How Google Drive will compare to Dropbox

How Google Drive will compare to Dropbox

Summary: It seems that the long-rumored Google Drive is finally going to show up. From what we know now about it at this point, here's how will it compare to Dropbox and other popular cloud storage services.

TOPICS: Hardware, CXO, Google, Storage

A real Google Drive in the cloud seems to be on its way.

A real Google Drive in the cloud seems to be on its way.

It looks like the Google Drive is actually going to show up next week. Tellingly, when I asked Google what the truth was about the rumours, Google had nothing to say instead of their usual "official" no-comment when I ask them about subjects they're not ready to talk about. So, I think at long last that Google Drive really is on its way.

Here's what we think we know now about it: The service will offer 5GBs of free storage; it will be integrated with Linux, Mac, and Windows file management systems in the same way Dropbox is; it will be made available on the week of April 23rd; and to use it you'll need to have a Google Account.

That sounds good, but how does it compare with the already existing personal cloud storage alternatives? Here are your most important alternatives.

The six best personal cloud storage options (gallery)

Amazon Cloud Drive/Player: When you think Amazon and clouds you probably think about Web-based Amazon Cloud Player. There’s also an Android Amazon cloud player.

If you want more storage, and if you intend on using Amazon to store your music collection you will, Amazon offers several tiers of storage, ranging from 20 to 1,000 gigabytes at a price of $1.00 per gigabyte. So, for instance, 20GBs will run you $20 per year.

Apple iCloud: iCloud comes with 5GBs of free storage. MobileMe customers receive 20GB of additional iCloud storage space for free, if they pick it up by June 30, 2012. Like Amazon’s Cloud Drive, it’s actually more than just storage. Any music, apps, books, and TV shows you purchase from the iTunes store, as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your storage quota.

Apple’s iCloud gives you not just storage and an online music server, it also includes all of Apple’s wireless services. These include contact synchronization, its own e-mail service, mobile backup, and location awareness.

ICloud also works hand in glove with iTunes Match. Match, which is built into the iTunes app lets you store your entire music collection, no matter its source in iCloud for just $24.99 a year. Music that’s already in iTunes, even if you didn’t buy it from Apple, doesn’t count against your storage limits.

Basic iCloud services are available via the Web on any platform. To really use it to its full potential you need to be running a Mac with Lion or an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch running iOS5. It also runs reasonably well with Windows with the latest version of iTunes. What about your Mac running Snow Leopard or an older version of Mac OS X? Too bad.

Additional space is priced at $20 per year for 10GB, $40 per year for 20GB, and $100 per year for 50GB.

Box: This service is aimed more at businesses wanting to share large and work on large files than it is individuals but it's 5GB of free storage is nothing to sneeze at. To use it, you must go through it's Web interface. This means you can use Box with almost any operating system, but it's also a little clumsy.

Once you start using Box, you'll soon see that the Box is designed less for storage than it is for collaborative work. For example, you can invite co-workers to edit your files. One interesting point about the Box is that's designed specifically to work well with Google Apps. How this will work out with Google Drive on its way is an open question. At this time, the Box Google Apps service are a paid service. I strongly suspect that Google will offer at least minimal Google Drive and Google Apps integration for free.

Box business pricing start with 1,000GBs for $15 per month for user and go up from there.

Dropbox: Dropbox wasn’t the first cloud-based storage service but it was the one that popularized it. Unlike the other cloud systems, Dropbox doesn’t need a Web-browser interface. It will run natively on almost any PC, including Linux or devices running Android or iOS.

What I really like about Dropbox is that I can use it just like it was any other network drive with my file manager. Unlike the other services, there are no extras. Dropbox offers file storage without any frills. On the other hand, sometimes that’s all you need and since it lets you easily get to your most important files no matter what device you’re using I find it extremely handy.

Dropbox only comes with 2GBs of free storage, but since it’s primary for documents and not music or video that may be all you need. If you want more, Dropbox charges $9.99 a month for 50GBs and $19.99 for 100GBs. Of course, Dropbox also recently doubled the amount of free space you got for inviting friends to Dropbox. How much more? For every friend you’d invite who installed Dropbox, you’d both get 500 more MBs of free space. With a free account, you can invite up to 32 people for up to 16 GBs of extra space. paid accounts now earn 1 GB per referral, for a total of 32 GB of extra space. If you’d already gotten people to give Dropbox a try, you'll get this space retroactively

SkyDrive is Microsoft's personal cloud drive offering. True, it lets you save, share and access files but you must use it through a browser, IE by choice but it will work with others. It appears that, like iCloud and Ubuntu One, Microsoft will integrate SkyDrive with its operating system. The word is that SkyDrive will be integrated into the Windows 8 file manager in the same way Dropbox already works with almost all operating system file managers.

