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OneDrive vs Google Drive vs Dropbox – Which is best?

Posted by Jamie on May 18, 2018

Looking for more cloud storage? Want to start storing your stuff in the cloud but don’t know which service to choose? You’re in the right place if you are as ‘OneDrive vs Google Drive vs Dropbox – Which is best?’ seeks to tell you just that.

The inexorable shift to the cloud continues apace. More platforms, software and games move to online only or always-connected models and those installed on devices are becoming few and far between. Cloud storage is nothing new and has been around long enough for us to all be familiar with it and trust it. But which service is best?

Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox are not the only cloud storage providers in the world but they are some of the best known. Aside from iCloud which is mainly for Apple users, although you can still use it via the web if you want to, these three are the biggest names in cloud storage.

When we look for cloud storage, we typically use the following criteria:

  1. Free storage
  2. Paid storage
  3. Ease of use
  4. Security

Depending on what you want to use your storage for, you may use some or all of these criteria. I’ll use them too. I shall assess Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox on these four features and then say who I think does best in each.

Cloud storage

If you haven’t used cloud storage before, here is a quick explainer. Anything described as ‘cloud’ means it is based on the internet. Cloud storage means you can store your digital files on an allocated portion of a server and access it from anywhere, at any time.

You can upload files manually, or use a program to automatically sync certain files to the cloud. The benefit is that you get a digital copy of a file stored elsewhere. If something happens to your computer, hard drive or home, the data you store in the cloud is still safe.

That cloud storage provider also takes reasonable precautions to keep your data safe.

Free storage

Free storage allowances used to be very generous but each provider has reduced the amount of free space they allow new users and allocate to existing ones.

Microsoft OneDrive allows 5GB of storage for free as part of Outlook. If you use Office 365, you are allocated more but in return for a subscription so doesn’t really count. OneDrive offers a referral program that rewards you with up to 10GB for referring friends to the platform.

Google Drive offers up to 15GB for free. This includes any Docs you create in Google Docs and any images used by Google Photos. If you use Gmail or other Google app, you get Google Drive as part of the deal but they all count towards storage.

Dropbox offers only 2GB for free when you sign up. However, you can earn up to a theoretical 16GB for jumping through a long series of hoops and recommending friends. For every new member you recommend, you get an extra 500MB of storage. Along with completing the tutorial and other steps, you get more storage.

The winner: Google Drive. You get 15GB off the bat without having to sign up everyone in your life and without having to jump through hoops. For most of us, 15GB is as much as we would ever need.

Paid storage

Paid options work for individuals and for businesses and offer a range of storage and feature options depending on how much you want to pay. The free storage allocation is plenty, but if you’re a small business or a photographer who needs the space, you’re going to have to pay.

Microsoft OneDrive offers a range of plans that currently include 50GB for $23.99 a year, 1TB for $69.99 a year and 5TB for $99.99 a year. Each provides lots of storage for whatever you need while the terabyte plans come with Office 365 Home subscriptions as an added bonus.

Google Drive offers 100GB for $19.99, 1TB for $99.99 and 10TB for $1199.99. Then there are two business plans, Basic which offers 30GB for $5 per user per year, Business which offers unlimited storage for $10 per user per year. The business options also offers G Suite, similar to Office 365.

Dropbox offers both individual and business premium plans. Dropbox Plus for individuals with 1TB of storage for $9.99 a month. Dropbox for Teams has a Standard account with 2TB at $150 per year, Advanced with unlimited storage at $240 per year and an Enterprise account for big businesses.

The winner: This time it isn’t as clear cut. Dropbox cannot compete and only offers a single account for individuals. OneDrive is cheaper than Google Drive and offers an Office 365 subscription as part of the package. Google Drive offers more plans and up to 30TB of storage.

If you don’t have a current copy of Microsoft Office, OneDrive is a good deal. However, if you’re a heavy cloud storage user, having more than 1TB of storage may work in your favor. Only you can decide this one.

