Google Drive vs Dropbox


Which one is better for your company? Find out.

Many companies use either Dropbox or Google Drive and they’re completely satisfied with their choice. And yet, many more companies out there choose to use both at the same time. Why is this?

The reason is simple: they use Google Drive and Dropbox to do “different” things. 

Before we dive in, here’s a short breakdown of what they’re best at.

Google Drive Dropbox
Syncing x
Sharing x
Security x
Team Collaboration x
Integrations x
Mobile x
Admin Controls x
Privacy x
Usability x


There are certain sections here that you really cannot be skipping. Security
 is something that could change your entire decision for example. Find out why Google is winning at collaboration for now, but will soon likely lose the lead to Dropbox’s daring new red-eyed ‘Paper’. Dive right in. 

In this guide we will go through all of the elements to consider when making the choice between investing in both or either of these products…

1. Pricing & Storage

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way so can focus on the meaty stuff later on.

Google Drive Pricing & Storage – FREE 15GB

 Simple pricing, per user, per month, paid on a month by month basis:

-$5/user/month for 30GB of online storage
-$10/user/month for unlimited storage (capped at 1TB if you have under 5 users)

Google Drive Pricing

Google Drive Pricing Page

Google Drive is part of the wider Google Apps for Work offering. This means that besides the storage and syncing capabilities of Google Drive, you’ll also be getting a range of Google services that might help increase your team’s collaboration and productivity levels:

  • Google Docs (collaborative, live editing of documents)
  • Gmail and Google Calendar
  • Google Hangouts – online video and voice calls

These features are definitely something that might tip the balance in the decision making between Google Drive vs Dropbox. 

Dropbox Pricing & Storage- FREE 2GB

Pricing is per user, per month, paid on a monthly or annual basis.

-$9.99/user/month for 1TB of storage-Dropbox Pro
-$15/user/month with unlimited storage-Dropbox Business
-Undisclosed for Enterprise

Google Drive vs Dropbox Pricing List

Dropbox Pricing Page

Dropbox is more expensive than Google Drive and includes discounts for nonprofits and educational institutions, as well as providing volume discounts for larger companies.

Google Drive vs Dropbox – Who wins the Pricing category? 

No clear winner as it depends on what you value most.

If you value bang for buck and variety, Google Drive’s cheaper and comes with bonus services. If you value simplicity and sync reliability, Dropbox’s capabilities in the area are unmatched (see Syncing category below).

2. Syncing & Speed

The on-demand economy means the modern day consumer is demanding instantaneous efficiency. We expect immediate transactions and even more rapid delivery of information. Uploading, downloading, opening and sharing all need to happen as quickly as possible– on multiple devices, platforms, and systems– in order to satisfy consumers and businesses.

Both Dropbox and Google Drive enable you to upload data from smartphones, desktops, and from the web client without hassle.

But if Google Drive vs Dropbox were a race, Google would be the proverbial tortoise. Drive isn’t known for its syncing capabilities, as its desktop client is often slow and buggy. 

Google Drive syncing

Google Drive does offer some nice features like automatically backing up your photos without the need for a separate app, but for the most part, its sync client is slow and you must export any Google Drive files created if you want to edit them in another program like Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. This creates a lot of downloading/uploading, tortoise-like steps, creating a more cumbersome, inconvenient process. For the larger projects with many collaborators, this can be headache-inducing.

Dropbox’s syncing capabilities are 2.3x faster than Google Drive’s.

Dropbox vs Google Drive Competitor's Average Sync Time

(Tests done by Principled Technologies, an independent technology assessment firm.)

It also works equally well on PCs and Macs, Android and iOS, whilst offering unlimited uploads, free of desktop and smartphone client restrictions. Dropbox uses 75% of the upload speed by default, but this is completely customizable to avoid affecting bandwidth.

With almost half of the world’s population online and mobile’s continuous growth, cross-device data isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and neither are consumers. The hare takes this race.

Dropbox vs Google Drive winner: Dropbox, for its best-in-class sync client and stable support across multiple devices.