Microsoft, however, is also trying to sell it, together with Office Web Apps and local Microsoft Office software, as a project collaboration package in the same way that Box works with Google Apps. To really use it you pretty much have to be committed, ala iCloud, to up to date Microsoft software. That said, the one thing you can’t argue about is its price: SkyDrive comes with 25GBs of free storage. That’s far more than the others.

For Windows users, SkyDrive may soon be the cloud storage solution of choice. It’s just not quite there yet.

SugarSync. SugarSync offers 5GB of free personal cloud storage. It also positions itself as a cloud-backup service ala Carbonite and SpiderOak.

SugarSync works on Mac, Windows, and most mobile operating systems via an application. It does not, however, have a Linux client yet. SugarSync also looks easier than it actually is. It looks like you can drag and drop files to the SugarSync file manager, but it requires an additional step, “Add Sync Folders” before you're actually moving files to your new cloud synchronized directories.

Like Dropbox, the more customers you bring to SugarSync, the more free space you get. If they open a 5GB free account, you both get a free 500MBs with a maximum of 32GBs. If you can talk them into paying for a 30GB or larger account, you both get an additional 10GB and there's no limit to how much bonus space you can get.

If you're willing to pay for more storage, the SugarSync paid plans start at 30GB for $4.99 a month of $49.99 a year. You can push all the way up to a 500GB plan that starts at an introductory price of $39.99 a month or $399.99 a year.

Ubuntu One: You might think that this service would be for Ubuntu Linux users, or at least Linux users, only. You’d be wrong. This service, which offers 5GBs of free storage and music streaming is also available on Windows. Ubuntu One is also available on both Android and iOS.

The Ubuntu One music streaming service, which currently comes with 20GBs of storage, is completely fee-based. It costs $3.99 a month or $39.99 a year. If you need more pure storage space for files and the like over the initial 5GBs, it’s $2.99 per month or $29.99 per year per 20GBs of storage.

When the Google Drive arrives, I expect the pricing for all these services to change. So, if you need more than a few gigabytes of cloud storage, I'd hold off on paying for any additional storage at this time. I expect everyone to be offering more storage for less by the end of April.

So how will Google Drive compare? I use most of these services every day, and I like Google services. So, I'll use Google Drive too, but it's going to have to prove itself before it replaces Dropbox as my go-to personal cloud storage choice. For today, Dropbox is still my favorite cloud service. It doesn't offer a lot of service; it just does a great job of offering cloud storage that's as easy to use as any local directory. For me, that's still the gold-standard of cloud storage.

Related Stories:

Google Drive details leak: 5GB for free

The six best personal cloud storage choices for your stuff

Google Drive expected to launch in April: Is it too late?

Dropbox adds Facebook sharing

AppSense launches free Dropbox security product

Topics: Hardware, CXO, Google, Storage

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  • Of course........

    Google will not be "analyzing" the data you store on Drive so they can feed you ads, will they?
    Nah. Another "free", no-strings-attached gift from those generous folks in the Googleplex.
  • Google Docs?

    I'm curious how this will work with Google Docs. Does this expand the Google Docs storage space, or is this completely separate? If it is separate, that could get confusing to have some documents in both Google Docs and Google Drive. On the other hand, if they are separate, that means you will have 6 GB of online storage, not just 5 (one with Google Docs and 5 with Google Drive... and that isn't even counting Google Music).
  • :Skydrive

    "IE by choice but it will work with others."
    Watch the Skydrive team use Firefox and Chrome in this vid: . Your sentence makes it sound like Microsoft doesn't pay any attention to the other browsers.
  • Dropbox just upsized its free space limit, how strange? ;)

    Now I understand why [b]dropbox doubled its referral rewards to 500MB[/b] per referee, up to 32Go of free space.

    BTW for those who still don???t know the [b]Ref???Around project[/b] (I???ve referred already 16 times for dropbox in less than 2 weeks) it???s "the first refer-a-friend matchmaking site in the US" :

    It looks quite recent (still in beta) but I'm already lovin' it!!
  • SJVN, please check your facts...

