Which storage service is best? Dropbox vs. Google Drive

It’s becoming more and more common to store data such as personal photos, vacation videos and important documents in the cloud. Two storage services that are cornerstones of the cloud market are Dropbox and Google Drive. While they both offer a convenient way to store data, there are aspects where they differ.

Google Drive vs. Dropbox overview

We have compiled the most important features of each service below so that you can easily decide which option is best for you.

Dropbox Google Drive
Free storage capacity 2 GB (up to 16 GB via recommendations) 15 GB
Premium storage capacity 1 – 2 TB (unlimited amount for business subscriptions) 100 GB – 30 TB
Prices for premium plans starting at $9.99 per month starting at $1.99 per month
Encryption AES (256 bit for idle files/128 bit for files in transmission) AES (128 bit for idle files/256 bit for files in transmission)
Two-factor authentication
Direct collaboration Dropbox Paper Google Docs, etc.
API for external software applications
Desktop software Windows, macOS, Linux Windows, macOS
Mobile app Android, iOS Android, iOS
Number of users over 500 million approx. one billion
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Google Drive vs. Dropbox, what can each service do?

Both Google Drive and Dropbox have been on the market for over ten years now. As pioneers of cloud technology, they are the first point of contact for many users to the concept of cloud computing. Both services offer the following benefits that cloud services have become known for:

  • Ability to access files from any device
  • Ability to access files from anywhere in the world
  • Secure storage of all data in a central location
  • Ability to collaborate and edit files with other people

Google Drive

Google Drive has been around since 2006. However, at first, it was used for text documents and spreadsheets rather than cloud storage. Google Docs and all the other Office applications still exist and are an integral part of Google Drive. Although initially restricted to documents, the service has since evolved into a flexible cloud storage service which can handle any type of file. In addition, Google Drive has been integrated with Gmail (Google’s email service), making it even easier to manage and send files over the internet.

Using Google’s Office applications makes it easy to collaborate with other users on documents, presentations and spreadsheets. Anything you create in one of these applications is automatically saved to Google Drive. You can also easily share data with others and assign different roles like who is allowed to view, comment on or edit the file.

Users have access to all the functions and features of Google Drive via its web interface and can manage their files directly on the website. This includes creating new folders and uploading and moving files or entire folders. There is also a software program called Backup and Sync, which makes it even easier to work with the cloud storage service. Google Drive works on Mac and PC as well as on iOS and Android devices.

This software allows you to synchronize selected folders from your hard drive with the cloud storage service. In other words, if you make any changes to these folders on your hard drive, the changes will simultaneously appear in Google Drive. Users who opt for the premium service Google Workspace will be able to use Drive File Stream. This allows users to directly access the cloud storage service from the file management system on their PC or Mac without having to use any space on their hard drive.

Fact

Google provides APIs to other developers. This is why many third-party applications provide the option to save files directly from their application to Google Drive.

The standard version of Google Drive is available free of charge. With this version, users have 15 GB available to them. However, you need to keep in mind that your Gmail account storage is also a part of Google Drive. If you have large email attachments saved in your email account, this can take up a large portion of your cloud storage. If you need more storage space, you will have to upgrade to Google One. For $1.99 per month, this premium service comes with a minimum of 100 GB of storage. Google also offers a premium plan, which gives users access to Google’s AI assistant Gemini.

Google’s data centers are located all over the world with most of its servers in the U.S. Since Google is an American company, the U.S. government can request access to data on its servers under certain circumstances in accordance with the Patriot Act. Google itself can only take limited action against these requests.

During transmission (e.g., from one server to another), all data is encrypted using 256-bit AES while being transmitted. Idle data is encrypted using 128-bit AES. Users generally access this service using an HTTPS channel. You can secure your account using two-factor authentication.

Special Google Drive features:

  • Integrates with other Google applications
  • Encrypts files
  • Accessible via a browser or with special software
  • 15 GB of free storage space
  • Synchronization software

Dropbox

Dropbox has been on the market since 2007 and was most likely many PC users’ first experience with cloud storage. After installing the software, a folder appears on your PC or Mac which is continuously synchronized with an identical folder on the company’s server as long as there is an internet connection. The idea behind the software was to make it possible for two or more people to access the same folder and use the files within it. Frequently exchanging files in the folder is not possible though.

