Google Drive and Dropbox are, in many ways, very similar services. Both provide the user with a place in which to store various types of files to make it easier to share media and back up content. They offer the convenience of online access coupled with a desktop application synched with its web counterpart. In this way, they make it possible to access a file from any location which supports internet access, saving one the minor hassle of email or the usage of a flash drive. However, the two services are divergent in a variety of ways which might ultimately prove significant enough to the user to merit a distinct preference. Though Google Drive is a much younger service, having been launched as recently as the 24th of April, it is already sophisticated enough to provide serious competition for its senior counterpart. In some ways, it seems to have even exceeded Dropbox, offering a package that many might find more inviting.

Laptop with google homepage on screen

Pricing Differences

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the two services is the pricing. While Dropbox offers only two gigabytes of free space, Google Drive offers five. This alone, coupled with the fact that Goggle Docs files do not count towards one’s space limit, might be enough to convert many to Drive. After all 96% of Dropbox’s clientele have decided to limit themselves to that two GB. If they find this limit constrictive, they are welcome to move up to a higher tier. For example, the company offers 50 GB of space for $9.99 a month. This seems like a reasonably minor investment. However, Google, along with offering more free space, also has Dropbox beaten in terms of pricing. On Drive, one can get double the space, 100 GB, for half the price (whereas Dropbox offers access to the same level for $19.99). Drive also offers an intermediary tier of 25 GB for only $2.50. They also offer more expensive options. One terabyte of space goes for $50, whereas 16 is available for $800. Dropbox offers a 1TB program as well, but it is only available in a “team account” for the lofty sum of at least $795.

Google Drive clearly has the advantage over Dropbox on the pricing front, but that might be acceptable if the latter provided the user with better, or at least different, options that might make the extra cash worth spending. Well, both offer more or less the same things. With both services you can share your files publically, track different versions of documents you’ve created, download said documents to your phone and synch your online service with a desktop application. Seemingly, the only thing that Dropbox can do that Drive cannot is play media, and it can’t do it very well, allowing you to stream only a few minutes before downloading the file becomes necessary. Plus, Drive can be amended with a variety of apps which can solve this problem, allowing one to edit and view photos and videos as well as opening up many other options. Additionally, Drive gains an advantage from being a member of Google’s extended family, which means that it is compatible with their other applications (Gmail for example).

Goodbye Dropbox? Maybe not

So if Drive is cheaper and offers essentially the same features why would one choose Dropbox? Well, for one thing it’s five years older. Dropbox came first, and in the time it’s been available it has amassed 50 million users, many of whom might be just fine where they are. 2 GB is a good amount of space, enough that the average person would probably be content within its confines. Those who are satisfied with Dropbox might as well stay satisfied. However, those who find that 2 GB just isn’t enough would be well served by switching to Drive. Also, there are a few issues where Dropbox might be the only option. For one thing, Drive users cannot upload files which take up more than 10GB of space, while those on Dropbox have no such limit. Considering the size of such a file this will not be an issue for most users, but this is not enough of non-issue that it can simply be ignored. Essentially, it means that Dropbox users have a bit more freedom, if they feel it’s worth paying for.

Some are uncomfortable with Google’s privacy policies. Essentially, by agreeing to their terms and services, those who use Google-affiliated services allow for their words to be scanned and potentially utilized by the company. However, those who fear that Google may use their words against them by, for example, leaking sensitive corporate documents or publishing your novel before you get the chance are certainly being overly paranoid. Google scans your words, yes, but this scanning is done by machines for a variety of reasons, none of which are inherently malicious, like translating your words or seeing if you might have made a grammatical error. Of course, spell check can be turned off, and perhaps the most unnerving thing about Google is that it scans your words whether you ask it to or not.

However, this is an increasingly common practice. Online advertising is tailored to the user. For example, I once posted a Facebook status concerning what I considered some fairly good editing and pacing techniques utilized by the classic sci-fi/horror film The Killer Shrews (featuring, terrifyingly, not actual shrews but dogs wearing bathmats) and instantly there appeared in my sidebar advertisements for Mystery Science Theatre 3000. This is somewhat creepy the first few times you experience it, but after a while you simply come to terms with the fact that Facebook and Google know where you are, what you’re saying and what animal you drew during free period on your 43rd day of Kindergarten, but that they will not use this information to blackmail you, arm your enemies or stunt your political career. Basically, these days your choices are to either come to terms with your lack of absolute privacy or eschew internet usage altogether, and considering that you are reading these words you probably are not ready to give up the internet any time soon.

And the Winner is...?

So in this little fight it appears , in my mind, like Google Drive has emerged as the victor. But, brand loyalty aside, there are a few people who might want to still consider Dropbox as a viable option, namely those who use Linux or want to connect on their Blackberry. For them, Drive is not currently an option. In fact, users on these platforms don’t have many options at all. For those on the Linux operating system, Dropbox is about it. Blackberry users have the option of utilizing the Box service, but considering that it’s even more expensive than Dropbox you might as well go with the old standard. For all other users, I can’t see many reasons not to recommend Drive over its competitors. It’s cheap, it offers just about all of the features of Dropbox as well as a few additional ones, and its affiliation with Google and the supplementary apps made available for it provide a great deal of additional options. In short, if you’re paranoid about your thoughts being stolen, you have to upload a file larger than 10 GB or 2 GB of space is simply enough for you, feel free to go with Dropbox. Everyone else should certainly give Google Drive a look.