Dropbox vs Google Drive

obrBy Denise Sullivan11 Nov'15 2015-10-26T02:51:14+00:00Google+
Dropbox vs Google Drive 2015 Edition
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Cloud companies may seem like they are a dime a dozen these days. More enterprises are popping up hoping to become the next big leader in the industry. However, there are a few corporations that seem to have stood the test of time.

Maybe it’s because of their features or it could be simply because they were among the first to put the technology out there.

Table of contents 

Dropbox vs Google Drive 2016 **Update**

Dropbox vs Google Drive 2016 **Update**


  

Update: 05/18/2015: We’ve added an audio version of this article for your listening pleasure.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Gloves are Off©

With “cloud giants” everywhere, it can be tough to tell if a number one company is top dog because they deserve to be, or if the title has been conveyed because they are among the oldest and most well-known. To help settle the debate, we decided to pit two of the oldest and easiest to recognize businesses head-to-head in order to figure out the answer. When it comes to Dropbox vs Google Drive, who is the best cloud provider?

Check Out Other Popular Comparisons

Dropbox

Dropbox was founded by Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi in 2007. The company came about not because they thought it would be a great business idea. Instead, it was developed out of need. Necessity is often the mother of invention and that’s what happened here.

The pair, tired of emailing themselves documents when they were going to be working at different computers than the ones the files were created on, got to work creating an efficient file sharing system. By setting up a secure folder on a server, they were able to access files no matter where they were. The idea took off and quickly spread through the university.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Dropbox Home Page©

Today, Dropbox is probably one of the best known cloud storage and sharing providers. With over 300 million active users worldwide, it’s easy to see why some would consider it the number one platform.

In addition to offering personal space to share and save files and photos, Dropbox also offers a business level platform. This package gives users additional features to help their company grow.

Google Drive

Dropbox wasn’t the first to develop the idea of shared storage. Google began working on an online storage platform as early as 2006. Sadly, it took the search engine giant an additional six years before their idea was ready to be used by the world. Google Drive made its official debut on April 24, 2012.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Google Drive Home©

Like its competitor, Google Drive offers consumers a place to store and share files, videos, and photos. With an average of 240 million active users each month, world-wide, this cloud storage platform has the right to claim top status as well.

In addition to being a storage platform, Google Drive offers users a host of office tools, allowing them to edit and collaborate on stored files without leaving the cloud site, even with recent changes.

Round One: Ease of Use

Any program has a learning curve. However, you don’t want to fight with a difficult to use interface. So, when it comes to the battle of Dropbox vs. Google Drive, which one is simplest?

Dropbox

When it comes to ease of use with Dropbox, it all boils down to whether or not you understand the syncing procedure. You can also add files and folders via the web browser. However, the upload button may be a little obscure to some users.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Dropbox Sync folder©

Instead, Dropbox uses a dedicated syncing folder that is added to the desktop or mobile device. You must then place each file or folder inside. Once there these documents automatically since with the online account. However, a large initial upload can be time consuming.

The actual options from within the web application are fairly straightforward. Files are sorted into folders for you, based on type and sharing is simple as making a few selections.

Google Drive

Google Drive is not without fault. While it does have the option to upload documents from within a web browser (something we couldn’t find on Dropbox), it is far from perfect. As should be expected from a cloud storage application, it dumps everything into one central location. The only folders made are the ones you create yourself.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Google Drive Folder©

When reviewing the Google Drive site, we found the buttons along the top were not always intuitive. While it may be obvious to some what the icons mean, the share option could be confusing to those who are looking at it for the very first time. We found it easier to share folders by right clicking the desired file and selecting “share with.”

However, despite the problematic buttons, we did find that there were more options than simply sharing and saving. Users can create documents within their cloud folder and color code their icons to help set them apart from the rest. Again, we must complain that finding these features lacks the simplicity many users are interested in.

Winner: Google Drive, for the extra options and ability to upload directly from the web browser.

Round Two: Reliability

While being easy to use is important, being reliable is equally critical. A cloud storage site does users little good if information goes missing or is inaccessible for hours at a time. So, who has better reliability– Dropbox or Google Drive?

