with Office 365 Personal.

Comes with Office 365 Home.

Microsoft phone & email support .

Unlimited OneDrive storage.

Comes with full Office 365 suite.

Office 365 Home provides cloud storage for five different users, with the 5TB split between them. As you probably guessed, both Office 365 plans grant you desktop downloads of Microsoft Office. You also get two-months free for signing up for a year. Even without that discount, however, the base value here is excellent. $6.99 for 1TB of storage and Office 365 is an offer that’s hard to overlook.

Round One Thoughts

Dropbox’s 2GB of free storage falls short of OneDrive’s 5GB, but neither comes close to the 15GB you can nab with Google Drive. The first two don’t make our list of cloud storage providers with large free storage plans, but that’s still no reason not take advantage of those offers, regardless of what cloud storage service go with as your primary.

As far as subscriptions go, Dropbox only has one personal plan option, which gets capped at 1TB for $9.99 per month. Dropbox doesn’t offer the flexibility the other two services do and it isn’t cheaper, either. On those grounds, we deemed it fair to eliminate it from contention for round one.

Moving forward, the decision becomes decidedly trickier. Google Drive has more subscription plans than OneDrive, ranging from 100GB to 30TB. With OneDrive, you’re capped at 1TB of storage for a single user.

OneDrive, however, gives you that 1TB of storage for less money than Google does. In fact, with Microsoft’s excellent home plan, you can get 1TB of storage for five users at the same price as Google Drive’s single user option: $9.99. Plus, you get an Office 365 subscription thrown in.

Ultimately, whether Google Drive or OneDrive provide more cost value will depend on your personal needs as a user. That said, we can’t overlook how good a deal you’re getting by going with team Microsoft.  

Round One Winner: OneDrive

Round Two: Sync

During round two, we’ll see how Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive compare when it comes to device synchronization, called “sync” for short. We’ll run through each service’s capabilities, then reveal the results of some sync speed tests we performed.

Sync refers to the ability to make a change to a file on one device and see that change reflected on another device without having to manually transfer the file yourself; iddeally, in real time. While the basic approach to sync is the same from one service to another, the services that do it best provide broader platform support, move files faster and include options like throttling and selective sync. Selective sync lets you turn off sync for specific files so that they don’t take up space on your hard drive.

Dropbox

Dropbox lets you sync your laptops, desktops and smartphones thanks to support for several different operating systems. Dropbox supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone and even Linux.

Many cloud storage services ignore the Linux crowd, but not Dropbox. While Ubuntu and Fedora users may represent a very small percent of the consumer base, we know many of our readers appreciate the inclusion.

Dropbox found Drew Houston actually invented the sync model used by most cloud storage services today back in 2007. That model hinges on a file system folder that’s connected to the cloud. Any files that get put in this folder get sent to the cloud, then distributed to other devices connected to your Dropbox account.

While sync folders are now commonplace, Dropbox remains ahead of the game thanks to its block-level file transfer algorithms. The only time full files are uploaded to the cloud and downloaded to synced devices is when they’re first added. When subsequent changes are made to those files, only those changes get copied. This dramatically speeds up sync times.

Dropbox also features a more advanced approach to selective sync than most cloud storage providers, which it calls smart sync. The difference is that even after you turn off sync for content, with smart sync you’ll still be able to see that content in your desktop sync folder.

Dropbox users can also throttle upload and download speeds in case those processes are impacting system resources. However, Dropbox sync runs so smoothly, that unless you’re using a ten-year old laptop, that’s not likely to ever be necessary.

Google Drive

Google Drive lets you sync devices running Windows, Mac, IOS and Android.

Install the Google Drive client on your desktop, and you’ll get a sync folder added to your file system that works mostly just like the Dropbox approach. Put files in to send them to the cloud.

Linux isn’t an official option, though we have listed a nice workaround in our guide on how to upload to Google Drive. Maybe more surprising, Google Drive doesn’t support block-level file copying. It does, at least, now include selective sync.  

Unlike with Dropbox, when you turn off sync for any given folder, it will no longer show up in your sync folder.

Google Drive also lets you throttle your upload and download speeds if you find sync chewing up too much bandwidth.

