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.
If security is your main concern look at our top recommended provider Sync.com.
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.
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.
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.
|Plan||Dropbox Plus||Dropbox Professional||Dropbox Business|
$ 9 99monthly
$ 119 00yearly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 239 88yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 180 00yearly
|Storage||1000 GB||1000 GB||2048 GB|
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 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.
$ 1 99monthly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 19 99monthly
$ 99 99monthly
$ 199 99monthly
$ 299 99monthly
|Storage||15 GB||100 GB||1000 GB||2000 GB||10000 GB||20000 GB||30000 GB|
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.
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.
|Plan||Free||50GB||1TB||5TB||OneDrive Business||OneDrive Business Advanced||OneDrive Business All-In-One|
$ 1 99monthly
$ 23 88yearly
$ 6 99monthly
$ 69 99yearly
$ 9 99monthly
$ 99 99yearly
$ 60 00yearly
$ 120 00yearly
$ 15 00monthly
$ 150 00yearly
|Storage||5 GB||50 GB||1000 GB||5000 GB||1000 GB||Unlimited GB||1000 GB|
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 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 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.
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 time||Download time|
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 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 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.
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.
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’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:
- LucidCharts: for flowcharts, mockups and UML diagrams
- SmartSheets: for project management
- DocuSign: for e-Signature collection
- DocHub: for editing and annotating PDFs
- Pixlr Editor: for photo editing
As great as the selection might be, some of the bigger name productivity apps like Trello and Asana are noticeably absent.
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 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 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.
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
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!