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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?

Both firms put the app in Web app, though, by letting you drag and drop files right into the file list in a browser. Google requires either a Java add-on or the Chrome browser to add files, but adding files in this manner didn’t work during my testing. Dropbox also supposedly allows dragging folders, but all the folders I tried generated errors. You can also drag and drop files and folder in the file list to reorganize them. That’s a lot of footwork without any action.

Because both services require accounts for collaborative sharing (in which files and folders can be edited, and are synced instead of downloaded), the Web view is useful for colleagues who don’t want to download and install desktop sync to have access to needed files.

After the bell: Sluggers started out the round strong, but were staggering by the end. Chugging water before Round 3.

Round 3: Sharing

No person is an island, and most of us likely need to exchange files with others in a group or as a one-time forward. Instead of using email and remote file servers, sync providers can let you share privately or publicly. Both of our pugilists have a variety of sharing methods, including a recent revamp from Dropbox.

Right-click a file in Google Drive or click the drop-down menu next to a folder to reveal the share option. Google has three options for sharing: public (and thus searchable), link only (must have a link to access), and private. For each kind of sharing, and for individual users in a private item, an item or folder can be set to allow view only, comment only, or editing.

Dropbox separates out private and public sharing. Files and folders may be selected to share. Click a link icon to the right of any file or folder, and Dropbox creates a public link that can be used by any recipient or discovered that includes a view-only preview for many document and media types. Click the Sharing icon at the top of the file view to walk through an assistant to pick a folder (not single files) to share. Only Dropbox accountholders can access shared folders, and the contents of folders are always modifiable by all invitees.

But, wait, Google has landed punches on Dropbox in the storage plexus. That’s gotta hurt. Google opted to exclude the size of shared files folders from your total storage quota. Dropbox, in contrast, adds the full size of all folders shared to the rest of your storage. It’s strange, because those files are only stored once, as Dropbox uses de-duplication on its servers, keeping a single master copy (plus backups) even for files that occur a million times in user folders and across non-shared accounts.


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