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Google Drive vs. Dropbox

Jon Martindale

Two of the most popular cloud storage solutions are Google Drive and Dropbox, and with good reason. Their feature sets, pricing, and free trial options make them some of the best cloud backup offerings out there. But how can you choose one over the other? In this guide, we’ll pit Google Drive vs. Dropbox to find out which is the best for you.

Free storage

Both Dropbox and Google Drive offer free storage space for those who would like to try out their respective services before putting down a few dollars a month for something more expansive and permanent. Google Drive comes as standard, with 15GB of free space, which is far more than Dropbox’s initial free storage offering of just 2GB.

Although that does give Google a serious edge in this section, Dropbox offers a number of ways to increase your free storage. Basic (free) accounts can earn an additional 500MB of storage space for each friend or family member referred to the service, up to 16GB. Dropbox also recently introduced the chance to earn a further 1GB for earning the “Mighty Answer” badge for helping out a fellow Dropbox user on the forum.

While the additionally earned free storage space does lead to Dropbox offering more free space than Google Drive, referring hoards of friends isn’t a simple task, especially in today’s world, where most people who want cloud storage already have it. It’s good that Dropbox has that option, but ultimately Google Drive’s free storage is simply better.

Premium storage

If you want to store anything beyond a few gigabytes, it doesn’t matter which cloud storage solution you opt for: You’re going to have to pay for it. Both Google Drive and Dropbox offer premium subscription services which give you much more remote storage to work with. The question is, which one has the better packages available?

For personal users, Dropbox has a person vs. business pricing structure for its premium storage offerings. The Dropbox Plus account offers 2B of storage space, which adds remote device wipe and two-factor authentication (which is so important for keeping files secure these days). It’ll set you back $100 for the year, or $10 a month. There’s also the option of a Professional account, which costs $17 and offers 3TB of storage space plus watermarking, shared link controls, and more handy features.

For teams and business users, Dropbox also offers Standard and Advanced accounts, which feature additional file recovery time, built-in encryption and a few other expanded features. Where the Standard accounts are limited to 5TB of storage for $12.50 a month though, the Advanced accounts are essentially unlimited, offering as much space as needed. It’s much more expensive though, costing $20 per user per month when paid annually, or $25 per month on a rolling basis. They also come with a wealth of team management options, including options for billing, admin management, API access to partners, and basically everything that business-level cloud services will need.

Google Drive, on the other hand, simply offers three primary tiers of pricing after the free option, all generally called Google One. The first is a $2 per month plan that provides 100GB, access to Google experts, and the ability to add family members. The second is a $3 per month option for 200GB that includes the previous benefits plus a discount for the Google Store. The final option is a more professional-oriented tier of 2TB for $10 per month, which gives you an even bigger discount. Now there are additional options for Google Drive, all the way up to 30TB for $300 per month, but these are primarily focused on enterprise-level users, and additional benefits rarely change after the fourth tier.

Ultimately, Google Drive and Dropbox both have their advantages when it comes to pricing. If 100GB of space will suffice, Google Drive’s $2 a month option is the best bet. It also has many more varied options for larger storage capacities. However, Dropbox’s Business package offers unlimited storage space for as low as $75 a month, which is far more and far less, monetarily, than Google Drive’s biggest offering.

File Syncing

Dropbox has the ability to sync files across multiple devices and operating systems, including all major desktop and mobile platforms. As Cloudware breaks down in its comparison, its Linux support and “smart-sync” set Dropbox apart from the competition, as it means only changes are synchronized, not the entire file or folder.

In comparison, Google Drive’s syncing supports multiple devices and operating systems, though doesn’t support Linux natively. There are some workarounds to make it so, but it’s not an officially supported platform for file syncing. While it does let you select specific files to sync, it doesn’t support syncing of file changes, often called “block level” synchronization. That means it needs to re-upload or download entire files to sync them.

File sharing

File sharing is of paramount importance to many cloud storage customers, as it makes it much easier to send large files or folders to groups of people.

