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Choosing the Best Cloud Storage Service: Dropbox vs Google Drive?
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Choosing the Best Cloud Storage Service: Dropbox vs Google Drive?

Dropbox and Google Drive are two of the most popular cloud storage. Both of these providers offer tiers of service that range from free basic plans to upgraded options for individual users and enterprises. Dropbox was founded in 2007, and Google added cloud storage to its suite of productivity applications in 2012. If your cloud storage decision has come down to Dropbox vs. Google Drive, you should learn more about the costs, strengths, and weaknesses of both services. There are several significant differences between these storage providers, including the size of storage plans, efficiency of syncing, and security.                                           


How Do Dropbox and Google Drive Work?

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Dropbox and Google Drive are cloud storage services that are available on the internet. You may upload files to the data centers of either service from your internet browser. Both services also have desktop clients that create designated sync folders in your file system for maximum functionality. Any files you store in this folder will be automatically uploaded and updated whenever you make changes unless you alter the settings with selective sync.

What Are the Advantages of Using Dropbox?

  • The Basic level of Dropbox is free and provides each individual user with 2 GB of storage space.
  • This tier of cloud storage enables users to access files and share folders and links from anywhere.
  • Updated files sync with the cloud, and you can download free applications for phones and tablets to access current versions of your files across devices.
  • Dropbox has several ways users can earn more storage space for free.
  •  Completing a new user tutorial will give you some space and Basic users can gain 500 MB of storage for each user they refer to Dropbox, up to a total of 16 GB.
  • Plus and Professional tier users get an additional GB of storage for each referral up to a total of 32 GB. You must use the invitation feature to obtain this bonus.
  • Sharing a folder with someone who does not use the service does not count as a referral, even if he or she signs up to view the file.

Basic, Plus, and Professional users can also earn storage space by making valuable contributions to the Dropbox community forum. If you contribute answers that other users rate as being helpful or that a poster or moderator identifies as a solution, you can obtain a forum badge that comes with an additional GB of space for your Dropbox account. All of these features and incentives combine to make Dropbox a reliable cloud storage service for individual users and businesses. 

What Are the Advantages of Using Google Drive?

  • Google Drive is easy to set up with a free Google account.
  • Every Google account comes with 15 GB of free storage spread across several services, including Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Drive.
  • You can access Google Drive on any computer or device and upload any file type, including documents, images, movies, and music.
  • The robust internal Google search feature makes it easy to search the contents of many types of files.
  • It is also easy to share and generally control permissions for files and folders with Google Drive.
  • There is no way to increase your cloud storage capacity for free, but upgrading to a premium level of Google Drive can be more affordable, and the amount of storage you get is more customizable than with Dropbox.

Storage Costs of Dropbox vs. Google Drive

The Basic tier of Dropbox includes 2 GB of storage for free, whereas Google Drive offers 15 GB free across all applications and services. A user would have to make about 30 referrals to obtain a comparable amount of free storage from Dropbox as Google provides with signup.  When it comes to upgrading, Google also gives users more options at lower up-front prices.

Dropbox Plus expands a user's cloud storage to a terabyte or 1,000 GB for about $10 a month billed on a monthly basis for a total of $120 a year, or a little over $8 billed yearly for a total of about $100. This level of service includes basic features such as accessing and sharing files from any device in addition to mobile offline folders and a remote device wipe feature for increased security.

A TB is the maximum amount of cloud storage available to individual users through Dropbox. The Professional tier of Dropbox comes with the same amount of storage as Plus and costs about $20 a month billed on a monthly basis for a total of about $240 a year, or a little over $16 billed yearly for a total of about $200.

In addition to all the features on the Basic and Plus levels, a Professional subscription comes with two premium features for business users: Showcase and Smart Sync. If your business needs cloud storage services and involves at least two or more collaborators, you may want to consider a Dropbox Business Plan with security services, 120-day version history with file recovery and restoration, and priority chat support.

If you want to be able to select a plan with a quantity of cloud storage somewhere between 2 GB and a TB, you may want to try Google Drive. An individual user can obtain 100 GB of storage space from Google for about $2 a month, a TB for about $10, or 10 TB for about $100. You can obtain even more storage, with 20 TB going for approximately $200 a month or 30 TB for around $300.

Google Drive is also featured in G Suite, the enterprise version of Google Cloud services. The Basic tier of G Suite comes with 30 GB of storage for the low rate of $5 a user per month. The Business tier is priced at $10 a user per month and includes one TB of storage per user up to five users or unlimited storage for clients with more than five users. On the Enterprise level, up to five users have access to a TB of storage each and organizations with more than five members obtain unlimited cloud storage.

