With two different online editors (Microsoft Office Online and Paper) bundled within Dropbox, the cloud storage service has made things a bit complicated for users. Additionally, both text editors, combined, can’t compete against Google’s single offering — Google Docs.
In this battle of Dropbox vs. Google Drive, the latter will take the crown, because of its free and unconditional 15GB of storage, secure and easy collaboration, sharing features and Google Docs support.
Dropbox Video Review
Google Drive Video Review
Dropbox vs Google Drive – The Comparison
In this battle of Dropbox vs. Google Drive, I will be testing their various features to see how they fare against each other. For each round, their features and limitations will be compared, to declare a winner. And the champion of the battle will be the cloud storage provider that wins the most rounds.
Available Storage Space
Storage is one of the most important factors when selecting a cloud storage provider. Most providers come with a fixed free storage limit. While you can pay to increase the limit, if you are on a budget, it’s better to find a provider which is free and fits your immediate storage requirements as well.
Dropbox provides 2GB of free storage, and users can earn up to 16GB of space, by following Dropbox on social media and referring the service to their friends. Files created on Dropbox Paper do not count towards the total storage limit.
Google Drive provides 15GB of free storage for all users, with no conditions attached. Google Docs sports unlimited storage space, and with Google Photos, you also get free space for unlimited images, up to 16MP in quality. Note, if you use Gmail, then your email storage is counted towards the total Google Drive limit.
Dropbox might provide 16GB of free space, but there are strings attached to getting it. The winner of this round is Google Drive, for providing a fuss-free 15GB of cloud space and unlimited storage for Google Docs and Photos.
Whether it’s a small team or a large enterprise, with employees all around the globe, a cloud storage provider can work as the primary center for storing company files and helping team members collaborate. Both Dropbox and Google Drive provide a broad range of business plans, targeting everyone: from a one-person company to small and medium-sized businesses, as well as large enterprises.
Dropbox’s business plans start at $8.25 per month for 1TB storage, which is perfect for individuals. It provides two-factor authentication and 256-bit AES encryption, but customer support is only available via email.
|Dropbox Basic||Free||2 GB|
Free plan. Can be increased through referrals.
$ 9.99 Monthly
$ 99.00 (-17%)
Pro version with more sharing options (password protected links, expiration dates)
The unlimited plans start at $20 per user, per month. Though, even with that plan, phone support is only available during business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time), which can be a problem for companies working late night shifts.
Google Drive has a separate section for business plans, called G Suite (previously known as Google Apps for Work). The monthly plans start at $5 per month, providing 30GB of storage, a custom domain business emails, and access to all the other Google tools and 24/7 customer support via email, phone, and chat.
$ 1.99 Monthly
$23.88 1 Year
$ 9.99 Monthly
$119.88 1 Year
$ 199.99 Monthly
$2,399.88 1 Year
Unlimited storage plans with Google Drive start at $10 per user, per month with 24/7 support, with video and voice conferencing for up to 25 users at a time.
Clearly, Google Drive is the winner of this round for providing more affordable unlimited storage plans and better 24/7 user support.
Sharing and Collaboration
A cloud storage provider shouldn’t just make sharing files easy with other users, it should also allow users to choose different accessibility levels, so their data is safe even when sharing files. If you’re planning to collaborate with others, opt for a cloud storage provider that has different accessibility levels and the ability to monitor every change made by users.
For better collaboration, a cloud storage provider should at least have the following three levels of access:
- View only
- View & comment only
- Edit access
Unfortunately, Dropbox complicates the process by only providing edit and view access. But, here is where things get complicated — “view” in Dropbox is viewing and comment only. There is no access level which only allows shared users to see a file and not leave a comment.
I did find a hyperlink in the “link” settings which says “learn how to disable comments,” but that link gives a 404 error.
There is also an option to password-protect shared file links and set an expiry date, but it’s only available for Dropbox Plus users. Another issue with Dropbox is that it does not allow users to share files with edit access, you can either share files with a view and comment access, or directly share folders with edit access.