Dropbox

According to a study reported on in March 2013, BoxFreeIT spent six months testing and monitoring Dropbox to find out exactly how reliable the company really was. They tracked the server for over 264,000 minutes. During that time, the cloud storage provider had approximately 412 minutes of down time, just under seven hours. Not a bad score for half a year.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Dropbox Error Page©

However, they were concerned with determining whether or not there were any “unconfirmed” downtime events. When checked, they found an additional 574 minutes of abnormal recordings. These could be explained as downtime that was less than 10 minutes, and generally ignored as true offline instances. The company could have also been performing scheduled maintenance which they would also ignore in their reporting.

PlanPrice PlanStorageDetails
Dropbox BasicFree2 GB

Free plan. Can be increased through referrals.

Dropbox Pro
$ 9.99 Monthly
$ 119.88 1 Year
$ 99.00 (-17%)
1000 GB

Pro version with more sharing options (password protected links, expiration dates)

Even with including these new occurrences, Dropbox has an average uptime of 99.65 to 99.83%. These figures do take into account that Dropbox runs on Amazon S3 servers.

With that being said, there have been some issues lately with Dropbox’s sync folder not properly adding files, causing people to think things are backed up when they are not. The cloud company has supposedly fixed the issue, but not before many customers lost precious folders that they cannot get back. That incident alone would make some users question the reliability of their software.

Google Drive

When it comes to uptime reliability, Google Drive can easily go toe-to-toe with Dropbox. While we didn’t find a study that was as extensive as the other survey, we did manage to find some information on how good Google is about staying online.

In a study conducted by Pingdom, the group monitored Google Drive and some of their competitors over a 30 day period. During this time, the cloud storage company only experienced one minute of downtime. Because of the insignificant amount of time it was unavailable to clients, they awarded them with a 100% rating. (Dropbox was included in this study and they experienced 13 minutes of down time.)

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Google Drive Outage Page©

Again, however, uptime isn’t the only thing that is considered a reliability issue. Google Drive has also experienced unexplained loss of files from their servers. Many users have complained that files were removed from their accounts without their knowledge. Seems like Google has a memory issue.

Winner: Dropbox, only because the lost files were due to syncing problems. Not the loss of currently residing data.

Round Three: Speed

Uploading, downloading, opening and sharing all need to happen as quickly as possible. When it comes to getting information, consumers want it fast. Speed is important, especially when trying to save a file to the cloud or trying to restore data from online. That’s why it was necessary to grade Dropbox and Google Drive on how speedy they were.

Dropbox

We tested how fast Dropbox uploaded files. In our test, we used a folder with 359 pictures and an overall file size of 42.2 MB. Despite being known for taking extra time to save an initial load of files, this trial only took approximately three minutes to transfer. We then took the same file and downloaded it to the desktop. The task was completed in a matter of seconds. 

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Dropbox Sync Times©

In the past, consumers have complained the process does not allow them to see files as they were uploading and downloading. In fact, if the folder wasn’t completely saved, no part could be retrieved to a local drive. This has changed recently and all documents or pictures can be viewed as they are being transferred to and from the Dropbox folder.

Google Drive

When it comes to speed, Google is the proverbial turtle in the race. Slow and steady may win some prizes, but when it comes to saving information, it’s not a quality often desired.

To keep the playing field even, we used the same exact file that we tested on Dropbox. File size was still 42.2 MB and there were still 359 pictures. However, when the transfer began, Google Drive indicated it was only uploading 356 files. After seven minutes of working, only three pictures had supposedly been saved. To be honest, we gave up staring at the screen at this point and canceled the transaction.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Google Drive Speed Chart©

We had saved other files in the past, so we tried downloading one of these files, again similar in size to the one we tested Dropbox with. Sadly, this process also took several minutes because Google had to determine if the data could be compressed into a file 2GB or smaller. Once the analysis was done, it still took several minutes to put the information into a .zip file and transfer it to our local drive.

Winner: Dropbox.