    Most of this is is a repeat of a sjvn blog from a couple of weeks ago and unfortunately continues the same mistakes/omissions about Microsoft's Skydrive. Not mentioned is the fact that the 25Gb allowance includes 5Gb of LiveMesh synchronisable storage. For that 5Gb you do not need to use a browser at all; like Dropbox, LiveMesh has a client that runs on the local machine. Unlike Dropbox it does not automatically set itself to load when you start Windows. Also, it does not add itself to the Windows file manager, which at first seems like a disadvantage, but in fact you can set it to automatically synch any folder(s) so in fact it does not need to. And yes, you can synch between multiple machines or your Windows phone if you have one. I haven't used Skydrive/LiveMesh in anger, so I don't know if it is as fast as Dropbox, but I have used it enough to know that sjvn does seem to be either ignoring or just ignorant of some of the better features of MS's offering (not the first time, some might say!).
    • Maybe but,

      MuttLangers. I agree that the omission of SkyDrive in this article is very telling of ZDNet and their consistent slant. However, having said that, Microsoft has repeatedly shot SkyDrive in the foot by 1) not properly surfacing it and promoting it and 2) not putting in an effort to make it ubiquitous and easy-to-use like DropBox, which works seamlessly on every darn platform and 3) insisting on tieing its best features more with Office 2010 when many of us are happy with Office 2007.

      I use both SkyDrive/Mesh and DropBox. While I think MS's offering had great potential, MS has not really followed through on it. Maybe it'll be better in Win8? I don't know and don't really care. DropBox rocks.
    • Oh yeah and..

      In addition to my response below, let me reiterate that "Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols" the author of this article has NO IDEA what he's talking and should have researched before writing this article. SkyDrive let's you sync 5GB of any folder you choose... right from Windows Explorer.... exactly like DropBox. The confusion might stem from the fact that Microsoft calls this app Windows Live Mesh and it works on both Windows AND OS X.
  • Yippee

    Another cloud vendor for personal / business storage. Read the user license agreement carefully to make sure you want your stuff out there.

    By the way, the agreement is probably the same for all major vendors - Same outs, same gotcha's and same legaleze.

    Good luck using these services, hope you aren't ever audited by the Feds for anything, because these services will probably turn your info over and you'll never know.
  • 5Gb LOL

    Google 5Gb - LOL.

    Why bother, your as mean as the rest.
    • Actually

      It will probably be far more generous than the rest.

      When you think that 15minutes length videos will be free. Photos storage will be effectively unlimited, 20,000 songs, and all Google docs will not count towards your storage. Plus you will have 7GB with Gmail. All of these are rumoured to be integrated in some way with Google drive.
  • Gladinet solves the problem

    I've been using Gladinet free software with Microsoft Skydrive and it maps a drive letter in my Windows 7 Explorer just fine. I still have the Skydrive file size limit but it works great.
    Network dude
  • 50GB

    Adrive - 50gb free. Not as slick as Dropbox, but 50gb is 50gb.
  • Alternatives to Cloud Services

    With so many enterprises now jumping into using cloud services without understanding the security risks, they fail to recognize alternatives. If you need access why bother storing something in a potentially unstable, unprotected environment. With TappIn ( you can gain easy access to your files on any device and securely view and edit files. Without having to worry about "drag-and-drop" storage issues.
  • With SugarSync....

    If you tell it to add a folder to sync....any new files you add to that folder will automatically sync.

    So you take your Windows My Documents, Mac Documents folder and set it to sync....done. You can use the OS and its apps normally and not like dropbox where you have to take your file system and move it under their Drop Box folder.
  • G drive

    I really want to see how they integrate G drive with Google+
  • Drive!

    I really want to see Google Docs/Picasa/Google+ integration to start out with.

    Eventually, I hope they let us backup all our apps with data onto the cloud, so when we switch devices, they're restored just as they were.
  • What about security???

    These services are great but what about businesses handling more sensitive data and the security risks tied to these services. We only see an on-premise option as the only solution to such scenarios. SyncBlaze is one such similar solution that can also be deployed on-premise and it is definitely an enterprise calibre solution to businesses.
  • I have several google accounts

    and although I access them from one IP it doesnt look like Google is up for restricting me about the used space.

    So 5Gb per a free account = unlimited storage possible?

    Why do people express security concerns like "google will show your data to feds"? If you are backing up your data, putting it into archives with a strong password is a must.
  • Increased Space on Dropbox

    Now I know why Dropbox suddenly bumped me from 2GB to 5GB of storage yesterday.
  • SkyDrive wins

    "SkyDrive is Microsoft???s personal cloud drive offering. True, it lets you save, share and access files but you must use it through a browser, IE by choice but it will work with others."

    This exact same argument appeared on this website before. It was not true then and it is not now. I can use it through various apps on my mobile phone. There's also desktop software. IE has nothing whatsoever to do with this, why even mention it? Incidentally, SkyDrive has a public API!

    If we're going to compare cloud storage platforms, it helps to start by having a basic level of knowledge about the platforms we're comparing.

    Good luck with Dropbox. I'll take my free 25GB on SkyDrive with Hotmail and MS Office integration, thanks.
    Tim Acheson