If you’ve never heard of Dropbox you’re missing out.
Do you have two or more computers? A lot of people do, a laptop, desktop, work computer, media box, tablet, and cell phone. How do you get files between them? You could use a flash drive, or your network, or you could use a service like Dropbox or Google Drive which syncs your files between all your devices over the internet.
The great thing is, you don’t have to do anything. You just put the files in a special folder on your computer and they automatically upload to a cloud and when you look in that folder on another computer, they are just there. In fact you just work out of that folder and everything is backed up and synced between your devices.
Google Drive and Dropbox work the same way. They have a software client you install on your computer which makes a special folder and puts a little icon down by your system clock with status messages. You can work directly out of this folder and you won’t notice any difference between that and working out of your libraries on your computer.
They also both have a good web interface that you can work out of too. You can drag files from your computer to the web page and it uploads automatically. This is handy if you are on another person’s PC and need to get a file to yourself. This is easier than emailing them. Just drag, drop and done.
There are a couple of big differences between Dropbox and Google Drive.
Dropbox starts you off with two gigabytes for their free version and Google starts you out with five. Obviously you aren’t going to store your DVD collection on these services, and they aren’t really designed for that anyway. So Google is clearly the winner in starting space on their free service. I’ve seen a few articles that say Dropbox is either now starting you off with 5 gigabytes, or very soon will be. If that’s true (their website still says two) then there is no real difference in the free service.
You can get more space by paying for more obviously. I’ll include a pricing chart for comparison. I could not find anything on Google’s site about getting more space due to referring people, or any other way other than purchasing more space. Dropbox will give you extra space for referring people, up to 18 gigabytes free. They also run promotions for more space if you help them test things. Recently they did this with photo uploads and I now have 7.8 gig space, up from the three that I had previously.
Google’s service is new, so this might come later.
|1 Terabyte||Pricing Available for Teams||$49.99/Month|
Dropbox also increases the amount of extra space you get per referral. Google is the clear winner on pricing between the two services. Fifty dollars a month for a terabyte of space is a pretty good deal.
On a basic level the two services work exactly the same. They do have other features though.
One notable difference that I have found is undoing mistakes. Dropbox has a method for recovering things that were deleted from the Dropbox folder on your PC, which has saved me many times. I deleted a file from Google Drive’s special folder and it just disappeared. I found a way to recover it but it doesn’t show a ‘deleted date’, so that’s a little confusing as to which document was the one I wanted. Basically it showed two documents with the same name and modified date in the trash bin, and I know they were different.
Google Drive is a lot more feature-rich in general. A huge advantage if you have a lot of documents, or have a tight budget, is that Google Drive links directly to the Google Docs features. So if you have a bunch of documents on your computer, you can upload them convert them to Docs format and edit them directly from your web browser anywhere. This allows you to make full use of all Google’s relevant services directly from Drive. This is true for their mobile app as well. What this translates into for the home user is that you can buy a really cheap PC and have use of a business class office suite for free, with plenty of space to store your stuff in.
I’m in fact writing this article on Google Docs as proof of the concept.
I tried to do the same thing with Dropbox on my phone, I was able to edit the documents but only because I have QuickOffice installed on my phone.
One thing in Dropbox’s favor is the auto-upload pictures from your USB connected camera, and cell phone. This is really useful if you take a lot of photos and want to make sure they are safe, or are putting them on a computer you don’t use often. I found it quite handy on a recent trip I took as when I plugged my camera in it uploaded them to Dropbox automatically and I could share with my family instantly. To be fair, Google offers a similar option with mobile phones and Google+.
Which to Pick?
Before I wrote this, Dropbox was my clear recommendation. After writing this I see the choice isn’t quite as clear. Google Drive gives you more features for free, but is definitely not as user friendly and doesn’t conform to your standard Windows way of doing things in the web interface. That isn’t bad, but most home users are using Windows so it’s definitely a plus.
Dropbox starts you out ready to go. It gives you a few folders, including a public one, and a bunch of “how to use this” documentation right in your Dropbox folder. Everything is manageable from Windows/Mac/Linux and you never have to use the web interface if you don’t want to.
Google Drive gives you an empty folder. Most of the management is done directly from the web interface, and not from the program on your computer. This is expected since Google services are pretty much entirely web driven.
So what it boils down to is really, how much of a fan are you of Google? If you use Gmail and their other services, Drive will work for you seamlessly, you already have it, and sort of replaces Google Docs. It’s also going to be available for Google Apps soon. Also, if you need a lot of space Drive is definitely the cheaper option now.
My personal recommendation is still going to be Dropbox for most people, though. You can get five gigabytes of space pretty easily by recommending friends. It’s a bit more user-friendly starting off, and all the features Drive has can be easily provided with free software.
You can edit your documents on your PC with OpenOffice or LibreOffice. If you have the mobile app, Quick Office will let you edit things on your phone. It’s the auto-uploading of photos that really sealed the deal for me.
Dropbox is also not tied to Google in any way as far as I’m aware. If Google’s data mining policies are a concern for you, it’s the obvious choice.
Where To Get Them
Dropbox – You can sign up for Dropbox by following this link: Dropbox Sign-Up. It takes just a few minutes to get going. I put this on every computer I use where permitted.
Google Drive – All you have to do is log into your Gmail account and click the Drive link. It will start you off there.