Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You?
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I was a huge cloud storage skeptic when Dropbox debuted a decade ago and popularized the idea for everyday consumers. Of course, back then the world wasn’t so internet-connected as it is today, plus storage limits were much tighter and syncing algorithms weren’t as robust.

Cloud storage has come a long way since, and I freely admit that cloud storage has made my life much better. Not only does it keep all files available to me regardless of which device I’m on, but it also works as a way to keep data backups 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know 5 Basic Backup Facts Every Windows User Should Know We never tire to remind you to make backups and keep your data safe. If you're wondering what, how often, and where you should back up your files, we have straight forward answers. Read More .

But which cloud storage service should you use? Well, it depends on your needs: total storage space, platform availability, ecosystem integration, etc. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the major ones but here’s how they compare (and a few lesser-known alternatives to check out).

Dropbox

Launched in 2007, Dropbox will forever deserve respect as the one who brought cloud storage to the masses. Without it, who knows how we’d be sharing files between PCs, laptops, smartphones, and tablets. By email, perhaps? Or personal FTP servers? I shudder to think of the alternatives.

While being the first rarely means being the best, Dropbox is one example where it could be true. Yes, Dropbox has never been perfect, and yes, it has gone through periods where file syncing proved problematic — but as of this writing, I can’t remember the last time Dropbox actually screwed me over. It simply works, and I appreciate that.

One thing to note is that Dropbox can be automated in many different ways through IFTTT, thus saving you a lot of time. As far as convenience, I can’t think of another service that feels this easy.

Google Drive

Launched in 2012, Google Drive is the second best-known cloud storage service, if only because it integrates with so many of Google’s other services and comes installed on all new Chromebooks. But the truth is, even if Google hadn’t “pushed” Drive onto me, I’d probably be using it anyway.

If you use Google’s Office Suite as your main tool for documents and spreadsheets, then you might as well commit to Google Drive. After all, files for Google Docs and Google Sheets are stored on Google Drive by default. Google Drive is also the easiest cloud storage to keep organized How to Organize Your Google Drive Like a Pro How to Organize Your Google Drive Like a Pro Google Drive's biggest benefits are its advanced search features. They can help you sort and organize your files and you'll always find what you need! Read More , and you can extend it with plugins and tools Make Google Drive Absolutely Awesome with These Tools Make Google Drive Absolutely Awesome with These Tools Google Drive comes packed with smart features. And you can greatly expand its potential with third-party tools. Here we have compiled some of the best tools that plug into Google Drive. Read More that ramp up your productivity.

Of course, this does come with a massive drawback: Do you trust Google to do right by your data? Are you confident that Google won’t leak or sell your details? And even if they don’t, are you okay with Google knowing so much about you and your online habits?

  • Supported Platforms: Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS.
  • Free Storage: 15 GB
  • Additional Storage: 100 GB for $2 per month, 1 TB for $10 per month, 10 TB for $100 per month, 20 TB for $200 per month, or 30 TB for $300 per month.
  • File Size Limit: Google Docs files may contain up to 1.02 million characters. Google Sheets files may contain up to 2 million cells. Google Presentations may be up to 100 MB. For all other file types, up to 5 TB per file.
  • Special Features: SSL/TLS encryption, file version history, invite others to comment or collaborate on any of your files, download Gmail attachments straight to Drive, search for text in images and scanned documents, search for images using text descriptions, integration with Google Photos, extend Drive functionality with hundreds of Google Apps.

OneDrive

When it comes to note-taking apps, OneNote is the best option currently available 7 Little-Known OneNote Features You Will Love 7 Little-Known OneNote Features You Will Love OneNote is 100% free and packed full of advanced features. Let's check out some of the ones you may have missed. If you're not yet using OneNote, these may win you over. Read More , especially if you don’t want to pay a single cent. It’s completely free and none of its features are locked behind any sort of paywall or subscription — and all of your notes are backed up on OneDrive.

Launched in 2007 and formerly known as SkyDrive, OneDrive is Microsoft’s own foray into cloud storage. While OneDrive isn’t bad by any means, there are only two scenarios where I’d recommend it over Dropbox or Google Drive: 1) you’re already paying for Office 365, in which case OneDrive is included, or 2) you want more free storage than Dropbox but don’t want to use Google.

  • Supported Platforms: Web, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile.
  • Free Storage: 5 GB
  • Additional Storage: 50 GB for $2 per month or 1 TB for $7 per month.
  • File Size Limit: Up to 10 GB per file.
  • Special Features: PFS encryption, share files or folders with others, pick and choose which folders or subfolders to keep synced, search for text in images and scanned documents, and collaborate in real-time on Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote files through their respective web versions.