Round Four: Features

Features play an important part in helping to determine which cloud company you should go with. Once all the other options are weighed, sometimes it’s the extra highlights that can make or break any decision. But who has the best options; is it Dropbox or Google Drive?

Dropbox

Dropbox’s personal accounts aren’t feature heavy. Which doesn’t mean there are no offerings, it is just a very basic program. This could actually be a selling point for many clients who want something that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.

Account size, while not necessarily considered one of these important features, should be taken into consideration here. Free service only gains you 2GB of storage space. Additional room can be purchased starting at $9.99 a month.

Dropbox allows you to check files anywhere. Because files transfer quickly, they are accessible almost instantly. In addition, the program works with all devices– including:

  • Windows
  • Mac
  • Linux
  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Blackberry
  • Android

Dropbox also allows you to share with and invite friends in a simple manner. A single click or two allows you to share or send links to any folder or file in your account. You can choose to edit files on a phone or other mobile devices. They also keep a one-month history and changes are easily undone.

In addition, Dropbox has very widespread third-party integration. Consumers like the fact they can create files in some of the applications and upload them directly to their cloud storage account.

Google Drive

When it comes to features, Google Drive does seem to have a leg up on the competition. To begin with, you should notice the difference in free account size. This cloud storage platform offers a free 15 GB to users. Additional storage can be purchased if desired for as little as $1.99 a month.

Other features include:

  • Create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • Works with products such as Gmail and Google+
  • Search tools
  • View over 30 file types including Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop
  • Files are saved are saved for 30 days automatically
  • Start a discussion

Having the ability to create different types of documents allows simultaneous collaboration, an added plus for many consumers. It allows them to start tasks in their cloud drive and not on their local disks, which can save time when sharing information.

Winner: Google Drive, based on the amount of features.

Round Five: Security

Security is probably the thing most people will look at when trying to decide where they should store information. You want to make sure that your documents and files are safe without having to worry about someone stealing the data. This has been an area where many cloud companies take a hit. So, who keeps your documents safer?

Dropbox

Dropbox guarantees that your files will be protected by AES-256 bit encryption. However, this hasn’t kept the service from being used against  customers. In the past few months, the service has been the victim of several phishing scams. These vicious attacks tricked users into giving up their usernames and passwords by making them think someone has shared a file. What made it so bad was the fact the links would take them to a legitimate looking Dropbox site.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Dropbox Security©

Additionally, the service has been subject to a glitch which allowed private information to be searchable by a third-party. This problem was patched quickly, however many sensitive documents were leaked online before the issue was caught.

Google Drive

Like its counterpart, Google offers AES-256 bit encryption for their customers. Like the competition, this promise of security doesn’t keep Drive from having its share of problems. However, problems aren’t just about phishing schemes and other external factors. They are more internal.

Dropbox vs Google Drive
Google Drive Security©

Google was one of the companies outed when Edward Snowden spread the word about NSA. Apparently, the search engine giant was caught over-reaching their terms of service. Instead of protecting their users, employees were able to access private files and disseminate them as they chose.

The NSA is also accused of gaining access to Google Drive files. The intelligence agency claims they were only taking data from foreign countries. However, there is no way to guarantee that there was no American information taken during this time.

Neither Google Drive nor Dropbox support local encryption of files. Both cloud storage providers encrypt data in transit and while saved on their servers.

Winner: Dropbox only because their breaches were mainly external not internal security issues.

Summary:

Choosing a cloud storage provider is a personal decision. Some users like the fact that Google Drive allows the creation of files and simultaneous collaboration on documents. Others like the third-party integration Dropbox offers.

While it was quite difficult to figure out who the clear winner is, we have to go with Dropbox. One of the tipping points being the security issues that Google has suffered. In addition, while they are equally reliable on their uptime and downtime, Dropbox lost less files that were already on their servers.

Dropbox is still top of the heap.

Audio Version 

42 thoughts on “Dropbox vs Google Drive”

  1. Interesting article.
    But if you do real speed test you should also test it with 5000 files of a few kb. Then you’ll see that dropbox is alot faster then it’s competitors (not that I’m a fanboy). Then you see that onedrive completely stops working. Drive works ‘good’ . Copy works bit better (but lacks knowing when small changes are done)..
    But overall dropbox beats them hard.