3. Sharing

The ability to share files and folders is one of the core value propositions of cloud storage vendors (or Enterprise File Sync and Share, how they’re sometimes called). Being able to easily share documents with team members and external collaborators usually speeds up things and greatly increases productivity.

Google Drive Sharing

Between Dropbox vs Google Drive, the latter has the most granular file sharing permissions. This is really good for those admin users who really want micro-level control of sharing permissions, but the complexity of sharing options often confuses standard and even power users.

Let’s take a look.

There are three Google Drive sharing screens from which you can share files and folders directly and control who can access them by default.

 

Google Drive Sharing Files and Folders

Sharing Google Drive files and folders

1st Sharing Screen – It looks very straightforward. From within this screen you can choose to share a file or a folder with someone via email or shareable link, giving them edit, comment or view permission.

2nd Sharing Screen – This Sharing Settings panel allows you to see who has access to that specific Google Drive file or folder. You’ll still be able to “invite people” to access files and folders. And this is where users can sometimes feel overwhelmed – there are simply too many options.

3rd Sharing Screen – This panel lets you control how any file or folder links are shared. There are five different access levels for any shared link.

 You can easily see how things can get very complicated, very fast, given the breadth of options users are presented with when trying to just share a file.

Dropbox Sharing

The key to Dropbox’s early success and virality, file sharing is still one of the company’s core capabilities and one that they do extremely well. 

Shared links to files or folders are incredibly easy to create in Dropbox, especially for locally synced files as people simply right-click and select Copy Dropbox Link. Business users can also password-protect shared links, or set an expiry date for them just to boost security up.

Dropbox Sharing Settings

Sharing Dropbox files and folders

Dropbox delivers on their ease-of-use promise by letting people share anything within two clicks.  

The winner? Dropbox, with the most easy to use and understand file sharing permissions. 

4. Security & Privacy 

Both Google Drive and Dropbox provide a service-level-agreement that guarantees 99.9% of uptime per month. Outages happen. This is normal, but on the whole reasonably uncommon.

Let’s get down to the detail…

Standards and Regulations

Below are the standards that Google Drive and Dropbox adhere to. ISO27001 is notably the premier of privacy standards on a global level, of which both have been awarded this standard.

Dropbox= 9 standard compliances.

Google Drive= 9 standard compliances.

Encryption

Google Drive uses an AES-128 bit encryption and HTTPS to protect your files. This is a lower encryption level than Dropbox, which uses a 256-bit AES. However, the reality is that a 128-bit encryption is going to do the job nicely. Even more realistically speaking, if someone is really determined to successfully hack into your account, then they will ultimately find a way.
Neither of the two support local encryption of files.

User Error Risk

The most consistent cause of personal data being leaked is usually down to user error and practices that are deemed insecure. This said, if a cloud platform is consistently sharing login credentials across a range of other products and services, your risk of security breach undoubtedly increases. Google Drive is therefore at maximum fault within the Google Drive vs Dropbox battle, using the same login credentials across all areas of service.

Dropbox has far fewer supporting services, and thus by this nature reduces the risk of your credentials falling into the wrong hands.

History Of Leaks; External v.s. Internal

Last year (2015) Dropbox suffered attacks from phishing scams. These assaults on personal data were external criminals tricking customers into giving their information away. They achieved this by making individuals think that someone had shared a file with them. The glum reality being that they had just given their credentials to some white-cat-stroking cyber-scammers. The real problem here was that the site that the individual was redirected to was a replica Dropbox site, almost identical to the legitimate site.

The other issue that Dropbox had was a glitch that allowed private information to be searchable by a third-party. This issue was patched quickly. However not before a number of high-risk documents were snatched and grabbed, shortly later making their way onto the public domain.

Dropbox suffered external attacks and a damaging glitch. Google’s issues were significantly more worrying and stemmed from the inside…

Google was one of the companies that  Edward Snowden reported in the famous NSA leak as breaking their terms of service. This technically allowed employees to access private files and thus gave them the power to spread them as they pleased. The NSA was also brought to focus over the criticism that they were able to access Google Drive files. The NSA says that it was only taking data from countries outside of America. Despite this, there are no guarantees that the NSA did not access American information.
Dropbox was clearly the lesser evil with regards to historical failures.