Google Drive lets you share files and folders using the mobile app or in the web-browser interface, with direct links, or the option to email access to your trusted share partner. It also offers the option to give view and edit permissions to those you share with, letting you customize the power they have. The only downside is that without passwords or expiry dates on those links, they do present a potential security problem if you don’t move your shared files or folders in the future.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Dropbox offers just as much flexibility with where you can designate shared folders and files from, but Professional and business account holders have the ability to set passwords and expiry dates on links, which help protect your data long term. You can also set edit permissions for users. Its Showcase feature is a nice touch too for Professional users, letting them create portfolio pages with Dropbox media.

Dropbox’s share page also makes it easy to see which folders and files you’ve made accessible to others. Ultimately that, combined with better security protections for user data, make Dropbox the better choice.

Outside support and productivity options

Google Drive can quickly save and store Gmail attachments, twin stored images with Google Photos, and makes collaboration easier through Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. The Chrome Web Store has more than 100 compatible third-party apps for Google Drive too, giving the cloud storage solution a lot more potential than some of its competitors.

Dropbox has also developed its own productivity and partnerships, Personal users can enjoy a partnership with Microsoft that sees Office documents openable and editable from within Dropbox itself, making collaboration easier. Dropbox Business users can also use integrated PDF viewing and sharing with Adobe, and real-time messaging through Slack. Its DBX platform also helps integrate with services like Autodesk and Okta. Professional users gain unlimited API access to security, productivity, and data transport partners to help build their own unique solutions based on the requirements of their business.

Plus, Dropbox has added its own apps over the years to more directly compete with Google. That includes Dropbox Spaces for team collaboration, Dropbox Paper for creating content, and Dropox Transfer for sending large files securely. Notably, the service also recently released a brand new Desktop app to congregate all its services into a cleaner interface that makes them more usable and integrates Dropbox more fully with operating system capabilities.

Dropbox has come a long way here and again is more friendly for complex or enterprise-level businesses, but it’s also very nice that Google keeps everything in the Google family, so to speak. It really depends what you need.

Security and privacy

In a world of post-Snowden revelations and regular hacks of major organizations, making sure your remote data and your privacy is protected is a major consideration for many cloud storage customers.

For its part, Dropbox encrypts your data to a 128-bit AES standard while files are in motion, and then to a 256-bit AES standard when at rest. It also offers two-factor authentication for decrypting files, to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to them. Paying customers can also remotely wipe sync files should they lose a relevant device. Version rollback even lets you replace updated files for differing periods of time depending on your package, offering some measure of protection against ransomware.

Google Drive offers comparable security features, though uses 256-bit AES encryption with files in transit and 128-bit AES encryption when at rest. It also supports two-factor authentication and Cloud Identity features for businesses. Drive meets standards like ISO 27017, PCI DSS, FedRAM, FISC Compliance, and more. You can check the full list here.

Dropbox, meanwhile, also meets multiple security and privacy standards, but is a bit more on top of EU/US certifications and data hosting in Europe. They are also a bit more outspoken about fighting overly broad government data requests, although they can’t guarantee that any particular request won’t be honored.

Overall, Google Drive has a very slight lead here due to its openness and the clarity about the number of certifications it meets, both domestically and internationally. Dropbox has its own data specialties however, especially for businesses operating in Europe. Work closely with support to find out more information from either service.

Dropbox wins the tight race

Pitting Google Drive versus Dropbox was always going to be a tight race (and it tighter now than it has been in past years), as both offer some of the best cloud storage features available today. Both services have expansive free and paid for versions, as well as solid consumer protections and file sharing capabilities. Time and again though, we had to give the win to Dropbox, because it just offers that bit more than Google Drive, especially for enterprise level users.

If your needs more closely match what Google Drive offers, though, it may still be the better service for you. If you have a few files and folders or are merely giving cloud backup a try, Google Drive would be our first recommendation, as its free offering is vastly superior to Dropbox’s. Google Drive is also excellent for those who are plugged-in to Google’s ecosystem, but for everyone else, Dropbox offers the superior service.

With faster file syncing, better password control for shared links and the ultimate unlimited storage package if you take out a business account, Dropbox is our pick.