Notable Mentions

If none of the major three appeal to you, here are a few lesser-known alternatives to check out.

Box offers a generous 10 GB of free storage but the drawback is a 250 MB size limit on individual files, which actually isn’t a big deal unless you want to store big videos. You can upgrade to 100 GB storage and a 5 GB limit per file for $10 per month, but at that point you can get much better value with Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.

iCloud Drive is preferable for anyone who’s deeply embedded in Apple’s ecosystem What is iCloud Drive & How Does it Work? What is iCloud Drive & How Does it Work? Confused about what makes iCloud Drive different to Apple's other cloud services? Let us show you what it can do, and how you can make the most of it. Read More . It comes standard on any device running iOS 8 or later and OS X Yosemite (10.10) or later. Free users automatically start with 5 GB of storage, but you can upgrade to 50 GB, 200 GB, 1 TB, or 2 TB for $1, $3, $10, and $20 per month, respectively.

SpiderOak is best if your first and foremost concern is privacy and security. Its connections and data are encrypted using a combination of 256-bit AES and 2048-bit RSA. You can get 100 GB for $5 per month, 250 GB for $9 per month, or 1 TB for $12 per month. No free plan is available.

Amazon Drive is one of the many benefits of an Amazon Prime subscription 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now Scratch the surface. Amazon Prime has so many more benefits that people have forgotten about or simply don't realize exist. Read More . As a Prime user, you get unlimited storage for photos and 5 GB of storage for all other file types. You can upgrade to unlimited storage for $60 per year. No other service offers unlimited storage, so that’s noteworthy.

If you don’t trust anyone but yourself, you can set up your own cloud storage using ownCloud, which is free and open source. It’s more technically-involved than a hosted solution though. Another option would be to set up a NAS device NAS vs the Cloud: Which Remote Storage Is Right for You? NAS vs the Cloud: Which Remote Storage Is Right for You? Network Attached Storage (NAS) straddles the line between a local hard drive and cloud storage, and gives you the benefits of both. Read More , which is like a cross between an external drive and cloud storage. Learn more on reasons to use a NAS device for data storage 7 Reasons to Use a NAS for Data Storage & Backups 7 Reasons to Use a NAS for Data Storage & Backups External hard drives are great for data storage, but there are many more benefits to using a network-attached drive instead. Here's everything you need to know. Read More .

Taking Full Advantage of Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is a game-changer. The ability to sync files across devices and access your files from anywhere is almost a necessity in today’s always-connected digital age. But cloud storage can be useful for so much more than just file backups.

For example, you can use it as an online image gallery, or use it to store offline versions of maps Top 10 Creative Uses For Dropbox Or Other Cloud Storage Top 10 Creative Uses For Dropbox Or Other Cloud Storage The agility, flexibility, and low-cost scale ups turn cloud storage options into more than an online vault to back up your documents and files. But cloud storage is more than these important but mundane uses.... Read More , and it can even come in handy as a layer of defense against ransomware Protect Your Data From Ransomware With These 5 Steps Protect Your Data From Ransomware With These 5 Steps Ransomware is scary, and if it happens to you, it can make you feel helpless and defeated. That's why you need to take these preemptive steps so you don't get caught off guard. Read More .

Again, you really can’t go wrong with any of the cloud storage services in this article. But, which one do you prefer? Are there any good ones that we missed? Let us know what you think in a comment below!

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  1. Phil mac
    September 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Google Drive do NOT support Apple .key (keynote) format.
    The files are showed as folder.
    Dropbox do not have this problem.
    Sorry google, but if you pretend that your application is compatible with the most applications, you should improve it.

    For a world with quality not quantity !
    Phil

    • Mr Simon Livings
      October 23, 2017 at 10:20 am

      Zip and upload

  2. Nancy Myers
    July 10, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    I try to always use google drive, but it seems like onedrive operates in the background?? I just got a notice that my onedrive storage is almost full. How did that happen and what happens when it is actually full? How can I manage/limit its access to my stuff?

    • Mr Simon Livings
      October 23, 2017 at 10:22 am

      You can right click the icon in your task bar to access settings and choose which folders to sync. You can also login online using any browser at outlook.com and manage your files there to. You can buy more storage there too.

  3. Fabian Hendricks
    June 1, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Great stuff!
    Can you cover google's C-suite as well?

    Thanks!

  4. Veronique Schutz
    March 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    Anyone have thoughts about pCloud?

  5. JoAnn
    March 22, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    I like iDrive. I can manually backup a particular file, or schedule automatic backups at my choice of intervals. I have it backup my systems while I'm sleeping so there is nothing else going on on my computers. I also have Dropbox, great for sharing with other researchers. But all of my system files are on iDrive. I avoid the popular clouds for privacy reasons.

