Cloud based storage is vital these days for a seamless experience of being able to access our documents wherever we are and from any device. The practicality of this is something I love, especially as it means we're unlikely to lose all of our information if a device gets stolen or we accidentally delete a file stored locally on it. I'm sure you have an opinion on which of the major services offering cloud storage is best, but have you done a comprehensive breakdown of them to ensure that the one you're using is most suitable for you?
Today we will look at the three leading companies offering these services and try to evaluate which is the best option for your particular needs. The contenders today include Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. All three are recognised as leaders within the file sharing industry with OneDrive being the youngest, launching in 2014 and Dropbox the oldest, formed back in 2007. So let's find out which is best for you, shall we?
- Free if you have a Google email account.
- More storage can be bought ranging between 100GB to 30TB (costing $2.58 to $388 per month).
- An app for Windows, OS X, Android and iOS.
- Accepts all types of documents: forms, spread sheets, presentations, documents etc.
- Basic accounts for free with option to upgrade to 1TB of storage for $13.99 per month.
- Accepts all types of documents: forms, spread sheets, presentations, documents etc.
- App for all major platforms plus smaller alternatives e.g. Linux, Blackberry and Kindle Fire.
- Formerly known as SkyDrive.
- Free storage with Microsoft account or 1TB with Office 365 subscribers. Non 365 subscribers can buy 50GB for $2 per month.
- Available on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Windows phone.
Storage and Pricing
Each contender provides upgradable storage, but they also provide a small amount of free storage as part of their ‘freemium’ business model. The free storage that they provide is listed below:
- Google Drive: 15GB of free storage with a Google account
- Dropbox: 2GB of free storage with basic account
- OneDrive: 5GB of free storage with Microsoft account
Microsoft used to offer 15GB of storage but that is no longer the case, they also turned their unlimited storage into 1TB as well as removing their 100GB and 200GB plans. It appears these were all marketing tactics to attract more clients initially.
Their 2GB free storage seems very limited but there are certain actions you can complete within your account to increase your capacity. These include things such as referring a friend (500MB reward), linking your social media accounts (125MB reward), watching the basic tutorial (250MB reward) and enabling camera uploads (3GB reward). Dropbox limits you to a maximum of 16GB of free storage.
Google offers a standard 15GB of storage along with their Google Photos app which gives you unlimited storage of photos and videos with their "High-Quality" option (more details under the File Syncing and Everyday Use section below). Each year there is the option of upgrading your storage capacity by 1GB if you complete the Google Security test on your device.
If you need more storage space then each of the three contenders offer the opportunity to upgrade.
- Google Drive: storage plan prices per month are 100GB for $1.99, 1TB for $9.99, 10TB for $99.99, 20TB for $199.99 and 30TB for $299.99.
- Dropbox: storage plan prices are as follows; 1TB Pro for $13.99, unlimited storage under the ‘Business plan’ for $17.50 per user.
- OneDrive: The basic monthly storage plan of 50GB costs $2, while 1TB Personal plan is $9 and the 1TB each for 5 users plan costs $12 per month
Without a doubt the most amount of storage that you can get with the least amount of effort is Google Drive. If you need more than 15GB of storage immediately and you are willing to pay for it then either Google Drive or Dropbox offer decent pricing. On a personal note, I have a Google Drive account which over the past 2 years I have used a range of freebies found on the Buckscoop website to grow my free storage to 19GB. So keep an eye out for these.
OneDrive’s 50GB plan seems expensive compared to Google Drive’s 100GB plan, but if your world revolves around the Microsoft Office suite or Windows then it might be worth the price for simplicity.
File Syncing and Everyday Use
All services are fairly easy to use once you have familiarised yourself with the controls and unique features etc. Each has its own set of quirks. Google Drive and OneDrive are deeply integrated into their respective ecosystems whilst Dropbox is freer making its cloud storage increasingly accessible. Each service's stand out features are listed below to help you decide which could be most suitable for you.
Access: Internet browser, desktop app, Google-linked folder or mobile app
When logged in you can upload individual files of up to 5TB in size, create folders within that file, create new Google Docs, sheets, sliders, forms or even Google drawings.
The easiest way to use Google Drive is via its desktop app because it means you can access the folders through your computer documents and work with it offline. Any changes made whilst offline will be updated when the device reconnects to the internet. If you use Gmail, you can save and attach documents directly through drive for easy use. Your folders can also be shared with anyone else via email invitation and those same people you invite can also collaborate on those same documents.
Google Photos is an excellent app which gives you unlimited storage of photos and videos as long as you choose their "High-Quality" option (which means letting Google automatically resize any images over 16-megapixels or videos with a resolution higher than 1080p). For most of us though, this is more than adequate. If you want to be able to store media files that exceed these limits, you'll need to select their "Original Resolution" option. The only caveat to this is that the space occupied by these photos / videos will be deducted from your Google account storage quotas, i.e. the ones shared between your Gmail, GoogleDrive and Google Photos accounts.
Google Photos is especially handy in the way that it automatically organises your photos for you and even documents them based on what the picture is of, making the search for absolutely anything across your thousands of photos as simple as typing ‘dog’ or 'red jumper' into the search bar. Seriously, try it and you'll be amazed.
Dropbox has a similar set up in the sense that it can be accessed from any web browser, via the desktop app or its mobile app. Any sized files can be uploaded or dragged and dropped after which they will be uploaded straight away. Using the desktop app will mean that a local copy will be stored on your device. The only thing that lets Dropbox down in this department is that you cannot upload entire folders, you have to drag and drop files only.
Dropbox keeps a record of your file change history so if someone accidentally deletes a file that you shared with them then you can access the history and restore it within 30 days of deletion. Dropbox, similar to Google Drive, allows you to share files and folder with other users and you can also collaborate on Microsoft Office online files in real time. It can be useful, although also confusing if you have 2 people making changes at the same time.
Dropbox doesn’t have the same suite of apps for creating files like Google Drive and OneDrive do, but it makes up for it by being easy to use with third party apps and tools. Its open API also means that developers can integrate it with practically anything, plus it’s been around for the longest period of time so it's well recognised.
This is Microsoft’s retaliation to Apple’s iCloud, but unlike Apple it works with multiple platforms. If you have a Microsoft ecosystem then it will fit in seamlessly. Access can be achieved through a web browser, desktop app and mobile app, the same as the other two contenders. It doesn’t have a separate app though and is built directly into Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Any type of file can be uploaded and their sizes can be up to 10GB, plus OneDrive will also sort them by file type. The files you store in OneDrive can also be accessed via your Xbox 360 and Xbox One console. The service is integrated with Outlook, which makes attaching files seamless. Similar to Google Photos, OneDrive will also organise all of your photos into galleries and send them directly to Facebook for you if you so choose.
Files can also be shared with other users so collaboration of files and documents can be shared with your team.
Google Drive is best for the Google die-hards. OneDrive is most suited to those who enjoy using Microsoft Office and Dropbox is the best all-rounder if you have no particular preference to any one system.
Google Drive is easy to set up and offers lot of storage for free. If you do a lot with Google’s apps and services then this is your best option. This is also the same situation for OneDrive and Microsoft users, but the free storage is more limited compared to Google Drive. Dropbox is suitable for everyone no matter what system you use but its free storage is more restricted and requires more work to expand it. However, there is nothing to say that you can’t use all three systems to maximise your free storage capacity within the cloud, this will simply depend on your team’s breakup.