OneDrive

Despite being a Microsoft product, OneDrive has clients for non-Microsoft operating systems, too, including Mac OS, iOS and Android. Like Google Drive, OneDrive doesn’t have a Linux client.

OneDrive’s approach to sync follows the path forged by Dropbox.

OneDrive doesn’t support block-level file copying for all file types, but it does support it for Microsoft Office files. That, at least, will help speed up collaborations on Doc, Excel and PowerPoint files.

Selective sync is also an option, which you can set via the settings window accessible through the OneDrive taskbar icon.

As with Google Drive, turning off sync for content means you can no longer see it in your sync folder. That’s an annoyance, but at least you can save space on your hard drive and still access that content from the OneDrive browser interface.

Finally, OneDrive lets you throttle sync speeds.

Dropbox vs Google Drive vs OneDrive: Sync Speed Comparison

To find out which of Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive has the fastest sync speeds, we performed a series of upload and download tests using a 250MB compressed folder comprised of different file types.

These tests were performed over a broadband connection with upload speeds of 12Mbps and download speeds of 160Mbps. Here are the results:

 Upload timeDownload time
Dropbox4:32:20
Google Drive3:07:21
OneDrive3:45:15

Dropbox had the slowest upload time of the three services in our tests. However, remember that isn’t the whole story when it comes to sync. When you’re working with collaborators, what’s more important is how quickly you can see each other’s changes. For that, in theory, Dropbox’s ability to perform block-level sync on all file types should give it the advantage over Google Drive and OneDrive.

To find out whether or not that was true and to see how much of an advantage it gives Dropbox if true, we performed a follow up test that involved deleting one of the files from inside of our compressed folder. Since a compressed folder is treated like a file, Dropbox should only process the delta (the part that changed) when syncing.

That appears to be the case, as the change made to the file was reflected in our cloud storage in just 13 seconds. By contrast, every time Google Drive and OneDrive update the changes, the entire file will get recopied, taking three to four minutes.  

Round Two Thoughts

Block-level copying represents a huge advantage for users who use multiple devices or who collaborate on content with others and need to see file changes in as close to near real-time as possible.

While Dropbox lagged behind Google Drive and OneDrive when it came to initial file uploads, those results are likely to be variable depending where you’re located. The advantage Dropbox has in syncing changes to files already uploaded to the cloud, on the other hand, will not be.

Unless you work exclusively with Microsoft Office documents, Dropbox should be the easy pick for users who prioritize sync speeds. On top of that, it has the best platform support of the three services.

Round Two Winner: Dropbox

Round Three: File Sharing

Along with storage and sync, file sharing is one of the key attributes that define modern cloud storage services. Very few cloud storage services today only provide storage.

The ability to share content helps facilitate online collaborations. That ability isn’t all that matters, though. Content control is critical, too. By content control, we mean features that restrict unauthorized file access when sharing. Examples include setting permissions and password protecting links. It’s amazing how many services skimp on such the details.

Let’s see how our featured services do.     

Dropbox

Dropbox lets you grant access to both folders and individual files via your desktop sync folder, mobile app or by logging into the web interface.

When setting up a folder or file share, there are two routes you can take: send an email invitation to specific individuals or generate a link to that content. While links are theoretically accessible by anybody, which can lead to loss of content control, Dropbox Pro users can set a password and expiry dates to limit that possibility.

When you set up file access, invitees can only view those files, not edit them. With shared folders, you can also grant “edit” permissions.

One of the things we like about sharing with Dropbox is that it gives you access to a “sharing” page that lets you quickly audit what folders and files are being shared.

There are three tabs available in the sharing view: folders, files and links. The benefit is that it’s very easy to forget what content has been shared and what links have been created, particularly if you work with a large number of files and multiple collaborators. With a share view, you can more quickly remind yourself.

Google Drive

Google Drive lets you share content, both at the folder and file level, either through your desktop sync folder, mobile app or the browser interface. Once again, you can either email access or generate a link pointing to your content.

Unlike with Dropbox, you can grant both view and edit permissions at both the folder and file level. Permissions to comment are another option.

