That’s why both factor into Cloudwards.net’s best cloud storage roundup, even if they necessarily dominate, or really even come close to dominating, the field like you might assume.
Picking between them is maybe a good problem to have. It’s kind of like choosing between pepperoni and hawaiian pizza. Nevertheless, its not an easy decision, either, so we’re here to help. This head-to-head matchup will give you all the information you need to know to decide which of these cloud storage solutions is the best fit for your needs.
Google Drive vs OneDrive: Which is the Best Cloud Storage Solution for You?
Our cloud storage reviews library contains a range of cloud storage options for just about any need, from super-secure services like Tresorit (read our Tresorit review) to the shutterbug lockboxes mentioned in our best cloud storage for photographers review.
Google Drive and OneDrive fit into the picture as top cloud storage options for being productive. While business users might find more value in the alternatives laid out in our best EFSS piece, there’s no doubt that Google Drive and OneDrive are the two top picks for home users, students, freelancers and the like when it comes to getting things done.
Both are reasonably inexpensive, handle file sharing and syncing well, and, above all, have excellent productivity apps like their previously mentioned office suites. While a handful of other cloud storage tools, like Egnyte Connect (read our Egnyte Connect review), can integrate with both Google Docs and Office Online, none feel quite as smooth in their integration as the platforms for which they were designed.
On top of that, Google Drive and OneDrive are both somewhat more ubiquitous than other cloud storage options thanks to the fact that they’re each tied larger, commonly-used platforms: Google Drive with Chrome and Android, and OneDrive with Windows.
So, picking between the two seemed to us an especially worthwhile task to undertake.
To answer the question of which is better, we’ll break down both over the course of four rounds, including cost of storage, file sharing, file sync, apps and security. After each round, we’ll summarize our thoughts and name a round winner. Then, when all said and done, we’ll tell you which of the two services we most recommend.
Now, onto the good stuff.
Up first, we’ll take a look at each service’s storage plans and how much they’ll set you back. While the bottom line shouldn’t be the only thing you consider, it’s usually a smart place to start.
Google Drive starts you out with 15GB of free cloud storage just for creating a Google account. For some people, that’s all that will ever be needed. While we don’t necessarily consider it the best free cloud storage plan available, it certainly deserves to be in the conversation.
If 15GB isn’t enough, Google Drive has a nicely priced 100GB plan you can subscribe to rather than going straight to 1TB like you have to with many cloud storage services. And, if 1TB isn’t enough, you can get more with Google Drive, while much of the competition stops there.
That makes Google Drive one of the more flexibly-priced cloud storage services out there, even if it’s not as good a deal as, say, the 2TB for $8 you get with pCloud (read our pCloud review).
That storage can be used connect any computer running Windows or MacOS. Surprisingly, Google hasn’t yet added Linux support, so if that’s a need you’ll want to give our best cloud storage for Linux article a read. Android is also supported, of course, as is iOS.
OneDrive also has a free cloud storage plan, but you only get 5GB, far short of Google Drive’s offering, though that’s more than Dropbox’s 2GB of free storage. OneDrive also has a low-cost plan for those that don’t want to jump all the way to 1TB. Its 50GB for $1.99, so half the storage for same price as 100GB with Google Drive.
Beyond those two plans, however, OneDrive proves a much more budget-friendly option than Google Drive. The 1TB plans is only $6.99. For the same cost as 1TB of Google Drive, in fact, $9.99 a month, you can get a OneDrive family plan that gives five different users 1TB of storage.
1-year plan $ 1.99 / month
$23.88 billed every year
|Office 365 Personal|
1-year plan $ 5.83 / month
$69.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
|Office 365 Home|
1-year plan $ 8.33 / month
$99.99 billed every year
Save 17 %
In addition to storage, both the 1TB and 5TB OneDrive plans let you use the desktop version of Microsoft Office, Office 365, along with the browser-based Office Online. All in all, it’s a very good deal.