  6. Oron
    March 21, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    Surprised SugarSync is not on the list. True - it's not free, but it does have the distinction of allowing you to sync any folders you like on your system (or rather, on your systems).

    • Mr Simon Livings
      October 23, 2017 at 10:24 am

      One drive allows this too. I'm not sure about Google drive

  7. Orestes
    March 20, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    +1 for Mega. I also use Google Drive, Box and OneDrive.
    I was lucky to get permanent 15 GB of OneDrive during the initial promotions, so I use it as a main cloud backup with hard linking. Google Drive is for work files synchronization. Box and Mega for private file sharing. I stopped using Dropbox due to various reasons, but I still have an account, if someone else likes to use it with me.

    • amfareed
      April 20, 2017 at 11:39 am

      I got the same offer from Onedrive but the space will be reduced to 5 gb within few months ...they send me several emails notifying me about that....that's why i am considering google drive instead.

  8. dragonbite
    March 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Some things missed
    Google Drive
    * Files stored in Google App format take no space. You could run an entire business and take up virtually no space except for things like PDFS.
    * Google Photo offers unlimited storage space so long as you reduce to 13MP or so. This too does not go against your limit.
    So if space is an issue, and you can deal with your Word, Excel and PowerPoint files being moved to Google App version then Google has them beat.

    OneDrive
    * Handy thing is that files don't need to be converted to be accessed online (unlike Google Drive) and it includes a text editor with syntax coloring (not too powerful, but handy working on some PHP files).

    DropBox
    * Sync-over-LAN makes managing files between 2 machines on the same network quicker and easier. You can update a file on your desktop and Dropbox will sync it online and then tell your laptop (if it is on) to get it from your desktop instead of having to go over the, usually slower, Internet.

    ownCloud / Nextcloud
    * If you want security, control and ability to make the disk space as large as you want (4TB? No problem) you could run your own ownCloud or Nextcloud server.
    * Set up is little more than setting up a Linux web server (which is dead easy)
    * Files, ownership and control are yours
    * If your router passes through to the server, you can access from anywhere (and with Dynamic DNS, you don't have to hunt for the IP address all of the time)

    • Vedran
      April 20, 2017 at 5:15 am

      Thank you, good point for each cloud.

    • Mr Simon Livings
      October 23, 2017 at 10:26 am

      Great info thanks!

  9. Richard Kendall
    March 20, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    "Are there any good ones that we missed?"
    Yes, why not even a 'Notable Mention' for Mega, given the comparison criteria includes 'Free Storage: ', as others have highlighted, Mega offers 50GB for free?
    Are there issues wit the service you are aware of Joel that would be worth highlighting?

  10. josemanimala
    March 20, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Try Mega.

  11. ReadandShare
    March 19, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Another vote for Mega. 50GB free for the asking - no gimmicks, no hoops to jump through. Good synching and versioning too.

    Mega touts its privacy and security. But with any public cloud, I encrypt sensitive files before uploading.

  12. Marcio
    March 19, 2017 at 1:18 am

    In my experience, the goggle's sync client for Windows is surprisingly unreliable: it may hang, it is quite slow to load at start up and to sync, some files won't sync without an explanation. I'm really surprised google would even launch such a half-naked piece of software. I'd never had similar issues with Dropbox.

    • ArGee
      March 24, 2017 at 2:17 am

      I agree. The reason I switched to Onedrive is the unreliability of Google Drive syncing.

  13. sfbo
    March 18, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    I have found out the hard way that Dropbox offers support ONLY by email and in my experience it is terrible.

  14. Milas
    March 18, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I use Gdrive but Dropbox supports Linux that Gdrive doesn't do. Mega for big files. For office Android and web apps for google are very good.

  15. Phids
    March 18, 2017 at 2:58 am

    I have used Google Drive, Box.com, and OneDrive extensively. It sounds like Joel Lee has personal biases in terms of cloud storage, because I don't know why many people would bother using Dropbox if it only gives 2 GB storage (I'm talking about going the free route, which I do). As for the other services, OneDrive has become my favorite because of how I use it. I routinely edit Word and Powerpoint files from my home computer and work computer and they are saved directly on OneDrive. But I am also able to run Powerpoint presentations directly from the OneDrive web interface when I give lectures at work. The ease with which all of this can be done is tremendous because OneDrive integrates so nicely with Windows and Office products.

  16. Philip
    March 17, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Mega, like mega.nz, no? 5o GB free storage and a great client.

    • Nigel Spenzer
      March 18, 2017 at 3:00 am

      Yeah... for me it's Mega.nz for big files since I get 50GB for free. and Google drive for smaller files.