While that’s great, there are several rather large problems with the way Google Drive manages file sharing. These include:  

  • No password protection for links
  • No way to set link expiry dates
  • No separate page to audit shares

No password protection means that links to your content can be used by anybody. Without the ability to quickly audit shares, the only way to find out what content is being shared is to look for the link icon beside the content name in your cloud storage. Performing audits that way can take a lot of time and makes it very easy to overlook shares.

OneDrive

Just like with both Dropbox and Google Drive, OneDrive users can share files and folders from their desktop client, mobile app or browser interface. Options include sharing by email or generating a link that anybody can use.

In either case, you can grant either view-only or editing permissions, both at the folder and the file level.

OneDrive doesn’t give you the option to password-protect links. Expiry dates are an option, however. Also, Microsoft has added a “shared” page to audit what content has been shared.

Round Three Thoughts    

Round four proves the point that while most cloud storage services offer file sharing, some have rolled out this capability much better than others. Of the three featured cloud storage services, only Dropbox lets you password protect links, set expiry dates for them and audit shared content.

Granted, you can’t do with a free account and shares don’t have the advantage of zero-knowledge encryption like with Sync.com. Then again, only a handful of services approach the level of cloud security that Sync.com does, and bringing it into this analysis is a bit like inviting a ninja to a pillow fight.

Round Three Winner: Dropbox

Round Four: Application Integrations

Storage, sync and share may be the essential elements of any cloud storage service, but you don’t become best in show by sticking to the basics tricks. What really separates Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive from the rest of the field are application integrations. Such integrations enhance work productivity and facilitate collaborations.

Dropbox

Unlike Google and Microsoft, Dropbox does not develop its own productivity apps outside of a note-taking app called Dropbox Paper. While far from a full-fledged word processor, Paper is great for taking meeting notes and brainstorming ideas.  

More useful, despite being a OneDrive competitor, Dropbox has a technology partnership with  Microsoft. Microsoft’s free version of its popular Office suite, Office Online, is actually integrated automatically when you sign up for Dropbox. That means any Word, Excel and PowerPoint document you store in Dropbox can be opened and edited without having to leave the Dropbox website.

Sharing the document with others will even let you collaborate with them in real-time, taking advantage of Office Online’s collaboration features.

Unfortunately for Dropbox Personal users, Office Online is as far as the third-party integrations go. Dropbox Business users, meanwhile, have access to a much better library of applications, which include:

  • Adobe: share and view PDF files
  • Slack: real-time messaging for teams
  • Asana: track and manage work projects
  • DocuSign: collect e-Signatures
  • IFTTT: create and automate app relationships

You can read more about available application integrations in our Dropbox Business review.

Google Drive

Google’s developed its own suite of office productivity apps, which are completely free and pre-integrated with Google Drive. These apps include:

  • Docs: for word processing and web publishing
  • Sheets: for spreadsheets and charts
  • Slides: for presentations
  • Forms: for surveys and data acquisition
  • Drawings: for diagrams

Collectively, the suite is called Google Docs. The user experience is generally very good with Docs. We use it here at Cloudwards.net, in fact. The only real adjustment to make, if you’re use to Office 365, is that the suite is completely browser-based.

Despite being browser-based, you can edit documents offline if using Chrome, so long as the “offline” option is checked in your Drive settings.   

If you prefer Microsoft Office to Docs, there’s also a Google Drive plugin that’s usable with both Office Online and Office 365.

The choice of both Docs and Office is great. However, our favorite things about Google Drive — and perhaps its most recommendable quality — is that it lets you integrate with many more third-party apps besides. Developers love Google Drive and Google welcomes them with open arms. Better yet, many of them are free.

You can browse hundreds of integration options directly from a searchable library directly from Drive. Just click the “connect more apps” button found beneath the “my drive” drop-down menu. You can search for specific titles or filter by category.

A few sample options include:

As great as the selection might be, some of the bigger name productivity apps like Trello and Asana are noticeably absent.

OneDrive

As you might expect, Office Online comes already integrated into OneDrive without you having to do anything. This integration includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, one of the best note-taking apps we’ve tested.

Access and Publisher aren’t included with Office Online. You get them, though, by signing up for the 1TB subscription plan, along with Office 365, the more powerful desktop version of Microsoft Office.