Also, even if you give editing access through a folder, a user can only edit a document after they have signed into Dropbox, so, if you want to collaborate with someone who doesn’t have a Dropbox account, they’ll be forced to sign up. Though I have to say, I love how Dropbox clearly showcases all shared folders, files, and links.
If there is a file that you don’t want to share anymore, you can quickly locate it and change the sharing settings.
You can also manage access and choose to not allow users with editing privileges, to share the file with someone else.
Coming to Google Drive, it provides all the three access levels — view only, view and comment only, and edit. Just like Dropbox, Google Drive allows users to share files and folders either by entering a recipient’s email or directly sharing the file/folder link.
But unlike Dropbox, Google Drive allows any guest user to edit a document, without forcing them to sign up. There is also an option to prevent shared users from downloading a file or sharing it, with more users via email. If you’re using G Suite, then there will be additional access levels allowing only people in your organization to view shared files.
Google Drive is the winner of this round, by a significant margin, for enabling users to share files with editing access in a direct and uncomplicated manner.
Editing documents online and storing them in the cloud is the need of the hour. After all, nobody wants to spend half of their time uploading and downloading documents from their cloud storage.
While Google Drive makes this easy with Google Docs, Dropbox is still figuring out the right way to implement real-time editing. Up until last year, real-time editing and collaboration on Dropbox were only possible through Microsoft Office Online, which isn’t as smooth or easy-to-use as Google Docs. You can’t see the revisions made by other users, comment history or people viewing the document at any given time. There is also no way to create new document files online; you can only upload them.
In 2016, Dropbox launched Dropbox Paper, a clear competitor to Google Docs. The new document editing tool comes with a modern interface which makes collaboration easy and smooth. We did a very detailed article comparing Dropbox Paper and Google Docs, which you can check out here.
Though no matter how great Paper looks, it’s still in beta, and only supports text files and lacks a fully-fledged text formatting tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Office have. I know what you’re thinking — If Dropbox has already launched Paper, then why did I just discuss Microsoft Office Online in Dropbox in such detail.
Well, because they both exist simultaneously.
You can edit all documents uploaded to Dropbox directly with Microsoft Office Online, and they count towards your total storage limit. On the other hand, Dropbox Paper does not count towards your storage limit, and you can directly create a new file online, instead of having to upload one. You can also create folders to store Dropbox Paper files, which you will not be able to see on your main Dropbox home page.
If you are still confused, here is a brief rundown — Dropbox Paper is a separate, real-time editing and collaboration tool, which is completely different from the Dropbox cloud storage service. The only thing common between them is the fact that they can be accessed from the same page and through the same login credentials.
According to Dropbox, there is no way to convert uploaded documents into Paper files, as of now.
So, why is Dropbox so hell-bent on confusing its users?
Well, we don’t know for sure, but my guess is Dropbox is testing out the waters with Paper, and that’s why it’s still in beta. Once Paper has all the formatting and editing features of Microsoft Office, Dropbox will probably make Paper its full-time document editing tool.
Till then, there is Google Drive, which simplifies things with Google Docs. You can upload documents, create new ones, preview them and if you want to edit them online, you can also convert them to Google Docs format. Microsoft Office and Google Docs files have different icons in Google Drive, making it easy for users to differentiate betwixt the twain.
On Google Docs, you can see who is viewing and editing a file. Revision history can also be checked to see changes made by each user and there are also enough formatting options in Google Docs, making it a great alternative to Microsoft Office.
Desktop Clients and File Syncing
One major differentiating factor between a cloud storage provider and a cloud backup provider — is file syncing. When you use a cloud storage provider, any changes made to a file from any device is synced instantly to the server, and you can then access the modified version of that file from anywhere.
It doesn’t matter whether changes to the file were made voluntarily or not, if there is a change, it will get synced with the server, and you will instantly be able to see the new version online. Of course, you can undo any change by restoring an older version of the file (which we’ll be discussing in the next round).
