Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Google Drive vs Microsoft SkyDrive vs DropBox vs Box

Yesterday Google unveiled its highly anticipated cloud service called Google Drive. Now that it’s out in the public domain the main question to answer is how is it different from other cloud storage mechanisms like a Microsoft SkyDrive, DropBox or Box. We have broken down all the features, read on for more.


Google Drive right from the get go offers 5GB of free space. Users can obviously opt for more storage if they are willing to pay. Users can get 25GB of storage for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month and a humungous 200GB for $9.99/month.

Like DropBox it creates a folder in your Mac, Android or PC and users can drag and drop files. Google says an iOS app is in the pipeline. Google has merged Google Docs with Google Drive so all your Docs will be present on the GDrive from the off set. But what separates it from the rest is the brilliant file support. It can open 30 different file types inside the web browser and can even open Photoshop files even if you don’t have Photoshop files on your machine. It even has an Evernote like OCR scanning feature, which scans text from an image.

Other strengths of the service include tight integration with Google services like Picasa, Gmail, Google+ and Android. The service cannot be interchangeably used with multiple Gmail accounts but that’s something Google is working on and for most people it will not be a major issue.

SkyDrive offers the maximum free space, which is 7GB. So if the user needs a lot of space, then this is the cloud solution to die for. Having said that, Microsoft used to offer 25GB of space for free and it has downsized the free limit to 7GB, which is unfortunate. Users who have already used more than 4GB of space will retain the right to utilize 25GB of storage for free, but new subscribers will need to pay $10/year for 45GB of space. Other plans include 75GB for $25/year and 125GB for $50/year, which I believe is very good value.

Again like DropBox users can download an app, which creates a folder in your Mac or Windows PC. Older Windows users will be happy to hear that even Vista is supported. But the real strength of SkyDrive lies in its integration with Microsoft products like Office. Everything gets seamlessly synced across an array of devices and users can even edit documents inside a browser using Office 365. Users can even edit documents in groups or share links to files publicly or privately.

All this is cool, but the killer feature for me is ‘fetch’ which allows the user to access files from his home computer (If its on) that are not inside the SkyDrive folder. This for me is a tremendous utility and the main USP of SkyDrive, more than its integration with Microsoft products and storage prices.

DropBox is the current king of cloud storage. Admittedly, it has not faced stiff competition till now but nonetheless it offers users a powerful set of tools. Currently it just offers 2GB of free storage, but its USP is its API, which can be and is being utilized by a legion of app developers across iOS and Android. This basically allows any app developer to integrate their app with DropBox seamlessly, something that now even Google is doing with Drive, but no one else has managed to replicate.

In terms of paid storage plans DropBox is not the best as its comparatively quite expensive. 50GB costs $9.99/month and 100GB costs 19.99/month. Apart from the dearth of storage plans, the plans themselves are quite expensive when compared to other offerings.

Obviously, its folder system is the most simplistic form of syncing we have seen, but now that this feature is being replicated by the competition, I believe DropBox will have a tougher time ahead. On the bright side, if you happen to own an HTC One series device then you can get 25GB of free DropBox storage for free.

Box is somewhat an unknown entity and is the dark horse in this battle for the cloud. Like DropBox it has a very ubiquitous API for developers, and it also has very strong Google Docs support. Box also has strong versioning options and productivity apps like QuickOffice integrate it. It even has apps for Android and iOS, but the fact that it does not offer free users a folder like experience is a deal breaker.

Like Google Drive it offers free 5GB of storage, but it only offers a web-based tool to sync files on a PC or a Mac. Paid options include 25GB of storage for $9.99/month and 50GB of storage for $19.99/month. Sony smartphone users and iOS users are currently getting free 50GB of storage, which certainly is a high point.

Perhaps, the biggest USP of Box is its use in enterprise, which offers a number of collaboration features, but for the normal consumer currently minus the free iOS and Sony smartphone storage, I believe its slightly behind the curve considering the absence of a folder based syncing system for Windows and Mac.