As far as third-party apps go, you’ll find many in the Office Store, but these are all just enhancements for Office Online and Office 365. Microsoft opened OneDrive’s API to developers back in early 2015, so there are some options out there, just not very many compared to Google Drive. Also, Microsoft doesn’t give OneDrive users and easy means of searching for them.

Round Four Thoughts  

When it comes to hooking up with third-party apps, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive are three of the best in the cloud storage industry. However, one of these three is substantially better than the other two.

If you like free productivity tools as much as us, Google Drive is the way to go. Not only can use both Docs and Office Online for free, you get a searchable app library to enhance the Google Drive experience. Google Drive has its fair share of flaws; its third-party apps are why most people turn a blind eye to them.

Round Four Winner: Google Drive

Round Five: Security

Strong security is vital to selecting a cloud storage solution. It’s important to look beyond common marketing phrases like “military-grade security” and understand exactly how your data is protected. During this round, we’ll do just that in evaluating the security measures put in place by Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive.

If you’d like to learn more about cloud security in general, our cloud security primer is a good place to start. If you’d like to know more about why cloud security is so important, check out our article on cybercrime.  

Dropbox

Dropbox takes the important steps of encrypting your data both in transit and at rest, although these days, both measures should be an expectation.

In-transit security includes the usual TLS tunnels, along with 128-bit AES encryption. Upon arriving at the Dropbox datacenter, files get decrypted before being stored server side. Content is re-encrypted with 256-bit AES, but your file metadata (names, dates, sizes, etc.) remains readable.

Many storage services use metadata for file indexing, so it’s not uncommon for it to remain in plaintext. If that’s an issue for you, we’d suggest a zero-knowledge cloud storage service. (See our roundup of best zero-knowledge cloud storage services for some ideas).

For all practical purposes, AES encryption keys are impossible to crack. Weak passwords, however, are not. To prevent a hacker from accessing your account with your password, Dropbox lets you turn on two-factor authentication. In doing so, any time you login into your account from an unfamiliar device, you’ll need to enter a security code sent to your mobile phone in addition to your usual credentials.  

In the event of a lost or stolen device, Dropbox Plus and Business users can remote wipe their devices. Remote wipe basically cuts off sync and clears an content in your sync folder.  

While not technically security, Dropbox also supports versioning, which can protect you from ransomware attacks. Ransomware works by corrupting files. Just remove the malware and use Dropbox to revert back to an earlier, uncorrupted file version to avoid having pay up.

Dropbox personal accounts can rollback to any previous version of a file within 30-days of file changes. Dropbox Plus users can also subscribe to extended version history (EVH), which saves all file versions and deleted files for one year.  

Dropbox Business users, meanwhile, get indefinite versioning and deleted file recovery included with their subscription.

Google Drive

Google Drive also encrypts your files while in-transit. Like Dropbox, protection includes use of the TLS cryptographic protocol to prevent file eavesdropping. Rather than 256-bit AES, though, Google Drive files are encrypted with 128-bit AES while in motion.

On the other hand, while Dropbox encrypts files at rest using 128-bit AES, Google Drive uses 256-bit. Truthfully, at this point in time, from a security standpoint it doesn’t really matter whether 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption is used, because both would take billions of years to crack.

It is somewhat perplexing and concerning that Google didn’t start encrypting consumer files until 2013, after the NSA’s PRISM project blew up in its face. However, late to party is better than not showing up at all.

Google supports optional two-factor verification for all of its products, which you set up from your Google account settings.

Once enabled, you’ll need to enter both password and a security code. The code can be received via text or phone. As with Dropbox, we definitely recommend this precaution.

While most cloud storage data centers offer ample security, Google seems to go above and beyond with the measures it has in place, including laser grids and biometric scanners. Granted, those measures are there to protect Google’s own vast and valuable data stores; your cloud data is just along for the ride.

As far as file versioning goes, Google Drive handles this separately for native and non-native files. Google Doc files can be rolled back using the “revision history” view from inside the document itself. This view lets you see all changes that have ever been made to a file and rollback to any previous state. As far as ransomware goes, it should never pose a serious threat to Google Docs files.

Non-native files are kept for up to 100 versions, but only for 30 days. While this will provide some ransomware protection, 30 days may not be enough. You can manually choose to retain specific files versions indefinitely, but that’s a time-consuming process.   