Google Drive vs Dropbox conclusive winner: Dropbox gives you more overall security on paper.


5. Collaboration Features

Google Drive

Google Drive is rather dreamy when it comes to team collaboration. Google Drive allows your team to edit documents in real time through the Google Docs product. You can literally view other members of the team contributing, commenting, and editing the working documents in front of your eyes. Note you must be connected to the internet for this capability. If you look below you can see that Robert has commented and the text that he has commented on is highlighted (displayed on the right hand of the screenshot). We are also chatting, and this is presented at the bottom right-hand side of the screen in a chat window. 

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 17.09.44

 Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides

Google offers ‘Google Docs’, ‘Google Sheets’, and ‘Google Slides’, which are all basically Microsoft Office equivalents. The layout on these programs is almost identical to Microsoft Office programs, Docs being Word, Sheets being Excel, and Slides being Powerpoint. You can work within the Google equivalents and then save them as the appropriate Microsoft Office file types on your own computer. This is very handy! 

Dropbox

Dropbox Paper (Beta)

Dropbox Paper is a place for your entire team to work on tasks together. The spectacular editor allows for text, task lists, code, file and app embeds, images and much more. The range of embeds is impressive, for example the ability to embed a Soundcloud or Spotify song:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.46.51
or to embed code with an automatic language detection and syntax highlighting feature:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.50.30

On top of this, you can also include videos from Youtube and Vimeo, or more incredibly, the ability to insert files from Google Docs and Dropbox…

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.53.13

The most impressive part about Dropbox Paper is the collaboration and feedback features. Simply involve other team members by sharing the Paper. Invite anyone you like, and give them access to the doc. You can give access to others by adding them to company folders. The option of invite-only folders are a great addition for more privacy.

Add comments and stickers to give feedback. Also use ‘@’ symbols to bring certain aspects of the page to the attention of given users.

Office 365 Badge Integration

Whilst Paper is still in Beta, Dropbox has a slightly less sophisticated way of allowing for collaboration. A simple answer to the desire of team collaboration comes in the form of ‘Dropbox badge’. Badge integrates with Office 365 and tells you when other people are editing files, and also allows for a version control equivalent. Dropbox badge is a little indicator on the screen that shows you who’s opening the file in question, who’s editing it, and will update a shared file. Note that to get this feature you must have the Dropbox desktop app installed, and you must be connected to the internet. Whilst simple, this tool is very handy for Office 365 users.

Let’s walk through the Dropbox badges…

Identified below is the symbol that indicates that you are the only person within the document in question:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 16.39.59

Below is what happens when somebody else is viewing the file in question:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 16.40.16
Below is what happens when you decide to lock the file from further editing (a separate file is created for additional changes):

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 16.41.13The exclamation mark appears when more than one person is editing the file:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 16.41.32

You can also update your fellow collaborator’s file version:

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 16.41.44

Dropbox vs Google Drive winner:

Dropbox Paper appears to offer a more collaborative aspect for teams, with it’s abilities to insert ‘to-do’s, videos, feedback, and various app integrations. Dropbox Paper is still in Beta at the moment, and so until that is fully rolled-out, the proven option is going to be Google Docs.

Google Docs is a safe and sure way to work within the confines of popular document types, and also to edit and collaborate in a friendly interface.

6. Integrations & 3rd Party Apps 

Google Drive

Google Drive has an entire Chrome Web Store of possible integrations. You really can go to town on the available apps that plugin to Google Drive, ranging from Xero accounting, to Pixlr photo editor, to Slemma data visualisation. The list goes on…

Accessibility

The massive upside of the Chrome store is the fact that all of the available plugins can be found from one place. This accessibility is a fantastic aspect of the all-in-one plugin environment that Google has created.

Choice

The Chrome store has an extensive selection of plugins. The benefit of the Chrome store is that you can filter your selection with ease using the filtering options. This can be hugely beneficial when faced with the pure mass of plugins within the Chrome store. The ratings feature can be a good way of minimising the security issues that are talked about below in the next paragraph. Reviews tend to be higher for legitimate malware free plugins, and bad reviews can often flag up the dodgy ones. Compare this to Dropbox which has no official store for plugins, and obviously thus no consumer tools for filtering search.

