Here at Cloudwards we want to make sure you get as much done in a workday as possible and thankfully there is a large array of cloud apps available that helps you do exactly that. Today we’re looking at two of the most popular ones, OneDrive and Google Drive.
In the battle between Redmond and Mountain View, who will come out as the best solution for people looking to get the most done in a day?
Productivity and Cloud Storage
You may love or hate Apple products, but you have to admit that Steve jobs hit the nail on the head way back in 1997 when he unveiled his vision for cloud computing’s future.
During the address linked above he saw four primary advantages to online storage:
- protection from catastrophic data loss
- access to data from any location or computer
- a non-disruptive user experience
- facilitation of a collaborative work experience
The need to easily protect data in a way that’s natural to the user is the subject of round one, Ease of Use and Accessibility.
Microsoft and Google have moved beyond simply offering a place to store data, adding several features that add integrated office applications. I’ll cover these in the next two rounds, Sharing & Collaboration and Integrated Work Apps.
Finally, I’ll take a look at the support both providers offer their customers In the end, you’ll see why Google Drive trumps OneDrive when it comes to encouraging your productivity.
Google Drive vs. OneDrive
This is likely owing to the fact that Windows machines come with 5GB of free OneDrive storage, while signing up for Google services – required if you own an Android device or use Gmail – automatically gives you 15GB.
Both services also offer powerful suites with plenty of integrated tools and capabilities, making them very good at boosting productivity.
In this article I use efficiency and productivity as main criteria, rather than value. If price effectiveness is important to you, check out our recent piece where we compare OneDrive and Google Drive based on value.
I’ll also be focusing on overall user experience. In my experience, the best apps appeal not just because they offer better ways to generate work product, but because they are intuitive.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Table of Contents:
Round One: Ease of Use and Accessibility
While a Microsoft product, OneDrive is a cross-platform solution that works well outside of the Microsoft ecosystem. It will run on most operating systems, except for Linux.
Because all of your devices are connected to the same source, you can view and edit files seamlessly while hopping from device to device, without having to waste time transferring files by hand.
You can also access all of your files through any web browser thanks to the OneDrive Live interface. That means you can get to what you need quickly and through any machine.
OneDrive Live is beautifully designed, with a minimalist look and feel.
The interface will feel familiar to most users as it’s mostly a copy of the Windows system. You can sort files by list and more advanced commands are accessible with a single right click. This makes the learning curve practically nonexistent.
Downloading the OneDrive desktop client establishes a synchronized folder on your desktop. It basically works just like a regular folder, except that it saves files to the cloud rather than to your hard drive.
OneDrive lets you mark folders and files to be available offline. That way, even when you can’t login, you can still be productive.
Integrated OneDrive applications, such as Office Online, can also be used offline. Any changes made to documents will sync to OneDrive once Internet access is re-established.
Mobile users (Android, iOS, and Windows Phone) also have the option to automatically upload photos and videos to the cloud, so you don’t have to waste time handling that task yourself.
Google Drive offers desktop clients for Windows and Mac users, but does not support Linux.
Downloading the Google drive client to your computer creates a folder icon that can be accessed and manipulated just like any other folder. That means users of those platforms won’t need to learn much in the way of new tricks.
Mobile users are able to access Google Drive with a downloadable app. Note that Blackberry 10 users cannot, although there are third-party solutions available like Playcloud.
Because of Google Drive’s cross-platform functionality, users will enjoy a synchronized experience from one device to another, without any downloads.
Google Drive can also be accessed from any web browser by visiting the Google Drive website. The web interface is well designed and easy to use.
Using Google Drive is much the same as on any other file system, making the program intuitive to use. This makes for a fluid and powerful user experience.
Users can also select which Google Drive folders they would like to be available offline. These folders will always download locally, so you can continue getting things done even when you can’t get online.
Any changes made will update to the cloud once connection is restored, so you don’t have to worry about managing that aspect of the process yourself.
Note that in order to access Google Docs in offline mode, you’ll need to install the Chrome browser and will need to change some settings to make sure you’re ready to download Docs files to the hard drive.
Google Drive also supports auto uploading of photos and videos.
Round One Thoughts
As mentioned before, ease of use is very important in deciding how a cloud solution will support your overall productivity. Both OneDrive and Google Drive handle this aspect very well, which is probably to be expected from two industry leaders that spend a lot of time thinking about what people want.
Round One Winner: Tie.