OneDrive

All content getting transferred between your device and OneDrive is shielded using TLS and 256-bit AES. That’s great.

What isn’t great is that OneDrive data is only encrypted at rest for business customers. Personal account data is left unprotected server side, leaving it in plain text and exposed to Microsoft employees and anyone who manages to breach the data center.

Given Microsoft’s popularity, it’s long been a target for the technically-inclined criminal element. That’s leaves one to wonder how long before OneDrive suffers a landmark data breach. What’s also concerning is that Microsoft doesn’t go out of its way to warn users that their files aren’t encrypted at rest.

On the plus side, OneDrive does support two-factor authentication for signing in from untrusted devices. You need to enter a security code, which can be sent by email or text, or retrieved through the OneDrive mobile app.

OneDrive supports versioning, but only for native file types. You’re permanently stuck with any changes to non-Office files. That means very limited protection in case of ransomware. However, given the encryption issue, that almost seems like an afterthought.

Round Five Thoughts

OneDrive is an easy dismissal for this round. In fact, no at-rest encryption is a very good reason to pass on OneDrive altogether. That said, if you’re willing, you can encrypt your files yourself using a file-encryption tool. (Boxcryptor works with OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive, in fact).  

That leaves Dropbox and Google Drive. Truth be told, the two services are pretty even when it comes to the important stuff like encryption and two-factor authentication. Dropbox, however, has somewhat better versioning thanks to its EVH offering. It also lets you cut off sync on stolen devices.

True, Dropbox, was subject to a high-profile 2012 hack that saw 68-million usernames and passwords stolen. However, it seems to have learned from that event and taken appropriate measures to protect user data, including hashing and salting user passwords.

For now, we’re calling Dropbox the winner when it comes to security.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive — along with many other cloud storage services — are very susceptible to man-in-the-cloud-attacks. If security is a top concern for you, we’d definitely recommend considering one of the Sync.com, pCloud or SpiderOak.

Round Five Winner: Dropbox

The Verdict

Play with any one of these three services for a while and it’s plain to see why each has several hundred million users. When it comes to work productivity and collaborations, it doesn’t really get any better. Also when it comes to work productivity and collaborations, it’s hard to pick a winner between them.

OneDrive was our round one pick for value thanks to the inclusion of Office 365; Dropbox is an easy pick when it comes to file sync and sharing; andGoogle Drive has the strong application-integration resume.

Taking security into account, we have a hard time recommending OneDrive while it doesn’t encrypt at-rest data. That’s trouble waiting to happen and for that reason, we’re ruling them out of this competition. Buy Office 365 by all means but considering taking advantage of the Office-integrations available with Dropbox or Google Drive.

Between Dropbox and Google Drive, Google Drive certainly far better price-plan flexibility with seven individual subscription plans to Dropbox’s one. Google Drive’s excellent 100GB plan is just $1.99 a month and opens up some financial wiggle room if you’d like to add a more secure storage service and use them together. (see Sync.com and Google Drive for some ideas on how these two mesh).

However, if you’re not interested in adding a second a service and need a full 1TB of storage space, we ultimately have to recommend Dropbox. Dropbox’s 1TB price tag is equal to Google Drive’s, and while its application library doesn’t compare, you can still use Office Online and Paper.

Where Dropbox pulls ahead for us is two areas:

  • Its sync speeds are much faster thanks to block-level sync
  • Dropbox has much better content control for file sharing

On top of that, we give it a slight edge when it comes to security. It’s not a blowout victory and there’s certainly room for debate … but we have our winner.

Final Winner: Dropbox

Care to disagree? Or do you think we nailed it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, if Dropbox isn’t your cup of tea, check out our best Dropbox alternatives article for some more recommendations. Thanks for reading!

42 thoughts on “Best of The Big Three: Dropbox vs Google Drive vs Onedrive”

  1. In the world we leave in today, more and more people store more and more data, there is a great need for larger online cloud storage. With the automatic backup capability of google drive on all device that a user typically owns (iphone, macbook, wintel laptop, including other family members’ devices, etc.), storage can grow quickly. 1 tb is no longer enough. With the amount of photos and videos from mobile phones and cameras being taken year round, google is the only one providing reasonable storage at a reasonable price.