    Also when working with alot of small files, I’ve found that it takes long time before copy or onedrive notices that something small has changed.

    Dropbox (and drive on second place) notice this alot faster.

    You should do some testing on that.

  2. Evaluating performance on file sync through the agent can also be trivial and depends upon user’s needs: for example I would not want my file sync application to eat up all my bandwidth to upload large amount of data I put in the sync folder but I’d appreciate to upload them while leaving my link operational and, since these applications do not seem to have bandwidth throttling feature, I prefer the second approach (but it’s just my taste, other might prefer raw horsepower..)

  3. I believe that the free version of Excel for iPad works better with Dropbox. I can’t get the Google Drive to activate, despite the on/off ‘button’. Dropbox is basically automatically there.
    I can open and edit files in Excel from Dropbox. Can’t do that with Google Drive. Before today, and trying this, I was strictly using Google Drive. Now I think I’ll be using Dropbox, at least for spreadsheets….

  4. Upload to Dropbox via website is super easy… Drag file to the window it goes straight into whatever folder is showing… Or drag it to a folder and it goes there instead…

  5. Also, just tried it… you can right-click on any blank portion of the window (white areas to the side or above is fine) and select upload from the contextual menu…

    Use the website view like you would any Explorer Window or if you’re using a Mac Finder window… and it works exactly the same way….

    To me.. that’s much easier than an upload button.

  6. This article need a review as there are more features added to Google drive now. e.g. You can now upload a folder which automatically organises the files with same subfolder structure

  7. What is theexpected single image / file max size limit ?

    I have 4gb image I need to upload it . Which engine support and what is the limit ?

  8. What about CPU usage? Dropbox seems to be a huge CPU sucker in our small office. Anyone else notice this or have comparison with Google Drive?

    1. We had the same problem in our office here in Japan. We wound up dropping our Dropbox subscriptions and migrating everything over to Google Drive. From my personal experience working with the two Google Drive has been significantly faster and more reliable than Dropbox, but after reading other reviews I think it has more to do with your personal location and internet infrastructure than anything else.

  9. Fantastic, thorough and unbiased review. Thank you! It was immensely helpful for me.

    You mentioned bandwidth clogging problems with Google Drive. I had the same problem. In my case, I have a router with solid QoS management, so I simply prioritized VoIP, Web Surfing and Streaming Video over File Transfer. Google Drive sync was still very speedy, but I no longer had any problems with bandwidth hogging.

    I didn’t even bother trying with Google Drive’s bandwidth management settings. For me, the router QoS solved the problem completely.

    Cheers!
    Aaron

  10. While very interesting, I’m surprised the issue of sharing subfolders is not addressed as it is a critical flaw with Drop Box. With DropBox it is not possible to assign a subfolder to a different individual than the parent folder. So for example, if I have a folder for Suppliers and it is shared amongst everyone in the company and within it I have Company X and Company Y. I don’t want X to see the information from Y but I’m forced to make the parent folder open to all who have access below. The only work around is to make all the company folders parent folders but the result would be a very large main directory with no real organization. My understanding is that this is not an issue with Google Drive. This is a very big problem for our firm and from what I read it is a big problem for many others.

  11. We do heavy video production, of the two : Dropbox hands down most reliable

    Our frustration with Google Drive: #1. We actually met a size limitation after hours of transferring video, we met a Cap.

    #2. You cannot transfer ownership of Any Videos, the only thing transferrable are documents in word and excel. And that is it.

    So Google Drive actually sucks if you are in video production, its unreliable because it does not have the storage capabilities, and there are no options to transfer video ownership, we searched the internet through and through. Because of this, we are spending hours downloading, its a pain in the ass.

    That should sum up your study with full accuracy.

  12. I prefer dropbox because it has a linux desktop client, ant not Google drive. Also when many people download a file from your account when you share, Google drive says that you need to try later, while dropbox has not such an issue when you share.