Here are the category, types, features, and ratings filters:

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.18.51Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 11.19.03

How secure is the Chrome store?

The IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy was a study launched last year which monitored 100 million visits to the Google Chrome store. It was revealed in preliminary results that around 5% of daily visitors have been caught out by at least one malicious extension. A third of this 5% have four or more harmful add-ons installed in their browser. This sounds bad, and Google knows this. They have been working to reduce the amount of malware ridden plugins that lurk the depths of the Chrome Store. After the study, Google did in fact remove 192 actively malicious extensions.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 14.46.13

Dropbox 

Dropbox also has hundreds of thousands of app integrations. The difference here is that Google has centralised their apps into one lovely looking store that is simple and easy to use. Dropbox does not have an equivalent.

The best you’ll get is a list of a few popular integrations.


Dropbox integrations

The Google Drive vs Dropbox winner: Both have a large amount of integrations. The honest answer is that only you can decide which integrations best suit you and your business. This said, Google’s apps are far more accessible, and so if there had to be a winner, it would probably be Google Drive and its Chrome Store. 

7. Mobile 

Let’s take this Dropbox v.s Google Drive fight to the mobile devices.

Dropbox

Dropbox’s mobile app allows you to:

-Access your entire Dropbox
-Browse and view files
-Use third-party apps to open and edit files
-Take photos and videos using your built-in camera and save them directly to your Dropbox
-Make important files available for offline access— They also upload changes once you’re back online
-Share your files via links in text messages, emails, or other apps
-Dropbox Business users can separately connect personal and business accounts
-Thumbnails of photos

Dropbox mobile app

Dropbox mobile app

Google Drive

Google Drive’s mobile app allows you to:

View documents, PDFs, photos, videos and more
– Search for files by name and content

– Share files and folders easily with others
– Set sharing permission to view, comment or edit
– Access recent files quickly
– See file details and activity
– Enable viewing of files offline
-Thumbnails of files 

Google Drive mobile app

Google Drive mobile app

The Dropbox vs Google Drive winner: Both cover the same operating systems. Both have relevant features for mobile access and editing of files. Google takes the edge with its slick user interface, the figurehead of which is the understated thumbnail view of files such as word documents and excel spreadsheets. This feature has the potential to really save a lot of time. 

8. Admin Controls

Admin controls are important for businesses that want to delegate roles to specific individuals whilst also staying in full control of their documents, how they’re accessed and shared. Not all businesses are the same, and for that reason the more flexible these admin role customization, the better.

Dropbox Admin Roles
There are three admin roles available for setup within Dropbox.

Team admins have all available admin permissions:

– Set team-wide security and sharing permissions
– Manage team members
– Set team members as admins
– Remove or suspend other admins from a team

User management admins can address most team management tasks:

-Add and remove team members
-Manage groups
-View the team activity feed

Support admins can manage team members:

-Manage team member passwords
-Manage team member account security
-Create a team activity log
-Contact Dropbox support regarding common service requests

Google Drive Admin Roles

There are six admin roles available within Google Drive, and also the ability to custom create roles.

Super Admins have access to all permissions, including:

-Set up Billing
-Create and assign administrators
-Reset passwords for other administrators
-Restore deleted users
-Modify other administrators settings
-Perform email log searches
-Create, read, update, and delete Organization Units

You are required to have a super administrator, and Google advises having at least two.

Group Admins have control over Google Groups and can control the following:

-View user profiles and organizational structure
-Create new groups
-Manage members
-Manage group access settings
-Delete groups from the console
-Only read organization units

User Management Admins can perform all actions on users who aren’t administrators. The main abilities include:

-View user profiles and the organizational structure
-Limited to reading Organizational Units
-Create and delete user accounts
-Rename users and change passwords
-Manage a user’s individual security settings
-An extended list of abilities can be found here: https://support.google.com/a/answer/1219251#user_privileges

Help Desk Admins: can reset passwords for users who aren’t administrators and read organizational structure and units.

