We decided to take on the challenge of comparing two very similar products: Dropbox and Google Drive. They both store your files in the cloud, give you access from any computer of mobile device, and allow you to share files with others. After using and testing both services we were able to spot some key diffeences.
We will look at the company overviews, main product features, comparison chart and wrap up with our thoughts. For those that a just looking for the answer and not instested in the detail, you are in luck.
Quick Answer: Depends
Yeah we know this is not really helpful and it is not the single answer you were looking for but if you read the next 2 paragraphs it will make sense.
Need to share documents? Use Dropbox
We found dropbox to be the easiest for sharing documents with others. The price is a little higher but the eas of sharing makes it well worth it. Int addition to great sharing you can acess dropbox from anywhere and more people than you realize have Dropbox accounts.
No Documents to share with others? Use Google Drive
Google Drive is a great service and the price can not be beat. We already had a ton of Google Documents so adding on the extra storage was a perfect fit. One great use is the storage of photographs. I have about 80GB of family photos on the Google Drive servers. This way I can edit them when at work, at home, or on my laptop. The sharing is not as streamlined as Dropbox currently. We expect to see some improvements in the next year or so.
About The Companies
Dropbox was founded in 2007 by Drew Houston & Arash Ferdowsi. The company has grown from 2 employees to over 65. They have over 4 Million users and continue to grow. Their latest announcement has been their release of new sharing/user management system called ‘Teams’. Dropbox has made a name for themselves in the mobile app world, being one of the most downloaded iPhone apps.
Google Drive is just one of many products and services offered by Google. Founded in 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin built a company that can organize the ever increasing amount of data on the internet. Google has since become a household name with product success including Gmail and Google+. In 2004 they went public and have grown to over 28,000 employees worldwide.
|Plan Type (storage space)
|Mac, Linux, Windows
|Apps for iPhone, iPad, Android,
|Apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Webapp for Blackberry.
|File Version History
|Photo Album View
|Encryption, Geo-redudant storage
|Encryption, Geo-redudant storage
|End-user liscence agreement
Desktop Sync Folder
At the core of both Dropbox and Google Drive is the “Sync” folder. All date placed in this special folder is snycd with servers in the cloud, allowing all of your other devices with Dropbox or Google Drive installed to see the data or be shared with others.
Below are images of the Dropbox and Google sync folders on the Mac Operating System.
Dropbox calls its sync folder a ‘box’ and blends nicely with the rest of your computer. You can move or copy files to it and they will be sync’d. You can download a mobile and desktop app or use their web interface to navigate, manage and download files. A sync folder works by providing an extra space that you can drop files into that automatically updates other devices on with that folder to have those files.
Google Drive calls its sync folder a ‘Drive’ and also blends nicely with your computer. You can access all the files you need to using the Google interface to manage files or use the downloadable app.
Our Take: both work great, are easy to use, and integrate with the your operating system nicely. We like how dropbox has the ability to turn on nocitifications when a change tales place in the folder. Our opinion is that this features is too crucial to the core of each product that they have too little of a difference to comment on.
Sharing Files With Others
For both products it is very easy to share with people. Sharing is only accessible through the website interfaces for both of these companies.
Dropbox lets you share by enabling a folder to be shared with another person. Other people do not have to have accounts to see the files you have shared. Photos can be viewed by using Dropbox’s photo gallery mode and if it is document they can download it straight to their computer.
Google Drive works almost the same way. You use the Google Docs (now Drive) interface to attach people to files or folders. They do not have to have google accounts to be copied into the document. There is no photo gallery view, but you can turn on thumbnails to see the images.
Our Take: When a link is shared with the public or other people that do not have accounts they are able to see a viewable version of the files. If you are on Dropbox you have the option to download the file as you see it. With Google Drive when you share a link you have the option to let people edit, comment or download the document. We like the way Google Docs gives you a few extra options. It would be nice if Dropbox had some of those features but what Dropbox does not have in the way off collaboration features they do have in ease of use and the fact that most people already have a dropbox account. We found it much easier to share files with others using Dropbox instead of Google Drive.
Google Drive has one up in this department because of it’s document editings suite that is built in. You can convert Word documents, Excel sheets, Power Point and other file types into Google Docs. These files can then be edited or used in collaboration with other Google Drive users.
Dropbox stores files locally so it is possible to edit files with an external editor like Microsoft Word or Photoshop, but there is nothing built into Dropbox that allows you to edit files.
Our Take: If you want to share documents but keep the syncing software out of the way Dropbox is good. If you want to open documents and make user-wide changes, collaborate and make comments Google Drive is better. We already have a lot of Google Docs so we like having this option.
Winner: Google Drive
One of the more overlooked aspects of Google Drive and Dropbox is the way they look. Their user interfaces address how well the product engages the users intuition and makes it easier to use. Good design makes everything look professional, easy to read and distinguish sets of information clearly.
Dropbox has a great design. Its branded very well and it’s clear that you are using Dropbox every time you use their website. It could be more professional for the business side, but at least it’s friendly. The webapp that comes with Dropbox to manage your account is very easy to navigate and control. It’s functionality is so simplified that it’s hard to miss anything. While navigating the site, it is super fast and has very little lag.
Google Drive is also very well designed and branded. Especially considering what it looked like several years ago. It’s much cleaner and more professional than Dropbox. When it comes to editing files some times it can be slow or clunky. If you have a large document it can take a while to load. Usability is good, but it takes a little getting use to how the filing system works.
Our Take: We like using both. Dropbox has a more spacious feel that helps us navigate easily. The pages load fast so sometimes we forget that we are actually on a website. Google Drive has come along way from where they were, but we would like to see them get the speed up and enhance the design.
Dropbox if you need to share files with others
Google Drive if you do not need to share file and price is more of a concern
Our Thoughts: These two services at their core do exactly the same thing. With both companies we felt they delivered exactly what they promised. We feel like the major differences came down to just a few features. These features were price, free plans, end use license concerns, google docs, and ease of sharing with others.
Google Drive has cheaper plans ($4.99 for 100GBs), more space on their free plan (5GB plus unlimited google documents), and nice extras (Google Docs document editing suite).
Dropbox has a great robust file syncing system, no confusing end user licensing, and very easy to use sharing and managing files. An extra note about Dropbox, we felt that their in browser management was much speedier than Dropbox. Also, when a file is changed on Dropbox a notification appears on the desktop.
Steven is a web developer and online technology expert. He has built global networks and websites for fortune 500 companies. A graduate of Georgia Tech in Chemical Engineering, he now happily spends his time building Joomla and WordPress websites as well as reviewing online backup services, web hosting and anything else that needs reviewing.