Google Drive vs Dropbox: Which Cloud Storage Option Is Best for You?

Understand the difference between the two major online file storage solutions

Many people don’t realize Dropbox has been around about 5 years longer than Google Drive. However, the sheer resource power of Google has transformed Google Drive into the single largest competitor for Dropbox.

Both services offer free storage, with significant differences. Today, each compete for a growing number of users who continue to conduct more of their work on the cloud than ever before.

In this article we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of Google Drive versus Dropbox, and help you decide which service is the right one for you.

Google Drive vs Dropbox
Lifewire

Overall Findings

Google Drive
  • More storage space

  • More in-house apps

  • Streamlines your Google experience

  • Fast and intuitive

  • Syncs entire documents

DropBox
  •  Referral program for more free storage

  • Integrates with more third-parties

  • Expands your cloud experience

  • Clunky but simple to use

  • Faster partial-file syncing

Both cloud storage providers offer a great deal. They each have their own unique approach to encryption and which apps and services they integrate with. However, both line up when it comes to collaboration, syncing across desktop and mobile devices, and the convenience of working remotely.

Google Drive offers significantly more storage space up front and provides the convenience of integration with almost all of Google’s apps and services. But Dropbox’s more advanced file syncing algorithm gives you faster sync time, and its integration with so many third-party apps and services makes it an irresistible choice for people who don’t use many Google services.

Storage Space: Slam Dunk For Google Drive

Google Drive
  • More storage tiers

  • Up to 30 TB available

  • Storage consumed by other services

  • More storage available for free

Dropbox
  • Simpler pricing options

  • 3 TB storage ceiling

  • Exclusive to cloud storage

  • Free account has very limited storage

When you first sign up for Google Drive, you get a 15 GB of free storage. Keep in mind this storage space is spread across multiple Google services. 

You can upgrade your Google Drive account to 100 GB for only $1.99/mo up to 30 TB for $149.99/mo. There are six tiers to choose from. The tiers above 100 GB are marketed as “Google One.”

Dropbox starts you off with 2 GB for the Basic free account. The tier structure is much simpler than Google’s. You can upgrade to 2 TB for $9.99/mo or 3 TB for $16.58/mo. 

Byte for byte, the prices between the two services align. However you’re limited to 3 TB with Dropbox, and Dropbox isn’t making you consume any of its storage space with an email service which could consume a lot.

Embedded Apps: Google Has More But Dropbox Plays With Others

Google Drive
  • More embedded apps

  • Convenient for Google users

  • Larger apps library

  • Some apps are low quality

Dropbox
  • Few default app offerings

  • Integrates with more services you use

  • Apps library is all high quality

  • Dropbox Paper is very basic

When you select New in Google Drive, you’ll see options to create a new file using Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, Google Forms, Google Drawings, Google sites, Google My Maps and the ability to connect with over a hundred online apps.

When you select Create new file in Dropbox, on the other hand, you’ll see fewer embedded apps than Google Drive. These include Dropbox Paper, HelloSign, Transfer, and Showcase (with the top paid tier). Dropbox provides an App Center where you can choose from 50 to 60 third-party integrations which work with Dropbox. These include major names like Microsoft Office, Trello, Slack, Zoom, WhatsApp, and more.

While it appears Dropbox offered Paper as a counterpart to Google Docs, there isn’t much comparison. Dropbox Paper is little more than a glorified Notepad app.

Syncing Changes: Both Are Near Real-Time

Google Drive
  • File syncing is slower

  • Selective syncing of files to local folder

  • Sync may require more bandwidth

Dropbox
  • Uses fast, block-level file syncing

  • Smart Sync shows cloud files in local folder

  • Syncing is more bandwidth-efficient

If you plan to edit files in Google Drive using cloud-based apps like Google Docs or Google Sheets, syncing isn’t really a concern. In fact you can collaborate on editing documents in real-time. However, if you plan on doing a lot of offline work and syncing those changes, Dropbox wins hands down.

This is because while Google Drive transfers the entire file during each sync, Dropbox uses an algorithm called a “block-level file transfer,” which divides files into smaller “blocks.” Only the block that has been changed is transferred and synced.

Both services now offer the ability to view content in your cloud storage inside your local folder. Dropbox has always provided this in the form of their “Smart Sync” feature. Google recently added it as “selective sync.”

Collaboration: Team Editing and Video Conferencing

Google Drive
  • Integrates with Google Meet

  • Real-time, collaborative editing

  • In-document conversation tools

Dropbox
  • Integrates with Zoom

  • Real-time collaborative editing

  • In-document conversation tools

Both cloud storage services have an integrated video conferencing service. You can use Google Meet with Google Drive, and Zoom with Dropbox. 

Multiple users in Google Drive can work on the same shared documents in real-time. You can watch as others edit a file, have an IM chat, and have a comment dialogue in the documents. 

With Dropbox, you can collaborate on Office docs in real-time. This is thanks to Dropbox's integration with Office Online. The same real-time commenting features are available.

In terms of collaboration, neither service comes out on top.

Security and Privacy: Both Keep You Secure

Google Drive
  • Better file transfer encryption

  • More susceptible to government data requests

  • Entire files at risk during transit

Dropbox
  • Better file storage encryption

  • Activist against government overreach

  • Only blocks of files at risk during transit

Google incorporates 256-bit AES file storage encryption for any file transfers, and 128-bit AES encryption for files in storage (at rest). 

Dropbox, on the other hand, uses stronger encryption for files at rest (256-bit AES), and weaker security (128-bit AES encryption) for files in transfer. While this helps Dropbox achieve faster file sync time than Google Drive, it also comes with a slight security trade-off. With that said, since Dropbox only syncs “blocks” of files rather than entire files, that risk is reduced.

Final Verdict: Google Drive Wins By a Nose

Both services are an excellent choice when it comes to cloud-based collaboration. Google Drive wins when it comes to free storage space, the convenience of deep integration with all of Google’s services, and solid security. Google Drive also has a more intuitive user interface.

On the other hand, Dropbox pulls out ahead in terms of its faster advanced file syncing algorithm, a large field of popular apps and services it integrates with, and its integration with the most popular video conferencing service online today, Zoom.

Google Drive comes out on top because for Google users, the convenience of Drive integration with Google services is a must-have. Considering there are approaching 2 billion Google users in the world, that is no small matter. 

On the other hand, for anyone who doesn’t use many Google services or apps, Dropbox might be a better option if you’d love the flexibility of using your cloud storage with such a wide variety of other third-party apps and services.