Services Admins: can manage products, services, and devices that have been added to your admin console.

Reseller Admins: can administer, provision, and manage resold customers.

Dropbox vs Google Drive winner:  Google Drive is a clear winner with twice as many admin roles, and the ability to create custom roles. 

9. Where is your data stored and who does it belong to? 

Where does Google keep their data servers?

  • Berkeley County, S.C.
  • Council Bluffs, Iowa.
  • Douglas County, Ga.
  • Mayes County, Okla.
  • Lenoir, N.C.
  • The Dalles, Ore.
  • Hamina, Finland.
  • St. Ghislain, Belgium.

Google Drive: ‘You own your content, and so do we’

According to Google, content that you ‘upload’, ‘submit’, ‘store’ or receive  …”You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

However, quite paradoxically Google states the following:

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services.”

This is almost a case of, “you own your content, but so do we”.

(http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/policies/terms/regional.html)

This is certainly something that should be taken into consideration when debating the Google Drive vs Dropbox decision.

Where does Dropbox keep their data servers?

Dropbox uses Amazon’s S3 servers, and these reside in various locations throughout the United States Of America.

Dropbox: ‘You own your stuff, and hey guess what, we don’t!’

Dropbox is very clear about the obvious elephant in the room- privacy. Have a read of some of their terms of service below:

“When you use our Services, you provide us with things like your files, content, email messages, contacts and so on (“Your Stuff”). Your Stuff is yours. These Terms don’t give us any rights to Your Stuff except for the limited rights that enable us to offer the Services.”

(https://www.dropbox.com/terms)

Google Drive vs Dropbox Winner: Dropbox wins on privacy.

10. Usability

At their core, both services aim to make file storage simpler. Both allow users to upload files to cloud storage directly from the desktop folders (assuming the app is installed.)

The differences between Dropbox vs Google Drive come into play when you evaluate how users actually share those files and collaborate within each app’s user interface.

The fact that Drive is part of the larger Google Apps for Work ecosystem is a huge plus for many consumers; they can start tasks instantly in the cloud, among various filetypes, and share directly with colleagues (instead of saving, downloading and transferring, for example).

Consumers can also collaborate effectively on these tasks in real time. Plus, it’s easy to save attachments from email directly to Drive from Gmail with just a few clicks. All this equates to a huge time saving and productivity booster– a no-brainer for employees and managers alike.

Dropbox, perhaps true to its business model, offers a simpler, streamlined approach to file sharing. The app is simple and elegantly designed, with desktop applications that seamlessly blend with your computer’s file system for storage. This straightforward design is easy to master but offers no customization. That means you can’t control how your files are displayed. On the collaboration and live document editing side, Dropbox is playing catch-up with Google Drive by recently launching their Dropbox Paper Beta program.

Collaboration tools are increasingly a must-have in digital productivity. It won’t be surprising if Dropbox improves its offering in this space soon.

Google Drive vs Dropbox Conclusion:  Google Drive wins due to collaboration and customization features.

11. Key Differences – on a broad level 

(Pricing aside)

Google Drive Dropbox
Syncing x
Sharing x
Security x
Team Collaboration x
Integrations x
Mobile x
Admin Controls x
Privacy x
Usability x

 

The conclusion is that Google Drive is better for team collaboration, is more configurable through 3rd party app integrations on the  Chrome Web Store, and has more admin controls and better usability. This would appear to put Google Drive ahead of Dropbox, if it weren’t for the fact that Dropbox wins at syncing speed and stability, file sharing, but most importantly; privacy and security, two areas which we believe are extremely important.

Both tools are fit for purpose but each individual business has slightly different needs. So you should choose the application that works best for you relative to what you value most. If it’s team collaboration you’re after, then use Google Drive for their best-in-class collaboration features. If it’s syncing reliability and ease of use, then go with Dropbox for their market-tested feature set. Or more realistically, use both; keeping your most important files in Dropbox, and using Google Drive for daily document collaboration for files that are not as sensitive in nature. 

 

And in case you want to share this article with a friend, here’s a short infographic that you can pass on.

google-drive-vs-dropbox-infographic-medium-res

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