Like Google Drive, computers running Windows and MacOS can connect to OneDrive with easy-to-install desktop clients, and mobile apps are available for Android and iOS (and Windows Phone, if anybody cares).
Round One Thoughts
That both Google Drive and OneDrive are priced much more agreeably than their biggest rival, Dropbox (read our Dropbox review), is clear. Choosing between them is a bit tough, however.
On the one hand, Google Drive gives you three times more free storage than OneDrive, and its $1.99 plan gets you 100GB of storage verses 50GB with Google Drive. On the other hand, OneDrive’s 1TB plan cost $3 less than a 1TB Google Drive plan.
We could arbitrarily make a good case for either service to win round one, but we’re siding with OneDrive on account of that fact that it does something that no other cloud storage solution we can think of does: it offers a family plan. Plus, that family plan a really good deal, too.
File storage might be the key feature of any good cloud storage service, but file sharing is just as important. In round two, we’ll take a look at the file sharing capabilities of both Google Drive and OneDrive and figure out which does it better.
You can share both folders and files stored in Google Drive by right-clicking on them and selecting either “share” or “get shareable link.”
Selecting “get shareable link” will copy a link to your clipboard, while the fist option will let you email that link to specific individuals and play with some other settings like read-only permissions and disabling downloads.
You can also share Google Drive file links automatically to GMail, Google+, Twitter and Facebook.
If the files are formatted for Google Docs, those with whom they’re shared will be be able view, comment or edit them depending on the level of permissions you’ve granted them.
Google Drive also has a “shared with me” view where you can go to see any folders or files other Google Drive users have shared with you. That’s about all there is to sharing to sharing with Google Drive.
As with Google Drive, to share content stored to OneDrive, all you need to do is right-click on a folder or file and select “share” in the menu that opens.
A link pointing to your folder or file will be created. You can copy and distribute this link manually or email it by clicking “email” and inputting the addresses of the people you want to grant access to. OneDrive also gives you options to share the links to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Sina Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
You can also toggle editing on or off for a link and set a link expiry date, beyond which the link will cease to function.
To audit content that you’ve shared so that you don’t lose sight of it, you can click the “shared” link found in the left-side margin of OneDrive. This same view will show content that’s been shared with you.
Round Two Thoughts
File sharing works similarly for both Google Drive and OneDrive. Both make it easy to share, but both also have some holes in their file-sharing approach. The biggest miss for either is that you can’t create passwords for links like you can with more secure cloud storage services like Sync.com and pCloud.
However, OneDrive does at least let you set expiry dates for links, which Google Drive does not. On top of that, OneDrive’s “shared” view lets you audit both content shared with you and content that you’ve shared, while Google Drive only shows you content shared with you.
File synchronization, or sync, refers to the ability to access the same files on different devices without having to manually copy them yourself. The key to sync is a special folder called a sync folder that gets installed in your file system.
By default, any files stored in this folder are stored both on your hard drive and in the cloud. With multiple sync folders installed on multiple devices, file changes get transferred between devices with the cloud as the middleman.
While the basic approach is similar from one cloud storage service to the next, as with file sharing, added features can make sync more or less efficient. Let’s see how Google Drive and OneDrive fare.
The Google Drive sync folder is called “Google Drive.” As noted, it pretty much looks like any other folder in your file system, although it doesn’t entirely behave like one.
You can quickly view the status of your sync operations by right-clicking the Google Drive icon in your taskbar. This will show you files that have recently synced and alert you to any failed syncs.
Generally speaking, sync with Google Drive runs pretty smoothly. There’s a massive 5TB size limit on files that can be uploaded, so that should cover just about everything. The company could certainly do better, however, by implementing a block-level approach to file copying like Dropbox and Egnyte do, or, to a lesser extent as we’ll see, OneDrive does.
Another key feature of sync today is the ability to turn sync off, known as selective sync. Google Drive makes this a pretty simple process: just access the “preferences” window available from the taskbar menu. Then, click on the Google Drive tab.
