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Online storage Face-off: Google Drive vs. Dropbox

Glenn Fleishman | July 4, 2012
When these online storage sluggers come out fighting, will there be a knockout, or just a bloody match?

In this corner, weighing in at 50 million users, and five years’ growth under its belt, the filer from Manila-er, the forest that counts all its trees, the synchronized, syncopated master of all it shares, Droooooopbox! And, in this corner, the Mountain Viewmaster, the original 800-pound gorilla, the only thing that scares Steve Ballmer while he sleeps, a giant among search engines, Goooooooglllleee! When these online storage sluggers come out fighting, will there be a knockout, or just a bloody match?

Dropbox may have years on Google Drive, but it’s a relatively small firm, even though it stores massive amounts of data. Google is an old-timer by Web standards, but new to the storage world, having launched Google Drive after nearly six years of its rumored near-term arrival. Google has docs; Dropbox has moxy. Which fits your needs better?

Let’s put the two in the ring and see how they contend, shall we?

The weigh-in

Google Drive and Dropbox offer the same basic features. Both services provide desktop synchronization of items in a single anointed folder across multiple computers using cloud storage to both copy and provide Web-accessible copies of files. Both require the installation of a background app to handle keeping files up to date among computers.

Google supports Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and 10.7 (Lion); Dropbox goes all the way back to 10.4 (Tiger) through 10.7. Google also offers support for Windows XP, Vista, and 7, but, strangely, no Linux support yet. Dropbox handles the same Windows versions plus Windows 2003, and two popular flavors of Linux (Ubuntu and Fedora Core).

Google includes 5GB of storage in free accounts, and outmuscles Dropbox there, which offers just 2GB for users who don’t pay. However, Dropbox has a nifty countermove: users who take advantage of its new image upload feature get 500MB added for the first photos uploaded, up to 3GB additional (a total of 5GB). Dropbox also adds 500MB of storage for each referred user who signs up free or paid service. Combined photo and referral storage for free accounts maxes out at 16GB (initial 2GB plus 16GB added).

If you need more storage, both services let you pay for it without taking you to the mat. Google charges from $2.49 for 25GB of storage up to $799.99 per month for 16TB of storage. (Gmail storage also increases from 10GB to 25GB.) Dropbox’s paid tiers for individuals are 50GB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year and 100GB for $19.99 per month or $199 per year. Paid accounts can add up to 32GB through referrals. Business service, called Dropbox for Teams, includes 1TB of storage and is $795 per year for five users; additional users are $125 per year and add 200GB per storage each.


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