Dropbox users, however, do not have to limit themself to one folder. Different folders can also be shared with different people. This is what makes and made Dropbox so appealing for professional collaboration. It is also useful for personal use, such as storing vacation photos. Often, it’s not possible to send large files over email due to size limitations. Dropbox’s cloud storage service provides an alternative way to share photos.

Generally, users need an account with Dropbox to be able to collaborate. However, you can make data available to people who do not have an account by creating individual download links for specific files and folders.

Dropbox’s desktop application is available for Windows, macOS and Linux. There are also mobile apps for Android and iOS. In addition, you can access files using the web application. On Dropbox’s website, you can upload files, manage them and collaborate with other users, for example, by leaving comments on files.

Fact

Dropbox also provides other developers with interfaces. As a result, this service can also be used in conjunction with other software.

Dropbox Paper has been part of the Dropbox lineup since 2017 and offers an online document editing service that allows multiple users to collaborate on a single document. With Paper, Dropbox aims to go even further, marketing itself as a digital workplace. Using Paper, employees can exchange information, share media files and prepare for meetings.

HiDrive Cloud Storage with IONOS!

Based in Europe, HiDrive secures your data in the cloud so you can easily access it from any device!

Highly secure
Shared access
Available anywhere

Those who wish to use the free version of Dropbox will start out with 2 GB of storage space. By recommending the service to friends, you can receive an additional 500 MB for each new user that you get to register. You can get up to a total of 16 GB through recommendations and it’s also possible to get even more storage space through one of the various plans. While users (currently) receive 2 TB of storage space for around $10, they can receive 3 TB for approx. $17. You’ll also get access to many additional features such as full-text search and a file version history that goes back 180 days.

Note

Dropbox also offers a special plan for companies. In this version, you pay per user and can use as much storage space as you need depending on which rate you select.

Dropbox’s servers are located in the United States. Since Dropbox is an American company, user data may be requested by U.S. government officials under the Patriot Act. However, twice a year, Dropbox publishes a transparency report that documents every request from the government. Both idle files and files in transmission are encrypted. The company uses 256-bit encryption for idle files and 128-bit encryption for files in transmission. With Dropbox, files are transmitted through an SSL channel.

Special Dropbox features:

  • Synchronization software
  • 2 GB of free storage space
  • Encryption
  • Dropbox Paper
  • Additional collaboration features for premium users
Tip

Check out other Digital Guide articles on Google and Dropbox like “How secure is Google Drive?” and “How secure is Dropbox?”.

How are Google Drive and Dropbox different?

In the early days, Google Drive and Dropbox took very different directions. Even though the two services are becoming increasingly similar, you can still see differences that stem from their initial goals. Dropbox’s focus was and still is on synchronizing files between different users. The software provided for this makes collaborating in specific folders extraordinarily easy.

Initially, Google only intended Drive to be storage space for Gmail accounts and the cloud computing services surrounding Google Docs. It wasn’t until 2012 that users could manage their cloud storage as a single system. To facilitate this, Google Drive provides its users with an enormous amount of free storage space. This strategy proved successful when Gmail was introduced, attracting many people to Google’s email service.

The further development of the two cloud storage services is becoming increasingly similar. Google provides software which synchronizes folders on your PC with cloud storage, while Dropbox is currently focusing on adding features to Paper that were previously only found on Google Docs.

Meanwhile, many users are only concerned with the amount of storage space provided. In its free version, Google clearly provides more. However, Dropbox differentiates itself with a unique idea that has led to higher speeds. Instead of replacing the entire file when a change is made, Dropbox only copies and replaces the edited parts. This significantly increases the transfer speed.

In terms of data security, there is little difference between the two companies. Nowadays, both Google and Dropbox have adopted standards that are widely accepted as secure.

Summary

Aside from the amount of storage space offered, you’ll also need to consider what you want to use cloud storage for when making a decision. Dropbox’s file-sharing capabilities through a shared folder provides unique collaboration opportunities. However, the integration of Drive into Google’s other cloud services, particularly those related to word processing and email, may prove more advantageous.

HiDrive Cloud Storage with IONOS!

Based in Europe, HiDrive secures your data in the cloud so you can easily access it from any device!

Highly secure
Shared access
Available anywhere
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