  13. Isn’t this a bit of comparing apples and oranges? Google Drive doesn’t actually store files on resident computers, but rather keeps everything in the cloud, right? Dropbox stores files on resident computers and in the cloud, and updates changes to the files, right?

    1. No, both services work in a similar way. They can both store files on computers and sync them across your devices. You can, however, activate selective sync, so that only some folders are copied locally to your system.

      1. Errr, not 100% correct. Any documents, spreadsheets, and presentations created in Google’s formats with Google Docs are only on Google Drive on the web. What appear to be local copies are only links to the online files, as Google’s native formats cannot live outside Google Drive. Any other formats do have local copies. I would love to use Google Docs, but will not because the only copy is on Google Drive, not the local folder.

        1. Not really. You can use Google docs offline, keep your filed local. You only need to activate offline mode. Google the procedure. Regards.

          1. Yes Edu, you are right, and I stand corrected. However, I have to say that I have found the offline mode a bit unreliable sometimes. When it does work it’s certainly great to have. Thanks for reminding me of that.

  14. This is exactly what I found out in the past 3 days.

    My brother recommended that I should switch to Gdrive so that I will only have to use one account to sign in to all my services, on computer and on my Android phone.

    I went through the trouble of uploading everything (4GB of pictures, music and personal docs) to Gdrive. Then I set up all the syncs on my Android phone using Drivesync, all was good, but then;

    1. File ownership issues, pictures/videos shared between me and my wife, if my wife added those pictures/videos and I deleted those, they would stay on in my wife’s Gdrive but just not show anymore (taking the space).
    2. Gdrive crashed on my local computer quite a few times when I was using a program that creates/updates a dozen files simultaneously to create simulation (Dropbox never crashed in the past 4 years of use).
    3. Too easy to delete/move something from Gdrive web interface, there are no prompts for the deletion, only a message to undo.
    4. Very very slow sync speeds, it took about 90 minutes to upload the 4GB of data to Gdrive on my connection, took 5 minutes to re-upload the same data back to Dropbox (I know dropbox keeps file history and restores from hashes, that helps a lot.
    5. Gdrive needs to reupload everything again, everytime, even the same files, with Dropbox if you are uploading a file that is the same, or with some changes, it will check if it ever had the same file before, if yes then it won’t need to reupload, it will use the file from it’s history.

    1. Exact same comment as above, but on a larger scale. After testing on 2 or 3 gigs for about a week, I moved 330GB of company and personal data over to Drive expecting Google to deliver . Took *5 days* to upload. Sync randomly doesn’t work, or will delete files from one location on it’s own and (hopefully) leave a copy somewhere else. Zero trust in their system. I now need to reconcile 330GB / 50,000 files in three different locations and get it all back onto Dropbox (was with them 3 years or so, no problems, excellent speed/reliability). Dealt with Google support and they were no help. Just said to disconnect Drive desktop client, make a new local folder, sign in to desktop client and download everything from the online Drive (they confirmed that it would probably take the same time as when I uploaded – 5 days or “maybe a little faster”), hope I didn’t lose anything, and deal with the duplicate files. Horrible.

  15. Good review,

    To summarize, read Waqas Tariq’s comments…spot on.

    I tried onedrive, dropbox and google drive. hands down winner is Dropbox.
    Google Drive was a nightmare as described by Waqas Tariq and other than Windows and Office I try to stay away from anything Microsoft.

  16. Dropbox is £79 per year for 1TB.
    I can easily buy a hard drive for less and use a ‘PC anywhere’ type software to access my files wherever there is internet, plus I still have it all in a ‘safe’ place, at home or office.

    1. Beware Mike, I thought the same till early this month the cleaning lady at our office dropped my external drive: Headcrash, everything lost. I’m moving to the cloud now…

      1. you’re absolutely right, that was just what i was thinking, at least one copy of the data needs to reside somewhere away from the home or office at a fast and secure external location, away from accidental or natural disasters.