When you download a desktop client for either Dropbox or Google Drive, a dedicated folder gets created on your local drive, and all the files inside that folder get automatically synced to the cloud. So any changes made to them locally, through the desktop client or online through the web app, are synced instantly as well.
But, there’s a problem here — If everything on your cloud storage gets synced offline, then your local drive will start running out of space. The solution to that problem is selective syncing. With selective sync, you can select which files or folders get synced with a local drive and which don’t. Selective syncing is available on both Dropbox and Google Drive.
For Dropbox, the selective sync option is present under the accounts section, which lets only select folders that you want to sync to a local drive. Though, all the files inside the main Dropbox folder sync to the cloud automatically, so you ought to move those files to a separate folder, to save up on local storage.
Pausing a sync on Dropbox only pauses it until the system shuts down. Dropbox automatically starts syncing again, when you switch on the system, which I find mildly annoying. There is also no support for Dropbox Paper on the desktop client as of now. But thanks to Dropbox’s collaboration with Microsoft Office, you’ll see a sleek panel on each MS Office file when opening it.
It allows you to share the file online, check comments or view version history on Dropbox.
In Google Drive’s local folder, you can view document files, images, PDFs and other file formats, but Google Docs cannot be viewed locally on any text editors. Opening one in Microsoft Word will result in this:
To activate selective sync on Google Drive’s desktop client, click on the three dots on the side and choose Preferences. Under the Sync options tab, you can either choose to sync everything or just selected folders. All the files that are directly saved in your “My Drive” folder and not in any sub-folder get synced automatically.
Dropbox has a badge for all Microsoft Office files, making it easy to edit them locally and share online. But Google Drive’s desktop client doesn’t forcefully sync everything every time you switch on your computer. So, this round ends in a tie.
As I mentioned in the last section, any changes made by a user in real-time are synced to the cloud immediately, creating a new version of the file, which is accessible by all shared users. If some users will be editing a file at the same time, it’s best to choose a cloud storage provider that keeps older versions of every file and can clearly indicate which user made what changes.
Both Dropbox and Google Drive keep older versions of files for 30 days, after which, they get deleted forever. To access previous versions on Dropbox, hover the mouse cursor over the file and click on the three dots on the right-hand side. Now choose version history, and all the versions of that file will be listed. You can decide to download a previous version or restore it.
On Google Drive, you can right-click a file and choose “manage versions.” By clicking on the three dots on the side, you can either download a version or restore it. Though, it’s only applicable for uploaded files.
For Google Docs version history, you have to open that doc, go to “file” and click on “see revision history.”
Since both Google Drive and Dropbox provide more or less the same versioning features, it’s a tie yet again.
Whether it’s editing documents online or customizing sharing options, web apps are the leading center for both Dropbox and Google Drive. Dropbox has a clean and straightforward interface with a white background and blue foreground. The sharing button appears when you hover over a file or a folder, and you can view advanced options by clicking on the three dots on the side.
Regarding looks, Dropbox’s white and blue interface is much better than Google Drive’s dull gray color scheme.
However, regarding functionality, Google Drive defeats Dropbox with one simple feature, and that is, the right-click. Yes, right-click works effortlessly with Google Drive’s web app, just as it would on your local desktop. By right-clicking on a file or a folder, you can make any modifications to it.
Google Drive also allows users to view file/folder information and any activity right on the main page, by clicking on the information button.
Google Drive’s web app has an advanced search tool, which can locate any file, whether you know the file’s name or not. Google Drive’s web app may be dull regarding looks, but the many features, and ease-of-use make it the winner of this round.
Both Dropbox and Google Drive allow users to view or share files through their mobile app, but to edit a document on your mobile, you need Microsoft Office app for Dropbox and Google Docs for Google Drive.
Dropbox’s mobile app is neat and starkly resembles the web app. Users can view uploaded files or folders, or upload a new one. There is also an option to backup mobile photos to Dropbox or take data offline. You can view documents, but editing them is only possible if you have the Microsoft Office app on your phone.