  2. I’ve worked with all three, and I agree with the analysis and comparisons made.

    There’s one major flaw of OneDrive the writer didn’t pick up on though: it’s incredibly unreliable when it comes to syncing large and complex data, e.g. folders containing hundreds or thousands of subfolders with hundreds or thousands of files. The desktop client might stop syncing altogether, leaving you no option but to manually reset it, and it frequently misplaces files with the same filename, i.e. it will swap a file named “01.docx” with a different file named “01.docx” that’s contained in a different folder.

    Google Drive occasionally has some issues with syncing too, but the worse that can happen here is you end up with a few duplicate files that you can easily remove later.

    Dropbox is the best by far in this area. It syncs everything just fine, and simply works.

    1. Agree, that’s the major reason I still pay for drop box, in spite of holding office 365 membership…

    2. That OneDrive flaw makes it worse than useless for serious storage of data. I just stumbled on a mess of empty folders after noticing that OneDrive had hung when uploading a folder with just 4 GB of data. Spread the word: OneDrive is a hazard!

    3. Totally agree. I had the same experience and have pulled my hairs more than once for services which are sold to bring peace of mind…

    4. I have to disagree. I used Dropbox to back up my files while my laptop was being fixed. I borrowed a friend’s laptop, only to find that I couldn’t access all of my saved files. Checking online, I wasn’t the only person to have the same syncing issues. I could only access all of the data on the original laptop. I’ve no idea why. I’m hoping Google Drive will sync better and be easier to use.

      1. If your laptop broke before it could finish uploading the newly added files to the Dropbox server, surely you won’t be able to access these files from a different PC

  3. What a through comprehensive and very helpful assessment. Well done. I use Dropbox (1TB) and Google Docs (15GB), and I have a OneDrive account but don’t need it) and was weighing up whether it was worth settling on just one of them. Answer is to probably stick with what I have! 🙂

  4. One problem I encountered with Google Drive is the requirement to use only the default C:\GoogleDrive folder: a while ago I added a 125GB SSD to host only the (Windows 7) OS. This meant that all my data and non-system applications had to be moved to D:\ – including the G-drive folder. Since then, I have experienced continuous synching problems. The response from G-Drive support was “read the policy fine print”: we don’t guarantee it will work using other folder paths. The best kludge was to have a Google Drive folder link on C, to the actual destination. But now I’m too scared to store stuff there…

  5. Dropbox can have terrible UX though & the company doesn’t care.

    After manually uploading large files into my Dropbox & having the app ignore the active WiFi connection in favor of the LTE connection (& burning through my monthly data plan in the process) and then being told by their support team that this was not a problem & was done on purpose I stopped paying for Dropbox Pro in favor of Google Drive.

  6. Your Excellent Assessment is Deeply appreciated. Looking at buying a Microsoft Surface specifically to leverage the power of Onenote and get an Office 365 Home Subscription. If it were not for your assessment One Drive’s lack of data-at-rest encryption for consumers would have got by me. For now my storage stays with Google. Again – Thanks-A-Million!!! Jay

  7. Some issues with Google Drive:

    Not being able to download folders for offline work or using in other apps on android/iOS. Also no way to give ownership of a file in Google Drive personal means that you can use up your storage on business files. Not sure if those apply to the others.

    And what about the AWS offering?

    1. ??? “Not being able to download folders for offline work or using in other apps on android/iOS.”

      That is basically one of the main reasons I use Google Drive. You can work on anything while offline and sync the next time your online.

  8. Thanks for doing this exhaustive work! We use all 3 in our company, but will likely move mostly to OneDrive (for Business). It does offer encryption at rest for business. Not sure how important it is for most consumer level storage, but everyone has their own opinion.

    Interestingly, we would never have consolidated Dropbox usage into Onedrive until Microsoft fixed the idiotic lack of co habitation of OneDrive and OneDrive for Business. Now, its seemless, and its free (included in 365) compared to the ever rising costs of Dropbox.

