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September 16, 2017

Google Drive vs. Dropbox: Original cloud storage titans duke it out

by John_A

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 500MB 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.

Winner: Google Drive

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 very simple pricing structure for its premium storage offerings, as it has only one main one. The Dropbox “Plus” account offers a terabyte of storage space with most of the same features as the Basic and business accounts. It’ll set you back $100 for the year, or $10 a month. There’s also an option for an extended version history download window for an additional $40 a year.

For teams and business users, Dropbox also offers “Advanced” accounts, which feature additional file recovery time and a few other features. Most notably though, storage space is essentially unlimited, listed as “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. The minimum number of users is three.

In comparison, Google offers a trio of options beyond its free account. The entry level option is $2 a month for 100GB, followed by its “most popular,” option for $10 a month, which comes with a terabyte of space. For the heavy users, there’s also a 10TB account, though that comes with a rolling monthly charge of $100.

For those who require even more space, it also offers 20TB and 30TB packages, costing $200 and $300 a month respectively.

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.

Winner: Draw

File Syncing

Although in an ideal world cloud stored files and folders would update instantaneously if updated locally, that’s rarely the case. But which service, Google Drive or Dropbox, syncs their files the quickest and most efficiently?

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.

Winner: Dropbox

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. When you pit Google Drive vs. Dropbox, how do they each fair?

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 Pro 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.

Dropbox’s share page 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.

Winner: Dropbox

Outside support

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 some service integrations of its own. 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.

There’s also Dropbox Paper, which is handy for note taking.

As strong as Dropbox’s additional service support is, though, it can’t quite match Google Drive.

Winner: Google Drive

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.


One area where Dropbox does show a slight advantage over its competitor, is in privacy. While both protect their user’s information in many respects, Dropbox is one of only a few companies awarded a five-star privacy rating by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Google itself was given four stars, though it fell behind Dropbox in that it does not stand up to national security letter (NSL) gag orders, which prevent companies from informing their customers that their data has been requisitioned by authorities.

Dropbox does stand up to that, giving it a slight edge in this category.

Winner: Dropbox


Pitting Google Drive vs. Dropox was always going to be a tight race, 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.

However, your needs are dependent on what you want to use the cloud storage facility for. 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 that want plenty of third-party app support, 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.

Overall Winner: Dropbox

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