Google Drive is part of the gigantic Google infrastructure, which enables this service to provide more storage at lower costs. The most affordable level of premium storage on Google Drive starts at about $2 a month for 100 GB, whereas the most affordable tier of Dropbox starts at about $10 per month for 1,000 GB.

If you break down the cost, Dropbox is actually the better value. It does not offer any amount of storage between 2 GB and 1 TB, nor can you obtain more than a TB with an individual subscription. Depending on what you need to store in the cloud, you may prefer either Dropbox or Google Drive.

Syncing on Dropbox vs. Google Drive

Dropbox depends on a sync folder in your file system to allow for quick updates between any device and the cloud. This method requires that files be stored simultaneously on a hard drive and in the cloud. This can prevent this service and other cloud services based on this method developed by the Dropbox CEO and founder from being effective for clearing out space on a hard drive. You can manage this issue with the selective sync feature.

Turning syncing off for specific folders will remove these files from your hard drive and store them in the cloud until you turn sync back on. Only the top Professional tier of Dropbox includes the Smart Sync feature that enables folders for which sync is off to remain visible in the sync folder. All subscription levels of Dropbox feature block-level file copying, which increases the speed of syncing after you edit a file. Rather than uploading or downloading the entire file, this method allows for more intelligent uploading of changes.

Google Drive does not have block-level syncing capabilities, and this may increase the length of time it takes for a modified file to sync. This delay is offset by the efficiency of Google's data center infrastructure. If you choose to download the desktop client of Google Drive, this service also creates a sync folder. This cloud storage service also features selective syncing features. If you want to store items in the cloud rather than on your hard drive, you can simply use the browser-based web client of Drive. Google also provides a Backup mode that does not distribute files automatically to other devices.

Encryption and Security on Dropbox vs. Google Drive

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Both Dropbox and Google retain encryption keys rather than offering zero-knowledge encryption. This means that these companies have the ability to decrypt your files and turn them over to law-enforcement agencies. These cloud storage services also have several unique issues related to user privacy and security.

Dropbox relies on the AES protocol to encrypt files in transit and storage, but this encryption isn't end-to-end. Files are decrypted by the Dropbox data center so that metadata can be extracted before the files are re-encrypted using 256-bit AES. Metadata remains in plain text for indexing purposes, which can compromise security.

Dropbox suffered a breach back in 2012 that exposed at least 68 million user passwords. Although the company has taken steps to tighten internal security and improve password hashing, this breach broke trust with a number of users, especially since the extent of the hack was not fully disclosed for some time. Since then, Dropbox has launched two-factor authentication, which requires users who forget their passwords and need to change their login to enter a code sent to a mobile phone.

Google also supports two-factor authentication and began encrypting files as early as 2013. The company still manages file encryption keys and may decrypt uploads to make sure that these files do not violate the law or terms of service. Google may also analyze content to tailor advertising, although there is no evidence that it has done so based on files uploaded to cloud storage. Google stores data in secure, custom-built data centers that are among the most secure of any cloud storage provider.

Collaboration and Sharing on Dropbox vs. Google Drive

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When it comes to collaborative productivity tools, Google far exceeds Dropbox. Yet, the desktop client of Google Drive is less efficient when it comes to sharing. A persistent bug prevents many users from sharing files directly from the sync folder on their computer, though it is easy to share and control basic permissions through the web interface. It is important to periodically review shared files as Google does not offer password, expiration dates, or download limit features. Both of these features are available on the Professional level of Dropbox.

All levels of Dropbox make it easy to share any file or folder in the sync folder or web interface. You may either grant other users access by email or create a link that you can share on any platform. Dropbox makes it easy to see which files you have shared so that you can determine whether you want to continue providing access or shut off sharing on any file or folder at any time. This service requires users to set editing permission for entire folders instead of individual files.

Dropbox integrates with Office Online and Office 365 and features Dropbox Paper. This basic collaborative document editor launched in 2017 makes it easy to work together, assign tasks, comment, view revisions, and tag users. You can also embed some third-party elements into documents, and Paper particularly stands out when it comes to Slack integration.

The Best Cloud Storage for Your Needs

If you are comparing Dropbox vs. Google Drive, any of these factors can be decisive. Depending on what you are seeking in a cloud storage service, you may prefer the ability to choose a specific amount of storage or want the customized sharing options available on the Professional level of Dropbox. Many users agree that Dropbox syncs more efficiently than Google Drive. The best feature of both of these services is that you can sign up for free and see which interface satisfies your personal or professional needs.

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