What is Cloud storage?
Cloud storage is a method of storing digital data online and across multiple devices. This data is accessible from devices anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the internet to connect. The data will be stored on servers owned by a hosting company, but that doesn’t mean they have control or access to your personal information.
It is an easy way of clearing up space on your smartphone, tablet, or PC, as you can simply drop the information into the cloud and it is all backed up remotely.
Most providers will give you a free amount of storage, but you’ll generally have to pay a subscription fee for extra GBs.
Google Drive versus Dropbox versus OneDrive
Google drive is a free cloud storage service founded and developed in 2012 by Google. This service comes with both a website and apps that you can download onto Windows and Mac computers, as well as Android and iOS phones and tablets.
Google Drive is part of a whole network of Google products, incorporating Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides.
Founded in 2007 by students Drew Houston and Arash Ferdowsi, Dropbox has been ranked as one of the most successful start-ups in the United States. It allowed you to store information and sync files across multiple devices.
Accessible on iOS, Mac, Android and Windows, Dropbox also offers a handy backup service to protect your data from being accidentally wiped.
Dropbox was awarded five stars in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s 2017 “Protecting Your Data From Government Requests” report.
OneDrive is part of Microsoft. The file hosting service was released in 2007, just two months after Dropbox was launched.
Once again, this service allows access from all devices - Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, as well as the Xbox360 and Xbox One gaming consoles. It integrates well with Microsoft’s Office 365 package, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Comparing the Cloud storage systems
Possibly the most important comparison point is how much storage each service actually offers. All three come with a free set amount of storage, with additional charges for added space
Here’s how much storage each cloud service offers:
- 15GB for free
- 2GB for free
- 5GB for free
- Unlimited GB option for businesses
Whether the storage of these services is a pro or con to you all depends on the amount of storage you think you’ll need. If you tend to store all of your files on the cloud, you’ll definitely need a higher amount of GB. For the average user, Google’s 15GB is plenty of space and won’t cost you a penny.
- Works harmoniously with other Google apps - like Google Docs and Google Sheets. Gmail also integrates seamlessly.
- Collaboration: many people can access Google Drive simultaneously, with each user being easily distinguishable and labelled. You can also set up restrictions so people can only access certain folders or files.
- Media, photo, video, and accounting software can all be used in conjunction with Google Drive.
- Has two separate apps: Paper (a notes app) and Showcase (a file-sharing and portfolio app).
- Works with Microsoft and Google files, so you can use both services, but changes will be saved in your Dropbox account.
- Works well with other Microsoft apps and products - like Word, Office, PowerPoint, Excel, and Publisher.
- Collaboration: multiple people can access and edit a document at the same time, with the same labelling from Google’s products.
If you know you’ll be using your service for collaborative projects, it’s definitely worth looking at what type of files you tend to gravitate towards - Google or Microsoft. If you already use Gmail, or have a 365 subscription, this might sway your decision.
Ease of use
Google Drive and OneDrive tend to be viewed as easier to use and more accessible to many, due to their collaboration with Google and Microsoft products.
One of the most convenient things about cloud storage is the ability to locate and access your files from anywhere! Let’s see how each option works with file synchronisation and sharing across devices.
Google Drive will store an unlimited amount of photos (up to your storage limit), as long as you accept them being compressed first, but doesn’t offer a service where you can sync your files to your hard drive. Instead, your Drive files are only stored on the cloud - you’ll have to download them if you want an offline backup
For sharing, it does allow multiple people to edit one document at the same time. Each user will have their own separate colour, logo and Gmail named account, so you know who is changing what. This is useful for joint real-time work, rather than continuously sending edited files across emails.
You can upload files up to 5TB in size (assuming you’ve paid for the storage space!)
Dropbox integrates with your devices by setting up a local sync folder, which you can then fill with additional folders and files. By putting files in here, they’ll automatically be uploaded to the cloud, and downloaded to your other devices where Dropbox is installed.
Their ‘selective sync’ option lets you choose which documents to sync to your hard drive and which to leave in the cloud (where they won’t be visible or take up space on your actual device).
Dropbox also has a ‘Smart Sync’ service where you can select files to be ‘online only’, so they show up in your computer folders, but don’t take up any storage on your hard drive. Of the three, Dropbox has the most flexibility when it comes to syncing.
For sharing, other people can access and edit your Dropbox by granting them access. The ability to set expiry dates for editing access means that you can control how long people are allowed on your files.
You can upload files up to 100MB, 2GB, or 100GB depending on which plan you have.
OneDrive has a system called ‘Files On-Demand’, where you can achieve something similar to Dropbox’s smart sync. You can opt for your file to be ‘online-only’, and then simply select ‘free up space’ to bounce it between being on your hard drive and being in the cloud.
Like Dropbox, OneDrive also allows you to password protect your documents.
You can upload files up to 100GB in size.
Website versus App
Each cloud storage service is available as an app, so you don’t have to rely on websites whilst on your mobile device.
Google has an app for all of its services, including Google Drive storage. In this app, you can access your most recent files, favourite folders, shared files, and all general files that have been uploaded to your Drive. You can also upload files from your device.
Dropbox’s app allows you to view your files, and information about your storage use. However, it doesn’t work as well on iOS devices, as it only lists your files in alphabetical order.
OneDrive works very similarly to Google Drive, but includes a page for your photos as well.
People can be sceptical about the safety and security of cloud storage, due to its accessibility. There is a risk that if someone hacked your account, they could download all of the files you’ve uploaded. To help secure your account, you can use strong passwords and two-factor authentication on Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
There are storage systems that use zero-knowledge encryption, meaning hackers can’t decrypt your files if they get access. None of the services in this article use this sort of encryption, so it’s worth considering installing encryption software to secure your files before uploading.
You can read the personal policies on privacy for each storage service to see how they use your information.
Best for price and storage: Google Drive
Best for file synchronisation and sharing: Dropbox
Best for app use and collaboration: Google Drive and OneDrive
Basically, it all depends on what you want from your cloud storage. Each provider here offers a list of benefits and drawbacks, so choosing based on the type of documents and files you tend to use is probably the easiest way to decide.
If you have an iPhone, Google Drive may be a friendlier option, as Dropbox tends to have issues with iOS devices, and OneDrive is more suitable for Microsoft lovers.
Regardless of your pick, all three cloud storage services are reliable and well-established providers who have been helping customers store their data for decades.
Looking for more guidance on all things technology? Follow our Twitter to stay up to date with all of our new tips and tricks.