Round Two: Sharing & Collaboration
OneDrive is well suited to facilitating joint endeavors, either through handy sharing options or real-time collaborative features baked into the Office Online products.
For desktop users, file sharing is managed via the OneDrive Live user interface.
From the interface, it’s as simple as selecting the radio buttons beside the items you’d like to share and either right clicking and selecting “share” or clicking the “share” button at the top of the interface.
After doing so, you’ll find that you have several options for sharing. You can generate a link that you can deliver via an email or share directly to social media.
Alternatively, rather than share individual files, you can set up a shared folder. Files created in that folder will be accessible to anyone you give access to.
You can also share folders and files directly from your desktop by accessing your OneDrive folder, right clicking the item and selecting share. However, you’re limited to generating a link which automatically has edit permissions.
You’ll also have to access OneDrive Live to edit or remove shared permissions. From, there, you can alter link and invited user permissions from the “shared” page, so long as you are the owner of the shared file or folder.
Depending on the file type, once you’ve shared a OneDrive file there are a few collaborative options built into Microsoft Online applications designed to boost team productivity.
These include the ability to allow users to work on the same file at the same time with a safety catch that prevents them from overwriting each other. Users can view changes as they are made, while tracking edits.
Note that in order to actually make edits, users will need to have been granted “edit” permission. Those with view-only permissions can still comment on the document, however.
In order to protect against unwanted edits, OneDrive allows users to revert documents back to previous versions. This can be done from the web interface by right clicking on a file (or selecting “manage” in the top toolbar) and choosing “version history.”
At this time, OneDrive’s version control capabilities only work for Microsoft Office documents.
Inviting others to view and edit files stored in Google Drive is done via Google’s web-based user interface. However, unlike with with OneDrive, all of the same share capabilities are also available via your desktop’s Google Drive folder.
Sharing files can be accomplished by right clicking on a file, and selecting “share.” Using the pop-up window that appears, users can select one of two share options available: generate a link or send an email.
When sharing a file, there are three degrees of increasing permissions levels available: view, edit and comment. “Comment” is handy in case you want to get somebody’s feedback on a document, but don’t want them to be able to alter that document.
Sharing can also be done at the folder level, so that invited individuals can view, edit, or comment on any document in that folder, depending on their permission level.
Unfortunately, while there is a Google Drive view that lets you see what folders and files have been shared with you, there is no dedicated view for seeing what you have shared. Instead, you’ll have to scan your My Drive list for a shared icon beside folders and files to determine what’s been shared.
Once you’ve identified the file for which you’d like to edit shared permissions, right click, and select “shared.” You be able to use the shared dialogue box to edit permissions on shared content.
Once permissions have been granted, users are able to collaborate in real time.
From within documents, you can attach comments — for example, to blocks of text or spreadsheet cells.
Edits made by both you or collaborators can be viewed from My Drive, or directly within the document.
Google also makes it easy to revert back to previous document versions. Where OneDrive version control is handled outside the document, Google manages this process inside of it.
Round Two Thoughts
As in round one, the difference between the two programs is minimal. I like that with OneDrive, you can see both folders and files that you’ve shared, or those shared with you, by simply going to the shared view.
Google Drive only offers a view of what’s been shared with you. To see what you’ve actually shared with others, you have to do some searching, presenting a minor security risk as you might forget that you’ve sent an access link out.
On the other hand, the handy ability to manage shared permissions directly from your desktop is unique to Google Drive. Also, there’s more granularity with Google Drive in how you can set up permissions,
While both have slight advantages the other service should take note of, they are not enough to carve out a commanding advantage in this round.
Round Two Verdict: Tie.
Round Three: Integrated Work Apps
OneDrive is fully integrated with Microsoft Office Online, which offers a somewhat stripped-down version of their long popular office suite.
Applications include Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote; but not Access or Publisher.
Users who subscribe to an Office 365 plan will also have access to installed versions, which offer more features for document creation, in addition to 1TB of cloud storage. This includes both Access and Publisher, but only for Windows users.
Outlook includes a “save to OneDrive” feature, which quickly saves email attachments to the cloud. They are automatically saved to a folder called, “email attachments,” which makes it easy to locate them later on.
The integration with popular Microsoft products is great as they still rank among the best productivity apps on the market.
However, beyond that, there aren’t many of third-party application integrations offered with OneDrive.
OneDrive doesn’t let you search and connect to these integrated apps from the web app like Google Drive does, which makes the discovery process difficult.
That’s doesn’t mean integrated apps aren’t available. For example, DocuSign, a popular eSignature app, offers a “connect with OneDrive” option.