You’ll be able to toggle folders in your Google Drive sync folder, turning sync on or turning it off. By turning it off, files will still be stored in the cloud but not on your hard drive, which serves to free up space.
The OneDrive sync folder works just like that of Google Drive, Dropbox or any other cloud storage service. Installed in your file system with subfolders for documents, pictures, music, favorites and shared, all you need to do to send files to the cloud is drop them inside.
While OneDrive doesn’t incorporate block-level file copying on the whole, it does at least for Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel and PowerPoint).
OneDrive also has a selective sync feature, accessible by clicking “settings” in taskbar menu. Once open, click on the account tab and “choose folders” to open the selective sync window.
Then, uncheck all the folders you don’t want stored on your hard drive.
Round Three Thoughts
There’s very little separating the sync capabilities of Google Drive and OneDrive. Both, in our testing, performed well and without any errors or hangups. Google Drive does a little bit better keeping you informed of sync status, while OneDrive at least offers a limited version of block-level copying.
Of the two, OneDrive’s is likely the better advantage, though obviously only if your a user of Microsoft Office. Still, we’ll give victory in this round to it, albeit narrowly.
In round four, we’ll be taking a look at integrated apps. This is an area where many of Cloudwards.net’s favorite niche picks fall short. Cloud storage solutions with money behind them, on the other hand, like Egnyte, Box, Dropbox and both of the services features in this article, tend to excel.
Google Drive and OneDrive actually stand out from the crowd a little further, in that both have their own native office suites. As mentioned, Google Drive has Google Docs, while OneDrive, of course, has Microsoft Office.
It wasn’t long ago that many people wouldn’t have bothered looking at an office suite other than Microsoft Office, let alone one that was browser-based. However, Google Docs has proven itself a capable alternative that’s nearly as powerful and, best of all, free.
Google Docs is both the name of the suite and the name of the suite’s word processor. Also included are a spreadsheet application called Google Sheets, a presentation application called Google Slides and a form-building application called Google Forms.
Files created in any application store automatically to Google Drive. By sharing Google Docs files with others, you’re able to collaborate within the application itself, leaving comments in the margins, making suggestions and, if granted permission to do so, even edits.
In addition to developing its own applications, Google has opened up its API to developers to create their own integrations. Thanks to that, there are now hundreds of applications available to Google Drive users, most for free.
Google even makes it easy to find them with a searchable library. All you need to do is login into your Google Drive account, click on the “new” button on the top-left side, then click “connect more apps.”
You can search for specific apps or browse by categories like business tools, productivity, games and communication. Some of the notable entries include DocHub, PicMonkey, WeVideo and Kami.
Perhaps in response to Google Drive, two years after the launch of Google Docs, Microsoft unveiled its own web-based, free version of Office called Office Online. Included are lightweight versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint.
Microsoft has also included a handy web-based note-taking tool called OneNote. While not quite as nice as rival Evernote, OneNote still lands on our list of best note-taking apps available today.
As noted in round one, if you sign up for the 1TB personal or the 5TB family plan with OneDrive, you also gain access to the desktop version of Office, Office 365, which includes Access.
With Office Online, you can collaborate in near real-time, just like with Google Docs. That includes leaving comments in margins and making edits.
In addition to Office Online, OneDrive has a few other Microsoft-owned applications of note already integrated. These include Mail, Tasks, Calendar, People, Skype and Flow, a cloud-based tool for designing workflows.
While its native integrations are impressive, OneDrive doesn’t have much in the way of third-party apps to speak of, despite opening up its API in 2015. Many of those that are available are just enhancements for Microsoft Office, too, rather than standalone software.
Additionally, Microsoft doesn’t give you an easy way to search for an integrated apps like Google Drive does with its application library.
Round Four Thoughts
Down three rounds to none, Google Drive needs a win. Lucky, integrated apps happens to be where it shines the most. While some people will prefer the familiarity of Microsoft Office and the desktop apps of Office 365 over the web-based tools of Google Docs, if you can make the transition the payoff is well worth it.