    2. …I agree with that, that is a better idea. From all of what i am hearing on here, it seem this is a far better idea. But one thing though, unless and even if we invest in a top-notch drive it would be better to also store files elsewhere perhaps on one of the clouds – what if the drive fails one day unless of course you have striped RAID disks on the pc

  17. Dropbox is great but my free 5 GB is nearly full. And I’m cheap, so not keen on paying for more when I could go get Google Drive’s 15 free GB. But now it’s well into the second day after setting up Drive’s initial sync and Drive hasn’t even hit the halfway point on the 8,000 or so files I’d like to sync. Looks like time to pony up for Dropbox Pro.

  18. What about the ease of sharing files? Sending links of files to people?
    When you send a link using drive, does the receiving end need a google account to be able to open it?

  19. The size limitation is a problem for me with Dropbox and although I really love dropbox, Dive may be the better candidate for me personally.

    I haven’t had the issues people talk about but I do think the desktop software for dropbox is better and the syncing on desktop is better, but I prefer the mobile version of Drive especially on android devices.

  20. I have dropbox pro because I like it so much. However, I agree that the app for dropbox is less than ideal.

  21. When I upload an excel file in google drive, it automatically converts it to its own format. Say the original excel file was heavy with conditional formatting (icons etc), you wouldn’t really see it any longer when its uploaded.

    If I share this particular file to my co-worker and he/she downloads it in his computer, will the original excel file with all its formatting be back again?

    That’s my concern, if the files are preserved.

    1. Your initial premise is untrue. GDrive creates a copy of a file in its own format when you tell it to open the file in its own suite. Not upon upload. As long as you just use the simple viewer, or just edit files locally, that will never happen.

      But even if it does, it keeps the original. So retrieving that is easy.

  22. GDrive is absolutely NOT reliable. Sync frequently and randomy gets stuck for interminable periods on different machines even after fresh install. i don’t know whether dropbox is better.

  23. Decent analysis, although there should be an entire section dedicated to PHOTOS.

    Many people use Dropbox or GDrive primarily for photo storage.

    In this regard, I find GDrive to be vastly superior, and is pushing me to give dropbox the boot soon, at least for all my photo storage.

  24. File ownership issues, pictures/videos shared between me and my wife, if my wife added those pictures/videos and I deleted those, they would stay on in my wife’s Gdrive but just not show anymore (taking the space).

    The same happened to me. It took me a while to find out why my drive was full.

  25. I find DropBox to be a very good solution for storing and sharing files in my 4 person company.
    Only one thing is a big problem, and DropBox doesn’t seem to deal with it despite numerous of complains:
    Most of our data are shared among all company employees. Sometime we need to share a subdirectory with a customer, and this is simply not possible.
    https://www.dropboxforum.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/201547115-Can-I-share-sub-folders-independent-of-shared-parent-folder-

  26. …but what is the “cloud” ? the cloud is a fancy name for a set of computers/file servers in some data centre.

  27. dropbox should offer more paid plans. i have a 200 gb plan with gdrive, but only use it for the more/less static files. the dynamic files i change every day are in dropbox. But dropbox is too expensive for 100 Gb compared too google. But i am willing to spent 50 USD per year on a good dropbox 100gb plan as well, a bit more expensive then google, but faster and more manageable.

  28. GDrive took up my whole day!
    Was trying to upload ~2GB of files. After deleting some files (copied them into a RAR), Sync just got confused. I ended up with one folder moving where it shouldn’t be (beside its parent) and other folders simply not containing all the files. Luckily, the files are still on the web version.
    DO NOT USE GOOGLE DRIVE . I won’t, until Google comes clean and says “WE HAVE HAD A SHITTY PRODUCT WE KNOW AND WE’RE SORRY, BUT NOW WE HAVE FIXED IT”. Will not recommend this shitty non-functioning product to anyone!

  29. I want to move my small consultancy to Google Suite for the cheap tools and high level of integration it offers with everything. However, after trying to move 6 GB of files to Google Drive, it still hadn’t uploaded the whole 6 GB from hard disk after a whole weekend. Dropbox does the task in 15 minutes or so.

    So, I am designing a solution where the main storage/backup tool is Dropbox and only active files are on Google Drive. IFTTT can be used to move new files up to Google Drive from Dropbox.

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