Google Drive’s app also resembles its web app. When you click on the dotted lines located on the side, you’ll see the options to share a file, move it, rename it or remove it. You can also upload folders and files, use the phone’s camera to take a picture and instantly upload it or create a new Google Doc.
You can view all documents but, just like Dropbox, you need the Google Docs app to be able to edit them. In the Settings menu, there is an option to create a passcode lock and backup your phone data to Google Drive instantly, which is the reason why Drive wins this round.
Third-party integrations save time and help us share files from the cloud without having to go to the cloud storage provider’s app repeatedly. For instance, Gmail is integrated with Google Drive, allowing users to directly attach their Drive files either as a link or a file attachment.
Dropbox has an open source API that users can integrate into their apps directly. Apart from that, Dropbox also provides in-built support for over 100,000 third-party apps including:
Google Drive has three different kinds of third-party integrations:
- G Suite Marketplace — which is only available for G Suite users
- Premiere business apps — (for G Suite users) available under the SAML Apps option on the Admin portal. You can choose to upload customized apps here as well.
- Google Docs add-ons — which are available for all users. They can be accessed by opening a Google Doc and going to the Add-ons tab.
Since both Google Drive and Dropbox provide more or less the same features, this round is a tie.
Photos and Other Media
When was the last time you struggled to share pictures with the entire family?
By moving images to the cloud, you can share them with family and allow other family members to upload photos from their cameras, in the same shared folder as well. On Dropbox, uploaded photos count towards the main storage limit. You can preview them online, but there are no editing features. Though you can mark a section of an image and add a comment to it, and this little feature comes in handy for graphic designers and digital marketers.
With Google Drive, you can upload photos on Google Photos, which has unlimited free storage, as along as the photo quality is 16 megapixels or lower. If it’s higher, you can either choose to compress the quality, or upload them as they are; but doing so means pictures will count towards your total storage limit.
There is no commenting option available for photos in Google Drive, but Google Photos has an advanced image search algorithm courtesy of Google’s search engine. So, if you type “cake,” it will show all pictures in your Google Drive that have a cake in it (in this case, even cupcakes and frozen yogurt).
Security and Privacy
Most cloud storage providers lack end-to-end encryption. That means data only gets encrypted when it’s being transferred, and when files are idle on the cloud server. Data is not encrypted when it’s being transferred from your end. Not to mention, even when the data is encrypted, your cloud storage provider has the key to unlock it.
Dropbox has a 256-bit AES encryption and files are encrypted when they are at-rest and in-transit. Google, on the other hand, provides 128-bit AES encryption.
The reason why most users opt for Dropbox over Google Drive is that Google tracks everything users do and then leverages that information to target them with personalized ads. Google’s terms of service page mentions that — you will have the copyright to your uploaded content, but Google will get a “limited license” over your data, which allows the company to perform data mining on it.
Before you jump ship and become Team Dropbox for better privacy, let’s travel back in time to 2016, when news reports came in stating that Dropbox faced a major data breach in 2012 and the login details of over 68 million users were stolen (including mine). I don’t know what’s more disturbing, one of the biggest cloud storage companies getting hacked, or the fact that it took four years for this information to come to light.
To be honest, when it comes to security and privacy, it’s a gamble between Dropbox and Google, they’re both pretty poor. If you are looking for a more secure alternative, you can either use Boxcrypter to encrypt files before they are uploaded to Google Drive or Dropbox, or use a zero-knowledge cloud storage tool with private encryption.
In this battle of the best, Google Drive is the clear winner. When it comes to real-time sharing and collaboration, it’s far ahead of Dropbox. At the same time, we have to remember that Dropbox Paper has not yet integrated properly into Dropbox’s cloud storage service.
When it does, Dropbox might be able to give Google Drive a serious run for its money. Until then, Google holds the throne and it doesn’t seem like any other cloud storage provider will be able to knock it off, for now at least.
Which cloud storage tool do you use — Dropbox or Google Drive? Share your opinions and thoughts with me in the comments section below.