Google has done great work building technology partnerships and its selection of third-party apps for Google Drive far outpaces not only OneDrive, but every other cloud storage service, too.
In our final round, we’ll take a look at security. You can read more about steps services can take to protect your privacy in our cloud storage security article. We also have a cybercrime primer that will give you a good idea of why it’s so important.
Google Drive encrypts your files while in transit between your computer and the cloud using TLS and 256-bit AES. One arriving at the data center, your files get decrypted and then encrypted again, this time using 128-bit AES.
Neither 128-bit nor 256-bit AES are believed to have been broken outside of a few message board conspiracy theories, mostly having to do with the NSA. In fact, it’s estimated it would take a supercomputer billions of years brute-force crack either, so at this point the use of 256 over 128 bits probably doesn’t mean much.
The fact that Google decrypts your files at all is the bigger concern, as it means you files aren’t encrypted end-to-end like they are with, for example, Sync.com (read our Sync.com review).
Google didn’t actually start encrypting files at rest at all until after it got called out for playing along with the NSA surveillance program, PRISM, in 2013.
On the plus side, Google does support two-factor authentication, which protects you in the event that your password is stolen. With this feature on, logins from unfamiliar machines will require a security code to be entered as an additional credential, which is itself delivered to your mobile device.
Google Drive also provides file versioning. While this is just as much for backing out of your own mistakes, versioning provides a measure of protection against ransomware. Ransomware works by corrupting files and holding the clean copies ransom. With versioning, once you’ve removed the ransomware from your computer, you can just revert your files back to past, uncorrupted copies.
Google retains past versions of Google Docs files indefinitely. Non-native files, meanwhile, are kept up to 100 versions, but only for 30 days. After that, they get permanently deleted.
Security poses a major issue for OneDrive, at least for ordinary consumers. The reason is that while OneDrive for Business files are encrypted at rest, those of OneDrive personal users are left in plain text.
You read that right.
That means if someone were to gain access to the Microsoft data center where your files are kept, they could read your files without also having to gain access to your encryption keys.
Files are, at least, encrypted while in transit using 256-bit AES. However, the lack of at-rest encryption is in itself the most compelling reason we could offer you to choose Google Drive, or just about any other cloud storage service, instead. That’s especially true given that Microsoft has always been a popular target for cybercrime thanks to its popularity.
Another issue with OneDrive is that versioning is only possible for Microsoft Office file types. Non-native files aren’t afforded that protection, meaning if those files are corrupted with ransomware, there’s no getting them back.
About the only thing we can say in OneDrive’s favor is that two-factor authentication is an option. Yay.
Round Five Thoughts
Truth be told, security isn’t a strong point for either service. Neither provides the privacy of client-side, end-to-end encryption. If that’s a need, you’ll want to check out our list of best zero-knowledge cloud storage services. If you do go with Google Drive or OneDrive, consider encrypting your files yourself using Boxcryptor, which is compatible with both.
That said, while Google also has some potentially shady marketing practices added to its security misses that we address in our full Google Drive review, they’re not nearly as troubling as Microsoft’s failure to encrypt your files at rest.
OneDrive took three out of five rounds, but for our money, this victory falls easily in Google Drive’s favor. Round one, cost of storage, was more of a toss-up than clear-cut victory for OneDrive. Rounds two and three, covering file sharing and sync, were only slightly clearer victories.
Google Drive, meanwhile, has a vastly superior third-party app library to OneDrive and its Google Docs suite is just as good as Office Online, leaving round four firmly in its favor unless you’re truly hung up on Office 365.
The real key to victory here is security, though, which is saying something given that Google Drive isn’t exactly a bastion for user privacy. But if a zero-knowledge service like Sync.com is too light on productivity features for you, at least go with with service that doesn’t leave your files in plain text.
Final Winner: Google Drive
Did we get it right? Feel free to chime in on the debate in the comments below, and thanks for reading!