Online Cloud vs Local Computer File Storage. Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive – Which One Is Best For Your Business?

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken a look at Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive. All three of these online file storage products let you store and synchronize your files across multiple devices and let you access them from anywhere you can get an Internet connection.

As I’m writing this, I”d be remiss to not mention Citrix SahreFile and Box solutions as well. For our review we’ll just focus on Dropbox, Drive and OneDrive.

I find all are relatively easy to use and can definitely help you be more productive and save time. While saving files to your computer might be the “norm” for some businesses, those of us who want to work in a mobile world only save files in “the cloud”.

The biggest difference is that OneDrive is fully integrated with Microsoft Office 365 – instead of attaching a file you can seamlessly add a LINK to a file in OneDrive, same holds true for Google Drive and Gmail Users.

online file storage

The SmallBizTechnology.com team has put an analysis together of these three file sharing services:

With a number of cloud storage options available, the big question is: which service is the best for small business owners? While there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer, an analysis of the similarities and differences will help you pinpoint your perfect cloud storage solution. To help you out, we’ve looked at arguably the best cloud storage options – Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive – to compare features that are of interest to small businesses.

Users

As the numbers show, Dropbox has a significant lead in terms of number of users worldwide, with 50 million or more additional users than the other platforms. However, with each cloud storage option boasting well over 200 million users, all appear to be popular and widespread options.

Free Storage

  • Dropbox – Dropbox is a free download for your computer and mobile devices. It begins with 2GB of free storage, and then you have the ability to earn up to 16GB extra by performing extra activities such as referring friends https://www.dropbox.com/plans
  • Google Drive – Google Drive is available for free to anyone who has a Gmail account. You get 15GB of free storage, which is shared across Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photos
  • OneDrive – OneDrive is linked to the Windows operating system and Windows Phone. If you have a Microsoft email account (for example, outlook.com or Hotmail.com) then you also have a One Drive. It begins with 15GB of free storage, with the option to earn up to 5GB by referring friends and 3GB when you back up your camera roll https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-us/plans/

Examining free storage, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive are attractive cloud storage options because they start out with a larger storage space (15GB) without having to jump through any extra hoops or perform any extra actions. However, if you’re using Google Drive, keep in mind that that space is also shared with your Gmail files. If you are willing to go the extra mile, you can get extra space from Dropbox and OneDrive. While Google Drive maxes out at 15GB, Dropbox users can potentially earn up to 18GB total, and OneDrive users can earn up to 23GB total.

Paid Storage

From these prices we see that if you need a smaller amount of extra space, Google Drive or OneDrive are good options, allowing for a small monthly fee of $1.99 for an extra 100GB, with OneDrive also offering a 200GB plan. Dropbox only has paid plans for 1TB of storage. When we compare the cloud storage prices across the 1TB plan, OneDrive offers the lowest prices ($6.99/month or $83.88/year), and while Google Drive and Dropbox are tied at $9.99, you can get a discount at Dropbox by purchasing a monthly plan. Dropbox also offers the unique feature of a business plan.

Full Text Search

It probably comes as little surprise that Google has the best search options available from the three cloud storage platforms we’re exploring. Dropbox’s offering of full text search for business plans was quite recent, and perhaps indicates that all cloud storage solutions are moving in that direction. Whether full text search remains as a feature for paid plans only, or moves on to include free plans, remains to be seen.

Synchronization

  • Dropbox – If you’re using the desktop app, Dropbox will constantly be checking for file changes and automatically syncing when changes are detected. The mobile app syncs on demand only, in order to conserve bandwidth and space https://www.dropbox.com/en/help/82
  • Google Drive – The Google Drive app will automatically sync to the “My Drive” section of Google Drive on the web. There are also options to turn off sync, to sync individual files and to sync items that are not currently in your My Drive folder https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2375083?hl=en
  • OneDrive – The OneDrive will automatically sync across devices and computers. There are also ways to redirect folders to your OneDrive folder and select files that you do not want to sync. When you have the OneDrive desktop app you can also access all files on your PC remotely. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/onedrive/windows-app-faq#1TC=other

All three cloud storage options allow for automatic syncing, so your folder is up to date across all devices. Microsoft’s ‘Fetch’ feature, which allows you to access your PC, is a helpful addition because it gives you access to files you may have forgot to place in your OneDrive folder. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/onedrive/fetch-files-pc-ui