Google Drive offers access to its own suite of free online office products, which includes most of the applications you’d expect.
Docs is a word processor, Sheets is a spreadsheet tool, and users can create presentations with Slides. Forms is used to create surveys, polls, registration forms and the like, while Drawings is used to create graphics.
These office tools work similar to applications put out by more traditional vendors, so there’s not much of learning curve. However, there’s a rather large drawback if you don’t like working from a browser: unlike with Microsoft’s office suite, there’s no desktop version.
That’s not to say you can’t edit documents offline: Chrome users are able to sync documents for offline use, though users of other browsers are out of luck.
There are workarounds, such as Syncdocs, a Google Drive sync and backup application. However, tools like Syncdocs take extra work, and extra money, to implement into your workflow.
One of the great advantages of Google Drive is that it offers many third-party apps that can be quickly integrated. Just click the “my Drive” drop-down menu in the toolbar, select “connect more apps,” and search for titles or filter by category. Examples include LucidCharts (mockups) and SmartSheets (project management).
Finally, there is a plugin that you can install and use with Microsoft Office Online and Office 365 (it does not work with Office for Mac).
Round Three Thoughts
For the third straight round, choosing one service over the other is a tricky proposition. However, in this case, there are some actual differences between them.
Microsoft doesn’t have the kind of third-party support that Google Drive has, which doesn’t make it easy to browse and discover what apps are out there.
For those who wish to use Office 365’s powerful productivity features, however, the choice might be clear. While Google Drive offers an Office 365 plugin, an Office 365 subscription bumps you up to 1TB of OneDrive storage. Forking out extra cash for a 1TB of Google Drive subscription on top of that could be unnecessarily expensive.
Still, since we’re not focused on value in this piece, it’s fair to take price out of the equation. Simply put, Google Drive has more toys, making it more interesting for those looking to improve their productivity.
Round Three Winner: Google Drive
Round Four: Support
Technical issues and knowledge gaps disrupt your productivity. OneDrive helps you negotiate these obstacles with a helpful support site.
You’ll find pages designed to walk you through common tasks and troubleshooting instructions sorted by issue and platform.
Microsoft maintains a virtual training center for all of its work products, including OneDrive. Material is segmented between home and business users and includes both a video tutorial library and an ebook.
However, both the video library and ebook lack in-depth information for serious power users and do little to help troubleshoot problems.
OneDrive’s integrated help options only list email as a support channel.
The same is true if you go to the Microsoft homepage, and click the OneDrive icon. However, there is a much better support service available called Answer Desk. It just isn’t linked to the product in any logical way (I had to use Google to find it). Support through Answer Desk is run by a virtual assistant, but grants users the choice of speaking with a life agent.
There doesn’t seem to be a number that customers can call. However, shaking your mobile device in frustration open the help page. So that’s nice.
Google Drive offers 24/7 support with three different ways to contact a direct support representative: telephone, chat and email.
Rather than call yourself, you submit your number to Google Drive support via an online form and wait for them to call you. From a productivity standpoint, this method beats listening to hold music. Google posts estimated wait times, so you’re not left in the lurch.
For those who like to go it alone, or semi-alone at least, Google Drive has guides to take you through common issues. That way you don’t have to wait for a live person to come to your aid, which gets you back to work faster.
Google also offers an extensive video library designed to educate users. These can be accessed via their YouTube channel.
You can also join their Google Drive user community, which offers a product forum where users can ask questions, search for previously asked questions or follow discussions about specific topics.
The user community includes access the product blog, so you can keep abreast of Google Drives news and upcoming rollouts that might impact how you go about your business.
Round Four Thoughts
Finally, an easy decision.
Google Drive would win merely by virtue of having a support phone number. However, there’s so much more. The service’s live help channels are linked directly to your account, so you don’t have to go hunting to to find them. Their documentation is more robust than what OneDrive offers, and so is their video library. Also, they offer a incredibly helpful and active user community.
Microsoft lets you shake your phone for help.
Round Four Winner: Google Drive.
Both Google Drive and OneDrive present users with an intuitive user experience thanks to well-designed interfaces. Both are also nicely geared towards facilitating fruitful collaborations.
Google Drive’s better support network and community is a major advantage when it comes to working through problems and developing solutions. So is its deep library of third-party apps. Finally, Google Drive’s plugins blunt the greatest advantage of OneDrive: Office 365.
Winner: Google Drive
I believe we’ve produced a victor. Which of these two do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.