 

Ease of use

Ease of use is a key consideration when choosing any application or platform. After all, you want to be able to use it freely in any manner you see fit. You also want to access your files quickly and with minimum of fuss.

Microsoft OneDrive has a significant advantage if you’re a Windows user as it is built into Explorer. It is already in place within the OS and all you need do is log in and enable it to backup your files. It’s the same for Office and Office 365 too. Anything you sync into the OneDrive folder is backed up.

There are apps for Android and iOS and a lesser known one for Mac OS. All of these work well enough and make it easy to backup your files. The one downside on computer is that you cannot tell OneDrive where to back up from. It’s the OneDrive folder or nothing. You can use a third-party sync tool to copy across but it is a glaring omission.

Google Drive is integrated into Android and the Google suite of apps online. Syncing files from a phone is simple and can be set to work automatically without input. Backing up from laptop or desktop is a little more tricky. The web interface isn’t the easiest to work with but is simple and uncluttered. Download the desktop app and things become easier. Just a matter or dragging and dropping files to be backed up.

Google Drive is at a disadvantage compared to OneDrive in that it requires a few extra steps to get it working. Once you do, the process is simple enough to use. If you use Google Docs or G Suite, integration is seamless.

Dropbox can be accessed via the web or app. The app is super simple and works on phones and computers. You will need to download and install, but once set up will take care of everything for you. The experience is much the same across mobile and desktop and the UI of both is easy to use and manage.

Dropbox is at even more of a disadvantage as it has no office or productivity suite of its own. It overcomes that by having created a straightforward app that gets the job done with the minimum of fuss.

The winner: For Windows users, OneDrive has a clear advantage. It is built in, works automatically and is integrated into Windows Explorer. While some may consider that an unfair advantage, it works for consumers.

Google Drive is straightforward but requires you to use Google Docs or the web to get the best out of it. Dropbox is also a runner up here as you need it’s app or browser to do the work. While neither is difficult to use, nothing beats built-in support.

Security

Security is arguably the most important criteria to use when selecting a cloud storage provider. Even if you’re not storing private or privileged information, it is your information and it deserves to be protected.

Microsoft OneDrive utilizes TLS and 256-bit AES encryption to transfer your files. This is a good level of security to use. However, only business customers benefit from storage encryption. Individuals do not have the option to have stored data encrypted, it is instead, stored in the clear. The inclusion of 2FA (two-factor authentication) is useful and everyone should use it.

Given how much of a target Microsoft products are, not encrypting individuals data at rest is a little disappointing. That is especially true as this fact really isn’t made clear.

Google Drive uses TLS and 128-bit AES encryption to transfer your files. This is also a good level of security as even 128-bit encryption would require several hundred years of supercomputer time to crack. Google Drive also uses 256-bit AES to encrypt stored data for all users too. Two-factor authentication is an option for all Google apps.

Dropbox also uses TLS and 128-bit AES encryption to transfer your files. Data at rest is then decrypted and encrypted once more using 256-bit AES. This is also a good level of security for your files with one exception. All file metadata, the name, date, file type and size is stored in the clear. This is fine for most users though. Two-factor authentication is an option with Dropbox.

The winner: Google Drive wins this one with Dropbox coming a close second. There is no excuse to not encrypt user data at rest so OneDrive loses out big time here. Dropbox only comes second due to storing metadata in the clear as in other respects it is very secure, especially having learned lessons from that hack of 2012.

OneDrive vs Google Drive vs Dropbox – Which is best?

Of the three services, it is now clear that each has advantages and disadvantage. OneDrive is built into Windows and very easy to use but leaves data exposed for individual accounts. This writes it off in my opinion. Ease of use is fine but should not be prioritized over security.

Google Drive and Dropbox offer good security, decent ease of use and a variety of storage options. Of the two, Google Drive caters more for heavy users while Dropbox syncs files faster and the apps are very simple to use. The best of these depends on what you personally prioritize.

What do you think is the best cloud storage option? OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox? Tell us what you think below!

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