    Thanks again for the work you did on this

  9. Nice and thorough review, but one thing to add is that as a new user some services are more intuitive than others. I admit that I have not used Google Drive, but between Dropbox and OneDrive I found Dropbox to be the easiest to adopt. Plus, with the Premium 1TB annual subscription you have live support.

    I recently switched to OneDrive due to the 5TB included with a 5-user Office 365 Home subscription. OneDrive has, so far, been extremely frustrating to set up and sync with multiple devices. Plus, OneDrive offers no live support either by phone or chat. The Virtual Assistant is worthless and I found that a Google search bar is more efficient in finding answers. I have not bothered with sending an email, so I cannot comment on Microsoft’s response time. In my opinion, when it comes to support, OneDrive takes a distant second to Dropbox.

    1. I have been using one drive on about 5 machines so far and it’s flawless. Setting it up is simple. Install the app, log in and away you go. I haven’t encountered any of the problems you have described.

    2. that 5 TB storage is actually only 1 TB storage per user and so where they say 5 TB storage is the total storage for all 5 user – well that is how I interpret it – hoping I am wrong on that

  10. Great comparison, thanks. Here’s my remaining question. When looking at Dropbox, the comparisons don’t address the cost of Word via Office 365, which is the only seamless and “free” partnership with Dropbox. I have standalone Word 2011, and it keeps crashing. Ok, its time to update. Normally I’d buy the standalone Word. Dropbox doesn’t integrate with Google Docs and it works best with Office 365, not the standalone. I looked at cloud managers for a workaround, but then there’s yet another fee! I’m going to have a hard time using Google docs with my one gov’t client. If I buy Office 365, in effect, it doubles the price I pay to use Dropbox! Are there options I’m not seeing?

    1. Hi, Pam! Yeah, buying Office 365 makes it hard to justify spending on Dropbox. Dropbox does integrate with Office Online, though, which is Microsoft’s free version of Office 365. The main difference is that you have to work from a browser-based word processor (like Google Docs) and that takes some getting used to. Once you do, though, you won’t even notice. Hope that helps. Best of luck with your business 🙂

  11. One of the better well written reviews of any types of offerings I have seen in some time. Thank you for taking what must have been a large amount of time to do this!

  12. Incremental sync and sharing management (and, more recently, file requests) puts dropbox a long way ahead in usability and ease of collaboration. Incremental sync has been along for such a long time that it’s hard do understand why the competition hasn’t picked it so far.

  13. I’ve been using Dropbox for our staff to access our shared files/docs. The problem we’ve had is that when two or more people are editing at the same time – or just have the same document open – we get conflicted copies, which take our staff a lot of time to resolve.

    Great evaluation of all three cloud options, but this issue wasn’t mentioned. Do the other two options avoid this issue?

    1. That’s because Dropbox is constantly changing this function, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t…Right now if you want more than two people working simultaneously on a doc, you probably want to use Google Drive.

    2. It also depends on the version of Dropbox you are paying for. If you are using Dropbox Plus with 1TB of space and sharing the same login info, then you will always have conflicted files because Dropbox would only see that, in essence, there is only on person logged in.

      If you were to upgrade to Dropbox Business or Have multiple Plus accounts, you wouldn’t have this issue any longer. The reason being that Dropbox offers a feature called Dropbox Badge with Office files. This feature allows you to see anyone else viewing or editing a file. You can leave realtime comments on the file as it is edited, and if someone makes changes and saves them all other parties viewing the file are updated on the changes and prompted to update the file to the new version.

      This feature alone makes Dropbox leaps and bounds better than the competition when working with word documents and files.

      You can also directly open Adobe files within Dropbox online as well sign PDF’s within the web client.

  14. Dropbox support absolutely non existent.
    We are long term business users of dropbox. We have subscribed to a 30 user business plan for many years. it has gone through a lot of changes of name over that time. Each year renewal was a simple process. Thsi year however has bene quite different. For reasons unknown we have bene unable to review. We raised a ticket with support who were unable to help much but in the middle of troubleshooting our count was downgraded to a free one. needless to say this meant that effectively dropbox stopped working for us. It also meant we lost access tot the admin panel and hence the support.
    Since then we have tried and tried to get this problem sorted. There is zero response form sport and finding a human to talk to is impossible.