File Sharing

  • Dropbox allows you to share files with others in order to collaborate on projects; however only Dropbox Pro and Dropbox for Business paid plans allow you to decide if someone can edit or just view the file. Dropbox also allows you to share files with people who do not have Dropbox by getting a link to the file or folder. https://www.dropbox.com/en/help/19 https://www.dropbox.com/en/help/20
  • Google Drive – When you share files using Google Drive you can choose the type of access granted, including ‘can edit,’ ‘can comment,’ and ‘can view.’ You can also share files with non-Google Drive users by sending a link or an email attachment https://support.google.com/drive/answer/2494822?hl=en
  • OneDrive also allows you to share files with other OneDrive users or links with non-users. The ‘Invite People’ option gives you the opportunity to change permission level (view or edit), and for added security there is an option that requires the recipient to sign in to their Microsoft account every time they access the file, to prevent unauthorized people from accessing the document. http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/onedrive/share-file-folder

The option to designate permission levels, such as ‘view’ and ‘edit’ give Google Drive and OneDrive a lead over Dropbox, which only gives this option to paid Pro or Business users. It should also be noted that all three cloud storage platforms allow you to revoke file sharing permission if desired.

Summary by Cloud Storage Service

  • Dropbox – Dropbox can be a good option for free users who (a) can work with the 2GB storage space or (b) don’t mind doing extra tasks and referrals to get additional space (up to 16GB extra). The free service falls short after that because features such as full text search and the ability to assign permissions when sharing files are only available for paid subscribers. If you’re looking to become a paid subscriber, Dropbox may be a great option for you. The yearly subscription is less expensive than Google Drive, and they have a unique subscription plan for businesses that is not found on the other platforms.
  • Google Drive – Google Drive comes with quite a bit of free space – 15GB – but this is perhaps deceivingly large, since that storage space also includes your Gmail and Google+ Photo space. With no options to increase your free space, you may end up needing a monthly subscription, and 1TB of data costs more than the other two cloud storage options featured here. That said, Google Drive has the best file searching capabilities and great file sharing settings including ‘view,’ ‘edit,’ and even a unique ‘comment’ option.
  • Microsoft OneDrive – OneDrive is a good option for both free and paid users. Although available by download, it comes automatically with Windows 8 versions, making it ready and accessible for many PC owners. The amount of free space, with or without additional referrals, is the most generous of all three cloud storage options we looked at, and the paid plans are also priced the lowest. One drawback is the lack of a full text search option, but it also comes with added benefits, such as the ability to ‘fetch’ other documents from your desktop remotely.

 

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Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com . Editor and Founder, Smart Hustle Magazine Full bio at http://www.ramonray.com . Check him out on Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook

3 thoughts on “Online Cloud vs Local Computer File Storage. Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive – Which One Is Best For Your Business?

  1. Why Microsoft

    Great writeup and breakdown, Ramon. Also wanted to call out that we’re in the process of rolling out unlimited storage for both Office 365 and OneDrive Business subscribers: https://blog.onedrive.com/office-365-onedrive-unlimited-storage/. And for people who work with others across Dropbox and Office 365/OneDrive, we’ve recently partnered and building out integration: http://blogs.office.com/2014/11/04/office-dropbox-work-together-phones-tablets-web/. Thanks for the article and helping users understand the differences!

    Reply
  2. Raffi Jamgotchian

    Ramon,

    The clients we work with are concerned with two other points that your article doesn’t address directly: security and file server enablement.

    Dropbox has come onto fire several times because of poor security architecture- not bugs, but flaws in their design- that allowed others from accessing your files without it being shared with you. The security story among other business oriented file sync companies tends to be a better one than these originally consumer branded ones. Microsoft’s One Drive for Business is sharepoint with some filesync on top of it- really a different system.

    Once you get into companies that already have a file server, 10 person law firm, 15 investment company, 20 person R&D organization, systems existing that allow you to leverage that investment such that in house people can access the file server directly, and remote employees can security access a local synced copy of shared files. Using the above systems, you would have to have that synced copy on all of the local computers as well.

    The good news is that there are several excellent cost effective options for businesses that support a more robust security platform and have additional features that businesses really can leverage. Best to talk to your IT professional or outsourced IT company and they can bring ones to the table that fit your business need.

    Keep up the great work Ramon!

    Reply

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