    The pre-sales team open a chat quickly and have repeatedly promised to “escalate to management” but no response at all

    We have been dead in the water for almost a week.

    Shopping for alternatives now

  15. Use OneDrive for sharing with China !

    If you need to share files from US to China (we manufacture there) you better be using OneDrive. anything else will have you pulling out your hair. I can’t say that this applies to OneDrive personal, only for OneDrive Business.

  16. I would agree that One Drive would place last in this fight, but even with the thorough analysis, it seems a stretch to call Dropbox a winner here. As other users have mentioned, customer support is terrible and 2GB free vs Google’s 15GB is crazy in 2017. I have single photos and audio docs larger than 2GB, making a free dropbox account essentially worthless, so for the average user, I’m not sure what the draw to Dropbox would be. You mentioned that the 15GB is also linked to photos and Gmail, but do note that if your settings are correct, uploaded photos can be (unnoticably) compressed so they don’t count against your quota. Same goes for Google Docs/Spreadsheets/Slides – they don’t count against your limit. I’m not sure I agree with your assesment on sharing options – though you can’t create “timed” access with an expiration, you certainly can have the equivalent of password protected files and folders just by adding or removing people (or groups) from a shared file/folder, since access depends on a login to a Google account already. A password protected link seems a bit redundant, since anyone who shares the link can just as easily share the login information.

  17. Well… rats. As a recent subscriber to Office 365 Personal, I was looking for comparisons like this in the hopes that I could justify dropping the cost of Dropbox and switch to the included 1TB of OneDrive. Based on the information in this thorough review, and some of the comments that followed, it looks like I’m better off sticking with Dropbox, even if it costs me an extra $15 a month.

    Not great news financially, but at least I feel more educated and have justified my decision. Thanks!

  18. You should add a comparison category for which plays the nicest with other applications. DropBox insists on glomming onto 10 of the 15 shell extension icon overlays available in windows, disabling the icon overlays for other software (think source control). Which is why I am here looking for an alternative…

    1. That’s….a very good idea. Keep an eye out, we’ll see if we can get something together over the next few weeks.

      Thanks,
      Fergus (chief editor)

    2. Not familiar with that terminology. Can you explain what you mean and the negative impact that has?

  19. If your dropbox files are downloaded too much, they lock your account for longer and longer amounts of time. They won’t/can’t tell you how long you will be locked, and there is NO way to know how close you are to the limit. Once you go over, they lock you, and then you just have to wait. Which is really frustrating if you use this to share with business customers

  20. I spend $100cdn a year for 5 terabytes (1 terabyte per family member) of storage and Office 365 for the entire family. I save hundreds of dollars a year compared to Dropbox or iCloud. With 2 of my kids in University, the included Office 365 is a big bonus.

  21. I would like to know which one of these services are best for cloud storage, meaning that I don’t have to download/store everything on my laptop. Can any of these act as purely a cloud storage?

  22. Can I use all 3 for their free space? Personal in one (photos, emails), Current business in another, and misc/old business in 3rd?

  23. Great article, but it doesn’t address the main issue we have with Google Drive – When changes are made online to Word/Excel files it creates a new document in google doc format. So for Mac users, unless you sync an entire folder (which takes up too much space), you can’t edit a Microsoft Office file within that folder. Also, if we currently use G-Suite for business email, but want to use Dropbox for storage/collaboration are there any alternatives besides purchasing business plans for both???

    1. Having the same issues with new documents being created. I just purchased Drive for my team and like that’s integrated with G-Suite business email but am reluctant to pull the plug on Droxbox bc of the synch issues. What did you decide?

  24. Dropbox allows you to download files to the SD card of your smartphone ( even with android 4.4)
    None of the others allow that.

  25. Which site is best for downloading multiple full-resolution photos? I know each site will store uncompressed images, but am not sure which allows me to download large numbers of photos at once without losing any image quality.
    Many thanks.

  26. I have used Dropbox for several years with my team all located in 4 different states. We do pay for the 1T service and have never been disappointed. I used Google drive for a period of time, great syncing but poor integration with MS Office products at that time.

  27. as per price i think one drive is pretty ok. but in order to get strict security for normal customers one should get Mega nz cloud for keeping very important files.200 gb mega storage would be way enough for storing only important files.

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